Visitors look through a telescope at an evening program in the Needles District

Visitors look through a telescope at an evening program in the Needles District

NPS Photo by Neal Herbert


The national parks and monuments of the Colorado Plateau have long been popular destinations for travelers. In addition to their stunning landscapes and rich cultural history, these areas share another resource: some of the darkest skies remaining in the contiguous 48 United States.

Though often unappreciated, the utter dark of a moonless night in Canyonlands surprises many visitors. As few as one in ten Americans live in areas where they can see the estimated 2,500 stars that should be visible under normal conditions. In many cities, the night sky is completely obscured by the glow of urban settlement. At Canyonlands, the naked eye is sufficient to witness a wealth of stars. Under the right conditions, common binoculars may even reveal the rings of Saturn.

However, a clear view of the Milky Way is more than an aesthetic experience. Research indicates that light pollution severely impacts the ability of many animals, especially birds and insects, to navigate. On many occasions, thousands of birds have died in a single night by following artificial lights into towers, buildings, smokestacks and even the ground.

Canyonlands preserves a wealth of resources. Many, like natural dark, have become more significant as they become increasingly rare outside the park.

2015 Night Sky Programs

During the spring and fall, rangers from the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands will be teaming up with rangers from Dead Horse Point State Park to introduce visitors to the wonders of the night sky. An interpretive program will be followed by star gazing and telescope viewing. The location will alternate between the two parks and the start time will vary with the time of sunset. Bring a chair or blanket to sit on, warm clothes, and a flashlight with a red filter (if you have one). Programs will take place rain or "shine".

August 15 - Island in the Sky Visitor Center, 9 pm

September 12 - Dead Horse Point Visitor Center, 8:30 pm

October 10 - Island in the Sky Visitor Center, 8 pm

Or see the Calendar for all events.

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