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Introduction: Planning for the Eclipse
The Great American Total Solar Eclipse will race across the U.S. on Aug. 21, 2017, casting a shadow over 21 of the country's national parks coast to coast.
It's been nearly 100 years since a total solar eclipse has traveled the width of the U.S. and has been visible from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. During the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, the disk of the moon will move directly in front of the sun and will cast a shadow across the country.
The path of totality for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse is about 70 miles (113 kilometers) wide and stretches from Oregon to South Carolina, encompassing 21 U.S. national parks or historical monuments and scenic trails. [Total Solar Eclipse 2017: When, Where and How to See It (Safely)]
Special viewing glasses are required in order to safely view the solar eclipse. Some of the national parks hosting viewing events will be giving out glasses to visitors on the day of the eclipse. However, quantities will be limited, so anyone planning to view the eclipse should get a pair of solar viewing glasses prior to the event.
Witnessing the Great American Total Solar Eclipse from one of the country's national parks offers a unique and natural viewing experience, but many of the parks in the path of totality are situated in remote locations. Therefore, visitors should come prepared with enough food and water to stay hydrated in the summer heat. Visitors should also note that cell service and internet access may be limited in these areas.
Many of the national parks in the path of totality will host special viewing events or other related programs and activities. If you're planning on making a trip to see the total solar eclipse, here's a list of all of the national parks that will experience the daytime darkness cast by the moon's shadow.
Fort Donelson National Battlefield, TennesseeSlide 2 of 45
Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Tennessee
Fort Donelson in Dover, Tennessee, falls on the edge of the path of totality during the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, during which viewers will experience approximately 45 seconds of darkness. Viewing opportunities will be available from the main lands of the park and from the Dover Hotel (Surrender House), overlooking the Cumberland River. Totality will start at 1:25 p.m. local time.
The Confederacy established Fort Donelson during the American Civil War. The Dover Hotel was built between 1851 and 1853, accommodated riverboat travelers before and after the war, and served as Gen. Simon Buckner's headquarters, according to the NPS website.
The park will also host special solar eclipse programs throughout the summer, including a presentation by NASA solar system ambassador Theo Wellington on June 13 and a Junior Ranger activity on June 17 for children ages 5 to 9. All eclipse events at Fort Donelson are free. However, park officials warn that visitors may experience traffic delays and congested parking lots on the day of the solar eclipse. The park also recommends planning your visit early, as nearby campgrounds and hotels will fill up quickly.Slide 3 of 45
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, IdahoSlide 4 of 45
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Idaho
Located in the Snake River Plain of central Idaho, the lava fields of the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve fall on the outskirts of the path of totality. The park is partnering with the city of Arco, NASA and Idaho State University to provide a special viewing event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time at the Bottolfsen Park in Arco.
On the day of the eclipse starting at 9:30 a.m. local time, there will be an educational presentation featuring details about the event and how to view it safely. A partial eclipse begins at 10:13 a.m. MDT, and the eclipse will reach totality at approximately 11:31 a.m. in this location. Skywatchers will experience about 1 minute and 39 seconds of darkness. Afterward, a partial eclipse will continue until approximately 12:30 p.m. MDT.
Following the eclipse, there will be a Space Science Exhibition, a presentation about ongoing research at Craters of the Moon and the chance for kids to earn their Lunar Ranger patch.
There will also be several special events at Craters of the Moon leading up to the total solar eclipse, including "star parties" on Aug. 18 and 19; a presentation called Eclipses, Transits and the Search For Life on Aug. 19; and another special eclipse presentation called "In the Shadow of the Moon," by NASA scientist and educator Brian Day, on Aug. 20. All eclipse events at Bottolfsen Park and Craters of the Moon are free to the public. You can find more event information here.Slide 5 of 45
Grand Teton National Park, WyomingSlide 6 of 45
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
NPS officials are already preparing for what they expect to be the "busiest day ever" at Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming.
The park encompasses the 40-mile-long (64 kilometers) Teton Range — part of the Rocky Mountains — as well as most of the northern sections of the valley known as Jackson Hole. In this park, located in the middle of the eclipse path, viewers will experience up to 2 minutes and 40 seconds of darkness, depending on where they are in the park. Partial phases of the total solar eclipse will begin at 10:17 a.m. local time over Jackson Hole and reach totality at approximately 11:35 a.m.
Four viewing areas will be set up in the park: Gros Ventre Campground, Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, Jackson Lake Lodge and Colter Bay Visitor Center. On the day of the eclipse, the 8-mile (13 km) access road to the Gros Ventre Campground will be turned into a one-way road, running west to east, to create enough room for skywatchers to park and view the centerline of the eclipse.
The Gros Ventre viewing event, located in the southern part of the park, may require a ticket, because parking space along the road is limited. The park will release more details as the day of the eclipse gets closer. All other viewing areas will be free and open to the public. However, certain areas of the park — especially pullouts along the roads — may close when full.
All of the park's permitting requirements will be in place throughout the weekend of the eclipse, including backcountry permits, camping permits and boating permits. The park warns that area lodging is already booked and that all park campgrounds operate on a first-come, first-served basis and will likely fill up quickly.
If you plan to stick around at the park after the eclipse, there will be a free program for visitors to learn more about an aspect of astronomy. The event, To the Tetons and Beyond, will take place at the Laurance S. Rockefeller (LSR) Preserve Porch from 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. local time. Leading up to the day of the eclipse, the park will also host educational programs, stargazing events and other astronomy activities, beginning the night of Aug. 18.Slide 7 of 45
Fort Laramie National Historic Site, WyomingSlide 8 of 45