Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Solar Eclipse Mania: 1,000 Additional Oregon Campsites Snapped Up In 90 Minutes

A rare total eclipse of the sun will cross the U.S. on the morning of August 21, 2017. It starts on the Oregon coast and then sweeps east. In Oregon, all of the reservable public campsites and most hotels in the so-called "path of totality" were booked up long ago.

So Oregon State Parks spokesman Chris Havel said the agency asked itself if it could do more, resulting in 1,018 temporary campsites being added to the reservation system. It took less than 90 minutes Wednesday for Oregon State Parks to sell out the additional reservations

"They lasted longer than the eclipse will last, but they went pretty darn fast,” Havel said.

The additional campsites came in part from spaces normally treated as first-come/first-served, plus conversions of open fields and parking areas into temporary reservable campsites.

Oregon has 16 state parks under the path of totality and another 13 close by.

In an interview Wednesday, Havel said the Oregon park system required a three-night minimum stay on this batch of reservations in order to help campers beat an expect crush of travelers pouring into the prime eclipse viewing zone.

"It's to make sure everybody has time to get to their site in a nice, safe manner," Havel said. "Getting there Friday for the Monday eclipse gives you all weekend to relax or to figure out where everything is, and then enjoy the event and then go home safely." 

Havel estimated gross revenues between $18,000-$25,000 from creating the extra camping spaces for the eclipse. But he cautioned, “we don’t expect to come out ahead” after accounting for rented portable toilets, staff overtime, cleanup and other expenses from the extraordinary event.

“Most of the real economic gains will be in the communities right around the parks,” Havel wrote in a follow up email.

Central Oregon and Idaho are proving particularly popular with eclipse chasers because of the high probability of clear skies in August. 

The total eclipse will last about two minutes for people directly under its path. In the Pacific Northwest it will begin around 10:15 a.m. on a Monday morning on the Oregon coast between Waldport and Pacific City. The path of totality will then sweep across north central Oregon, move on into central Idaho and then race across the country, eventually moving out over the Atlantic Ocean from South Carolina. 

The moon's shadow will take only 12 minutes to traverse the entire state of Oregon according to NASA calculations. 

One of the reasons people are getting excited and planning ahead is that total solar eclipses near us are rare. If you miss the one next August, you'll have to wait until the year 2044 to see another total eclipse of the sun elsewhere in the American West. 

People living in the Northwest outside the path of totality can still experience the eclipse's eerie darkness. In Seattle and Portland for example, the moon will obscure more than 90 percent of the sun.

The August 21, 2017 solar eclipse path of totality is about 60 miles wide.
Xavier Jubier /
The August 21, 2017 solar eclipse path of totality is about 60 miles wide.

Copyright 2017 Northwest News Network

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.
Tom Banse
Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.