It’s just a matter of days before the Great American Total Solar Eclipse will manifest itself as it makes its way across the nation—from coast to coast. On August 21, 2017, America will witness something that hasn’t been seen in over 100 years; a total eclipse of the sun that will travel the width of the United States, and will be visible from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans.
The areas in the country where viewers will witness the totality of the event all fall within a 70-mile-wide swath that goes from Oregon to South Carolina. Within this “Path of Totality” are 21 U.S. national parks or historical monuments and scenic trails, which would be amazing spots from which to view this once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.
NOTE: This would be a good spot to note the importance of viewing the eclipse safely. While some of our national parks are distributing special viewing glasses on eclipse day, you should still be sure to search online and get your own glasses to assure that you’re not left without a safe way to view it. Do not attempt to look at this event without proper viewing methods!
Because of the numbers of people that will flood into the areas that lie within the path of totality, most of the RV parks may already be filled to capacity. That, however, is not an issue for our Cruise America customers. Each of our class C motorhomes is self-sufficient, and can be just as comfortable while dry camping (boondocking) as it can be while in a designated camping park.
Here is a list of National Parks, Monuments and Trails that fall within the path of totality:
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (Kimberly, Oregon)
The National Park Service anticipates very large crowds in this park, as Eastern Oregon is supposed to be one of the best eclipse-viewing areas. That’s because it falls directly beneath the eclipse’s path of totality. Partial phases of the event will begin just after 9:00 AM local time, with the totality phase beginning at approximately 10:20 AM. The totality phase will last for about 100 – 120 seconds, depending where in the park you are stationed. The park is open to the public on the day of the eclipse, but officials strongly advise getting there early, as the spectators will be numerous.
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (Arco, Idaho)
This park is made up of lava fields, and it lies just on the outskirts of the path of totality. On the day of the eclipse, the park will offer educational opportunities for all. There will be lessons on how to safely view the eclipse, as well as presentations featuring the details of this momentous occasion. The partial eclipse should get underway at 10:13 AM, and the eclipse should reach totality by 11:31 AM, and the viewers will get to bask in this darkness for 99 seconds.
Grand Teton National Park (Moose, Wyoming)
The National Park Service is gearing up for what is expected to be the busiest day in this park’s history. It’s located directly in the middle of the path of totality. Here, viewers will experience up to 160 seconds of darkness! Partial phases of the eclipse will begin at 10:17 AM local time. It should reach totality by 11:35 AM.
Fort Laramie National Historic Site (Fort Laramie, Wyoming)
This former military post was once the largest of its kind on the Northern Plains. Viewers watching from this area will see about 134 seconds of totality, which should start at about 11:46 AM.
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument (Sioux County, Nebraska)
There will be plenty of daytime and nighttime activities and astronomy programs at this monument on the day of the eclipse. This area is well-known for the grass covered plains containing large numbers of well-preserved Miocene fossils that date back 20 million years. There will be a partial eclipse starting at 10:25 AM local time, and totality will take over for about 143 seconds.
Scotts Bluff National Monument (Gering, Nebraska)
This landmark is filled with history, featuring the Oregon Trail and the Mormon Trail. This site will hold a special night-sky viewing event from the top of the bluff on August 19, along with several other solar-themed activities the following day. Beginning at 11:48 AM, viewers will be able to see the totality of the eclipse for over 102 seconds.
Homestead National Monument of America (Gage County, Nebraska)
This park is planning events for the whole weekend (August 19-21) in order to celebrate this momentous occasion. Watchers will experience 154 seconds of darkness. Partial phases of the eclipse will begin at 11:37 AM, while the totality phase will begin at 1:02 PM.
Harry S. Truman National Historic Site (Independence, Missouri)
This national historic site contains more than 50,000 artifacts that pertain to the personal life of Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States. In addition, it is located right in the path of the eclipse, with partial phases starting at 11:41 AM and totality beginning at 1:08 PM, which will last for 70 seconds.
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (St. Joseph, Missouri)
This national historic trail commemorates the famous expedition by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark that took place from 1804 to 1806. Only some of the areas on the 3,700-mile long trail fall within the path of totality. St. Joseph, in fact, is very close to the centerline of the eclipse. These viewers will be treated to 158 seconds of totality, and it begins at 1:06 PM.
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (St. Louis, Missouri)
This historic plantation sits on 9.65 acres in St. Louis. The site honors Ulysses S. Grant, who was a general in the Civil War, as well as the 18th president of the United States. This site falls in the path of totality, offering viewers in this area the chance to see the partial phases starting at 11:49 AM, and the totality phase starting at 1:17 PM local time.
