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Tips for planning a safe and enjoyable High Desert eclipse viewing

Posted by Ben Gordon at Jul 06, 2017 11:15 AM |
The expansive high desert of eastern Oregon offers many great places from which to view the upcoming solar eclipse. With inviting small towns and abundant open space, anyone headed to the high desert can have a great experience, so long as the necessary preparations are made. A successful, enjoyable and safe trip will come from ensuring you have what you will need, including emergency supplies and a solid game plan. Because we care about the high desert landscape, the people who live here and all of those who plan to visit for the eclipse, we’ve put together these tips to ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience that leaves the land in good shape.

The expansive high desert of eastern Oregon offers many great places from which to view the upcoming total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st.  With inviting small towns and abundant open space, anyone headed to the high desert can have a great experience, so long as the necessary preparations are made. A successful, enjoyable and safe trip will come from ensuring you have what you will need, including emergency supplies and a solid game plan. Because we care about the high desert landscape, the people who live here and all of those who plan to visit for the eclipse, we’ve put together these tips to ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience that leaves the land in good shape.

Plan for Large Crowds and Heavy Traffic

While exact numbers are difficult to predict, emergency managers are planning for an influx of more than one million visitors into Oregon for several days surrounding the eclipse.  This will result in heavy traffic, especially on single-lane rural roads. You can plan on limited access to camping spots and potential limitations on the availability of food, water, gas, wifi and cell service.  It is also likely that emergency services will be in very high demand, so self-sufficiency will be important. Visitors should anticipate increased travel times, long waits and busy or blocked roads and plan to have provisions with them to avoid being left underprepared.

A well-provisioned camp. Photo, David Eddleston
A well-provisioned camp. Photo by David Eddleston

Lodging/Camping

Most lodging and camping has been booked for months. If you plan to show up without a reservation, have several contingency plans in the event that your first choice is full when you arrive. If you intend to view the eclipse on public land, educate yourself about the rules and regulations of your chosen viewing/camping location. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has this helpful know before you go website. Certain public lands designations such as Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas have limits on group size numbers and it will be important to know this information before choosing your location.

Respect Private Property

Please respect private property while you are out enjoying the eclipse. Oftentimes property boundaries are marked with signs and fences but on occasion it can be confusing to determine the ownership of a property once you are out on the landscape. Land ownership in the high desert is often a checkerboard pattern of private and public ownership. To avoid trespassing, this interactive online land ownership MAP can be a helpful aid.

Campers consult their map to avoid trespassing. Photo, David Eddleston
Using maps to avoid trespassing. Photo by David Eddleston

Driving on Public Land

Only drive on designated motor vehicle routes. Cross-country travel is prohibited across much of our public lands and is highly detrimental to the landscape. Please remember to leave any gate you travel through as you found it and avoid parking your vehicle in a location where your exhaust system could come into contact with dry vegetation to reduce the risk of starting a fire.

Expect Hot and Dry Conditions

August is typically the peak of fire danger in the high desert. Brush fires in eastern Oregon can start easily and move fast. Fires can be started by dry lightning, hot car mufflers touching dry grass, camp fires (banned at this time of year) and cigarettes.  Keep an eye out for early warning signs of fire in the distance and react early.  Think about your emergency evacuation routes, how you would escape a fast moving wildfire and how your escape plan could be influenced by the heavy traffic.  Carry a fire extinguisher, shovel and extra water in your vehicle to help prevent any of your vehicles, cooking or other activities from starting a wildfire.

Emergency Preparedness

The eastern Oregon towns in the path of totality have terrific local businesses and scrumptious food and beverage options but lack the infrastructure and supplies to accommodate the demands of large crowds. To ensure that you are prepared, bring ample food, water, cooler ice, extra gasoline, flat tire repair tools, first aid supplies, an emergency kit and have an emergency plan. Make sure family members or friends back home know your schedule, when you are expected to return and your plan if something happens.

Cellular and wifi coverage are spotty in eastern Oregon and with heavy demand may be overloaded even where usually available.  Do not rely on these services for navigation. Instead use maps and GPS devices to ensure reliable information.

As you make your plans to view the solar eclipse, we hope that you consider heading to Oregon’s high desert. If you go and take these emergency preparedness queues, you are bound to have an unforgettable experience. Enjoy, Be Safe, Help Take Care of the Desert.

Helpful Planning Resources

BLM: https://www.blm.gov/solareclipse

National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/joda/planyourvisit/eclipse.htm

State of Oregon: http://www.oregon.gov/oem/hazardsprep/Pages/2017-Total-Solar-Eclipse.aspx

Eastern Oregon Visitors Association: http://www.visiteasternoregon.com/

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Oregon Natural Desert Association
50 SW Bond Street, Suite 4,
Bend, OR 97702
Tel: (541) 330-2638
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