Starry, Starry Nights
Capitol Reef joins an elite group of dark-sky parks.
Even on the new moon—the darkest night of the month—you can walk around Capitol Reef National Park and clearly make out rocks or branches or leaves, because millions of stars light up every corner of the park. Located in a high, dry, and remote part of south-central Utah (“the middle of nowhere and very proud of it,” says park ranger Lori Rome), it’s a perfect spot for stargazing.
And now it’s official: In April, the International Dark-Sky Association named Capitol Reef a dark-sky park, making it one of seven Park Service sites and 22 parks worldwide with the designation. To join the exclusive society, staff spent years expanding astronomy programs, monitoring skies, measuring light pollution, installing low-lumen light bulbs, and covering lights to minimize the glare they send into space. The public seems to be catching on; a growing number of visitors have been asking for star charts, showing up for guided moonwalks, and attending the annual star festival.
“In the last ten years or so, more and more people have been recognizing that nature is one whole package. It’s what is all around us—under our feet and up in the skies,” Rome says. Also, stargazing is so simple: “Just lie back on the grass and look at the sky, and you see so many things that so much of the world doesn’t have access to anymore.”
About the author
Rona Marech Editor-in-Chief
Rona Marech is the editor-in-chief of National Parks, NPCA’s award-winning magazine. Formerly a staff writer at the Baltimore Sun and the San Francisco Chronicle, Rona joined NPCA in 2013.