Are you thinking of scheduling a horse camping trip so you can observe the solar eclipse from a good vantage point? Or would you like to watch the eclipse from from horseback? Since the view of the eclipse in much of the Pacific Northwest could be obscured by dense forest and/or cloud cover, what are your best eclipse-watching options?
The solar eclipse that will occur on August 21, 2017, will be the first total eclipse visible anywhere in the continental U.S. since 1979. And it will be a rarity – one of only four eclipses visible coast to coast between 1901 and 2099!
The eclipse’s center path traverses Oregon a little north of the towns of Newport, Albany, John Day, and Ontario. For the best viewing, you’ll want to be as near the eclipse’s center path as possible, with clear skies and an unobstructed view. People who are within about 30 miles of the eclipse’s center path will see a total solar eclipse. Outside that area, you’ll see only a partial eclipse.
Madras, Oregon has the distinction of lying directly on the eclipse’s center path. Because of its Central Oregon location, some analysts report that Madras has the best probability in the nation of having a clear view of the total eclipse. In Madras, the eclipse will begin at 9:06 a.m. and the total eclipse will occur at 10:19 a.m.
Horse Camping to Watch the Eclipse
For horse campers, the best seats in the house will be at Cyrus Horse Camp and Allen Creek Horse Camp. Both camps are located in the path of totality and provide access to open skies. However, both campgrounds are first come, first served.
Cyrus Horse Camp, near Madras, Oregon
Cyrus Horse Camp, which has seven campsites, is located about 15 miles south of Madras. It has a toilet, corrals, stock water, and many miles of trails nearby. Allen Creek Horse Camp is located 45 miles east of Prineville. It has five campsites, corrals, a toilet, and stock water from the adjacent creek. Allen Creek has no official trails nearby, but there are dozens of forest roads and cow paths to explore. Both horse camps are in relatively open areas, so they’ll provide good views of the sky.
Because you can’t reserve a campsite at either camp, you’ll likely need to arrive days ahead of the eclipse, and even then someone else may beat you to it. So where else might you go?
Quinn Meadow Horse Camp
In sunny Central Oregon, you should consider Three Creek Meadow Horse Camp, Todd Creek Horse Camp, or Quinn Meadow Horse Camp. All of these camps have large adjacent meadows or open areas that will allow you get away from trees that might otherwise block your view, and all have plenty of trails to ride during your stay. All three camps are slightly out of the path of totality, though, so you will have a 99.5% or 99% eclipse view. Only Quinn Meadow accepts reservations; the other horse camps are first come, first served.
If the skies are clear in the Willamette Valley, Willamette Mission State Park’s Horse Camp lies very near the eclipse’s center line, it features open areas that will offer good viewing, and you can reserve a campsite.
Watching the Eclipse from Horseback
If you don’t want to travel far from home, but you’d like to see the eclipse from horseback, your options vary considerably depending on where you live.
Central Oregon: You can ride out to see the eclipse at Tumalo Reservoir, the Metolius-Windigo Trail south of Sisters Cow Camp, the Cole Loop Trail near Skull Hollow, the Canals area of Cline Buttes, the Oregon Badlands, and the top of the Black Crater Trail, to name just a few. All of these trails provide open vistas and are in or very near the path of totality.
A meadow at Willamette Mission State Park
Willamette Valley: Both Willamette Mission and Milo McIver State Parks have large parking areas and open meadows that will offer excellent viewing if the skies are clear. Other good vantage points are available at Powell Butte Nature Park and Bob and Crystal Rilee Park near Portland, Elijah Bristow State Park and Mt. Pisgah near Eugene, and E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area and Dimple Hill in McDonald Forest near Corvallis.
Washougal Dike Trail
Southwest Washington: Your best eclipse-viewing vantage points from horseback are the Washougal Dike Trail and the top of Hamilton Mountain at Beacon Rock State Park.
A Word of Caution
It’s important to remember that you can seriously damage your eyes by looking directly at a solar eclipse. The ONLY time you can safely view it is during the fleeting moments of totality – that is, when the moon is directly in front of the sun. The instant the sun begins to move from behind the moon, look away! If this information worries you, that’s good. Please play it safe. If you’d like to observe the eclipse as it happens, a quick internet search will showcase several devices that will protect your eyes while you watch the eclipse develop.
The Bottom Line
If you’d like to experience the eclipse on horseback, start making plans now, especially if you intend to camp. Or just make a date to meet your horse out in the middle of his pasture on August 21st around 10:00 a.m., and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime astronomical phenomenon together. Either way, it will be a memorable experience!
To learn more about the horse camps, trails, and riding areas mentioned above, see Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails and Riding Northwest Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel. (Ponderosa Press) Available at: www.NWhorsetrails.com.