Experience a Solar Eclipse in Your National Parks

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Date: May 15, 2012
Contact: Alexandra Picavet, 415-786-8021
Contact: John Golda, 415-464-5143

The first solar eclipse viewable in the U.S. in the last 18 years will take place on Sunday, May 20, 2012. Visitors are invited to witness this event from their National Parks. The spectacular scenery of San Francisco Bay Area national parks, including Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, will provide a beautiful backdrop for viewing this rare event.

During an eclipse the moon passes in front of the sun blocking its light. The full eclipse will not be visible in the San Francisco Bay Area. Instead, we will witness a partial eclipse. The sun will start to dim beginning at 5:15 pm local time with the maximum eclipse visible at 6:32 pm. Weather willing, park visitors can expect to see about 90% of the sun covered by the moon-leaving only a glowing, crescent-shaped sliver of the sun still visible.

"The National Parks offer an unparalleled opportunity to experience and understand the world around us. This eclipse is another example of how the public can enjoy the world around them from practically their own back yard," said Cicely Muldoon, Park Superintendent of Point Reyes National Seashore.

Safety is always critical. Because this is not a total solar eclipse, the sun can damage eyes, so viewers should use special solar glasses or other protection to view the event. One should never look directly into the sun, nor use telescopes or sunglasses. Again, eye safety is very important. There are a variety of filters and lenses that can be purchased that allow safe viewing. Similarly, many devices can be made that allow safe projection of the eclipse.

Scheduled Events: At Point Reyes National Seashore, Ranger led-programs and talks will be available during the day at the Bear Valley Visitor Center.

There will be an hour long talk about the sun using the Science on a Sphere exhibit at the Bear Valley Visitor Center at 11 am.

A table with sun-related activities will be out throughout the afternoon at the Bear Valley Visitor Center.

There will be a Ranger-led talk and solar viewers available from 5:00 pm until 6:30 pm in the Bear Valley Parking Lot. Please note that fog or heavy cloud cover will cancel the afternoon viewing. Call the Bear Valley Visitor Center at 415-464-5100 x2 x5 for information about visibility at Point Reyes.

Where to View the Eclipse: Because the eclipse is happening during sunset, an unobstructed, west-facing view near the coast is best. Places like Ocean Beach and Lands End, and Muir Beach, are recommended. Alternately, especially if there is fog, somewhere higher up like Hawk Hill, Dias Ridge, Ft Funston, and Mori Point may still offer good viewing.

At Point Reyes National Seashore, in addition to the Bear Valley Visitor Center, the Lighthouse area, the Point Reyes Beach, and Limantour Beach should provide great views.

Important resources:
NASA YouTube video explaining this kind of eclipse and what you can expect to see:

National Park Service eclipse web page:

NASA eclipse web site:

NASA web site to calculate eclipse details from any U.S. city:


Last updated: February 28, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956


(415) 464-5100
This number will initially be answered by an automated attendant, from which one can opt to access a name directory, listen to recorded information about the park (i.e., directions to the park; visitor center hours of operation; weather forecast; fire danger information; shuttle bus system status; wildlife updates; ranger-led programs; seasonal events; etc.), or speak with a ranger. Please note that if you are calling between 4:30 pm and 10 am, park staff may not be available to answer your call.

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