Fort Donelson National Battlefield (Dover, Tennessee)
There are good viewing locations from the main lands of the park, as well as from the Dover Hotel (Surrender House), which overlooks the Cumberland River. Viewers at this location will be treated to 45 seconds of totality, which starts at 1:25 PM local time.
Stones River National Battlefield (Murfreesboro, Tennessee)
This 570-acre national battlefield falls right on the edge of the path of totality. This means that viewers here will only experience 55 seconds of totality, which begins at 1:29 PM local time. Park officials have announced that the first 1,500 visitors to the park on eclipse day will receive a free pair of eclipse-viewing glasses.
The Obed Wild and Scenic River (Wartburg, Tennessee)
This entire stretch of the Obed Wild and Scenic River falls completely within the path of totality. There will be events at three different locations within the park. The area that will enjoy the longest amount of totality is the Big South Fork Gateway Visitor Center. Here, visitors will experience 149 seconds of darkness. Partial phases will begin at 1:00 PM, while the total phase should start about 2:30 PM.
Manhattan Project National Historical Park (Oak Ridge, Tennessee)
This historical park is situated within the path of totality, and officials have been planning public viewing events are the American Museum of Science and Energy’s Oak Ridge Visitor Center. Here, visitors will witness about 24 seconds of totality, which occurs at 2:33 PM EDT. The earlier phases of the eclipse will occur around 1:00 PM. This Oak Ridge site is one of three Manhattan Project National Historic Parks. The other sites are Los Alamos, New Mexico and another in Hanford, Washington. These other two sites do not fall into the path of totality. Other areas of the park, such as the Big South Fork Gateway Visitor Center will experience longer darkness. Here it will be about 149 seconds, and the totality starts at about 1:30 PM.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee & North Carolina)
Stretching from North Carolina to Tennessee, the western section of this huge park falls in the path of totality. Viewers will be able to experience darkness as long as 140 seconds. There are three visitor centers in the park, and each one will be holding special eclipse activities. There are nine campgrounds available in the park, so if you happen to be lucky enough to have a spot reserved, you’re good to go. However, if they are full, the park advises to keep checking, as there will be cancellations.
Appalachian National Scenic Trail (several states)
This trail is a doozy! It stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia, to Mount Katahdin in Main. Sections of the trail in North Carolina to Tennessee will be directly under the path of totality. Ambitious hikers can climb 5,200 feet to the top of Albert Mountain to view the event. This is a public footpath and there are no fees to use it. The totality moment should occur at about 2:35 PM and should continue for 150 seconds.
Blue Ridge Parkway (Asheville, North Carolina)
This parkway offers a very suitable scenic route for watching the eclipse. Ironically, this parkway has been referred to as “America’s Favorite Drive.” It’s a highway that stretches over 469 miles as it runs through Virginia and North Carolina. The southern section of the drive (near Asheville, NC) lies in the path of totality. The darkness here will only last between 20-60 seconds, depending on the point from which it is viewed. Totality will commence at about 2:36 PM.
Ninety Six National Historic Site (Ninety Six, South Carolina)
This site is located directly in the path of totality, and will host an eclipse-viewing event at Star Fort Pond, where there will be activities for the whole family. Viewers here will experience about 152 seconds of the totality, which begins at 2:39 PM local time. There will be partial phases beginning at 1:10 PM.
Congaree National Park (Hopkins, South Carolina)
The path of totality will also traverse this national park. It’s the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. There will be viewing activities, as well as 151 seconds of darkness. The totality begins at 2:42 PM, but the partial phases will start up at 1:13 PM.
Charles Pinckney National Historic Site (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina)
This will be one of the last national park locations from whence viewers will be able to witness the grand event. The totality begins at 2:46 PM local time, and will last for about 108 seconds. Visitors can also walk the plantation grounds while the eclipse is happening.
Fort Sumter National Monument (Charleston, South Carolina)
The last thing the moon’s shadow will do before setting its course across the Atlantic Ocean, is pass over Fort Sumter. Viewers here will experience about 93 seconds of darkness, and will do so at about 2:46 PM. The partial eclipse activity will commence at 1:16 PM EDT. The only way to get to this national monument (which also includes Fort Moultrie) is to take a boat. There is no entrance fee, but you will need to purchase a ticket for the ferry.
Other trails from which the totality of the total eclipse will be visible are:
Santa Fe National Historic Trail
Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail
Oregon National Historic Trail
Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
California National Historic Trail
Pony Express National Historic Trail
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
If you have never seen a total eclipse of the sun, and we’re willing to bet that you probably haven’t, then you’re going to be awed by the experience. If you’ve never traveled in the comfort of one of our class C rental RVs, we think you’ll be just as awed by that!
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