News Release

Mesa Verde National Park Certified as 100th International Dark Sky Park

A nighttime view of a dark mesa and forested hills at the bottom of the frame. The sky above is full of thousands of stars. The glowing band of the Milky Way Galaxy seems to rise out of the mesa, spanning to the top left corner of the image.
The center of the Milky Way over Point Lookout, Mesa Verde National Park

NPS / Jacob W. Frank

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News Release Date: April 5, 2021

Contact: Kristy Sholly, (970)759-9412

MESA VERDE, CO – The National Park Service and the International Dark-Sky Association are pleased to announce Mesa Verde National Park as the 100th International Dark Sky Park. This certification recognizes the exceptional quality of the park’s night skies and provides added opportunities to enhance visitor experiences through astronomy-based interpretive programming.

"We are happy to announce our work to advance the preservation of Mesa Verde’s night skies and provide visitors opportunities to experience the wonder of starry nights,” said park Superintendent Cliff Spencer. “This recognition is the result of great work accomplished by employees of Mesa Verde National Park and the Mesa Verde Museum Association. National parks are some of the best places in America to see a breathtaking array of stars, planets, and neighboring galaxies.”

Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906 to preserve and interpret the archeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from 600 to 1300 CE. Today, the park protects over 52,000 acres and nearly 5,000 known archeological sites. Mesa Verde’s rugged and wild environment of pinyon-juniper woodlands and deep canyons is home to over 1,000 species, including several that live nowhere else on earth. Mesa Verde’s exceptionally dark skies are an important part of the cultural landscape of the park that holds special significance to Mesa Verde’s 26 affiliated tribes.

Mesa Verde now joins a growing set of 169 International Dark Sky Places in 21 countries around the world, including 37 other sites administered by the National Park Service. These diverse Dark Sky Places have all followed a rigorous application process that demonstrates robust community support for dark sky certification.

The International Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education. International Dark Sky Park certification promotes public education and astronomy-based recreation in parks while improving energy efficiency and reducing operational costs through outdoor lighting upgrades, which in turn creates economic opportunities for neighboring communities through astronomy-based tourism. Mesa Verde’s application garnered widespread community support, including from the city of Cortez, towns of Dolores and Mancos, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, and the Mesa Verde Country tourism bureau.

The International Dark-Sky Association advocates for the protection of the nighttime environment and dark night skies by educating the public about night sky conservation and by promoting environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. More information about the International Dark-Sky Association and the benefits of dark skies may be found at

The certification does not carry any legal or regulatory authority. The certification demonstrates a commitment by parks to improve night skies through the use of more energy efficient, sustainable lighting. Certification also reaffirms the park’s commitment to educate the public and gateway communities about the importance of dark sky-friendly outdoor lighting and opportunities to work together toward common goals.

Mesa Verde National Park offers public night sky programs throughout the year and is an excellent place to learn about and enjoy the wonders of the night sky. Mesa Verde will celebrate the certification achievement with programs at the park when we are able to safely gather again.

Last updated: April 12, 2021

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PO Box 8
Mesa Verde National Park, CO 81330



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