2017 Total Solar Eclipse

View of a total eclipse.
View of a total eclipse. (NASA/M. Druckmüller)

Shadows & Science

August 19-21, 2017

On the afternoon of Monday, August 21, visitors will experience a once-in-a-lifetime event: a total solar eclipse at Congaree National Park. From Saturday, August 19 through August 21, the park will be offering a series of special programs called "Shadows & Science." These programs will focus on the total solar eclipse and will culminate on Monday afternoon with a number of ranger-led hikes and viewing opportunities. We will be providing more details as we get closer to the event, so be sure to return to this page for the most up-to-date information. (Updated August 17, 2017)

General Information

  • Because of the density of the forest, Congaree National Park has very few optimal viewing sites from which you can potentially see the eclipse. If you are looking for unobstructed viewing of the eclipse, you may want to consider some alternative viewing locations in the Greater Columbia area: see below for "Other Viewing Opportunities Outside the Park".
  • We are expecting a large number of visitors on Monday, August 21. Be aware that once our parking areas reach capacity, no more vehicles will be allowed into the park until parking becomes available again. We strongly encourage everyone to carpool. There is limited parking for oversize vehicles (i.e. busses, motorhomes, and trailers).
  • Overnight parking will not be allowed on Sunday, August 20 (except registered campers). Parking lots will open at 6:30am Monday, August 21. Entrance gates will close when parking lots are full (at visitor center & South Cedar Creek Canoe Landing). The parking lot at the Bates Ferry Trailhead will be reserved for those with reservations for the Bates Ferry Guided Hike.
  • Reservations are required for the guided hikes being offered on Monday, August 21. Details about guided hikes and reservation links can be found below under section (Guided Solar Eclipse Hikes).
  • For visitor safety during the eclipse, binoculars and telescopes will not be allowed in the park on that day. Please review the eclipse viewing safety information provided below.
Junior Ranger Eclipse Explorer Books and Badges
The park will be giving out a limited number of Junior Ranger Eclipse Explorer Books for children to complete and earn special eclipse badges. NOTE: The books and badges are not yet available at the park. If you would like to download the book, you may do so by going to this link: https://www.nps.gov/kids/pdf/JR-Eclipse-ExplorerActivity%20book.pdf

August 19-20 Shadows & Science Programs (Reservations NOT Required)
Saturday, August 19
8:30 am Birding Hike
9:30 am Nature Discovery Walk
10:30 am iWalk (Nature Walk incorporating the iNaturalist App)
2:00 pm What to Do When A Frog Eats the Sun (Mythology of Eclipses)
3:00 pm iWalk – (Nature Walk incorporating the iNaturalist App)

Sunday, August 20
8:30 am Birding Hike
9:30 am Nature Discovery Hike
10:30 am iWalk – (Nature Walk incorporating the iNaturalist App)
2:00 pm Birds of Congaree, From Beginning Birder to Citizen Scientist
3:00 pm iWalk – (Nature Walk incorporating the iNaturalist App)

Monday, August 21 – Day of Eclipse

Guided Solar Eclipse Hikes (Reservations Required)
At this time, all of the Guided Solar Eclipse Hikes are FULL. If there are cancellations, the tickets will be be made available via the links shown below. There is no standby or wait list for these hikes.

The following are details for each of the guided hikes being offered:
Hike #1 (Reservation link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/congaree-eclipse-hike-river-trail-tickets-36003319899)
Distance: 10.0 miles roundtrip
Participants: 25 Maximum
Start Time: 11:30am
This hike begins at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center and culminates at a sandbar along the Congaree River (sandbar availability and size dependent on water levels). Participants will hike along sections of the Boardwalk, Weston Lake Loop Trail, Oakridge Trail and River Trail. During the hike, participants will likely need to climb over and/or go under fallen trees.

Hike #2 (Reservation link:
Distance: 5.0 miles roundtrip
Participants: 30 Maximum
Start Time: 12:00pm
This hike begins on the east side of the park off of U.S. Highway 601 and culminates in a large field surrounded by pine trees.

Hike #3 (Reservation link:
Distance: 2.5 miles roundtrip
Participants: 40 Maximum
Start Time: 12:30pm
This hike begins at the Bates Ferry Trail parking area (located off of U.S. Highway 601) and culminates in an open area next to the Congaree River. This hike will also include an off-trail trek to the General Greene baldcypress tree.

Hike #4 (Reservation link:
Distance: 1.0 miles roundtrip
Participants: 15 Maximum
Start Time: 1:00pm
This short hike begins on the east side of the park (off of U.S. Highway 601) and culminates in a large field.

Other Viewing Opportunities in the Park
In addition to the guided hikes above, solar eclipse viewing opportunities will be available at the following locations:
  • South Cedar Creek Canoe Landing Parking Lot (located off of South Cedar Creek Road; 10-15 minute drive from the Harry Hampton Visitor Center)
  • Oversize Vehicle Parking Lot located at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center
  • Bluff Campground (2 mile roundtrip hike from the Harry Hampton Visitor Center)
  • Visitors are also free to go find their own viewing location in the park!

Other Viewing Opportunities Outside the Park
There will be many opportunities to view the eclipse throughout the Greater Columbia area. If you are looking for a venue near the park, the Historic Harriet Barber House (located just a few minutes away) is offering a special eclipse viewing event: See details at http://www.sercosc.org/latest-news/. For a listing of eclipse viewing opportunities in and around the Greater Columbia area, you can visit http://totaleclipsecolumbiasc.com/ (Please note that some of these venues are free and others may have a charge).

Camping at Congaree During the Eclipse

  • At this time, all campgrounds at Congaree National Park are full for the weekend of the eclipse. Due to the large number of campers we are expecting, the parking lot at the Longleaf Campground will be for campers only the weekend of the eclipse.
  • The park has had an increased intererest in backcountry camping for this event. Those who would like to camp in the backcountry must get their permits at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center between the hours of 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM on the day of their arrival. No permits will be issued early. This option should be used only if you are prepared for backcountry camping. More information on this form of camping can be found on our backcountry camping page.
  • Parking for backcountry campers will be limited to two designated locations. Once these spaces have been filled, no more backcountry permits will be issued.
  • Car camping (sleeping overnight in a vehicle) is strictly prohibited at the park. No overnight parking except for those with a valid camping permit will be allowed and will be strictly enforced.

Solar Eclipse Viewing Safety Information (provided by NASA)

  • Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality
  • The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” (example shown at left) or hand-held solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun. To date four manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17.
  • Always inspect your solar filter before use; if scratched or damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter. Always supervise children using solar filters.
  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device. Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury. Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device.
  • If you are within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the Moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark. Experience totality, then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to glance at the remaining partial phases.

Last updated: August 17, 2017

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