Lighting Project Protects Zion's Starry Night Sky

A starry sky above Lady Mountain, as seen from the Zion Lodge

NPS photo/Cadence Chinle Cook

In 2014, Zion started the redesign and expansion of the visitor center parking lot. This project included the addition of lights to help visitors trying to find their vehicles after dark. The original project design called for 32 pole-mounted lights in and around the parking area, a design similar to what would be found in a typical town parking lot. However, national parks are different—Zion National Park is responsible for protecting park resources, including the night sky. Light pollution—excessive and unnecessary artificial light at night—would diminish the views of the stars, and impair the habitat of nocturnal wildlife. What was the park to do?
fully-shielded pole light fixture at the visitor center parking lot
Fully-shielded light fixtures prevent light pollution.
To solve this problem, park staff re-designed the lighting layout, reducing the number of light poles from 32 to nine. The fixtures themselves also prevent light pollution—the lamps are fully shielded, allowing no light to shine up into the sky. By aiming the light where it is needed, the brightness of each light could be reduced, saving on energy use. Additionally, the lights have “warm white” LED lamps, easier on the eyes and better for wildlife. Smart controls allow the lights to be significantly dimmed later in the evening, and timers turn the lights off after shuttles stop running for the night. These dark sky-friendly lighting features enabled the park to balance convenience and safety of visitors with preservation of natural resources.

Throughout the park, additional lighting projects are underway. Lights are being retrofitted (and replaced where necessary) to prevent light pollution, while maintaining basic safety needs.
unshielded light vs. shielded night sky-friendly light
Unshielded light fixtures (on left) cause glare and light pollution. Shielded fixtures (on right), with warmer colored bulbs, minimize light pollution.
You can help preserve the starry night sky! Prevent light pollution at home and elsewhere by following these guidelines:

  • Light only WHERE you need it, WHEN you need it. Eliminate unnecessary or excessive lighting.
  • Use fixtures that are FULLY SHIELDED, to direct the light where it is needed.
  • Use WARMER colored bulbs – better for wildlife and for people.
  • Use CONTROLS – timers or motion sensors, where appropriate, rather than lighting all night long.
Spread the word on how to prevent light pollution. Everyone deserves to see the stars!
gray fox at night, caught on automated wildlife camera
Natural darkness is an important part of the habitat of foxes and other nocturnal wildlife. NPS photo
To learn more about protecting night skies:
NPS Night Sky program
International Dark-Sky Association

Find tips for stargazing in Zion

Last updated: July 5, 2018

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Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.
State Route 9

Springdale, UT 84767


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