A Spectacular Occasion and Dark Skies in Sequoia and King Canyon
Summer in the Sierra Nevada is a magical place. As the winter snows melt, brilliant colors from wildflowers bloom under the sun-drenched meadows and forest of the Giant Sequoia. Wildlife such as the handsome black bear, curious marmot and spirited chickaree roam the woods while the warm, dry summer temperatures nourish the soul. Clear skies not only allow for ideal camping conditions, but it also adds to the aesthetic value of our park and wilderness.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks will be celebrating magic in the Sierra Nevada this summer. August 23 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, which designated 9 million acres of American land as wilderness, including land in these Parks. This summer, we are organizing a first ever Dark Sky Festival, a spectacular event to celebrate darkness in our parks and wilderness. We hope you join us for constellation tours, star gazing, inspiring stories and discovering the magic of the night for yourself! There is surely something for everyone.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Dark Sky Festival:
When is the Dark Sky Festival?
July 25-27, 2014
Where is the Festival happening?
The Dark Sky Festival is a parks wide event, meaning most areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks will be participating including Lake Kaweah, Foothills, Lodgepole, Giant Forest and Grant Grove.
What can I do during the Festival?
The Dark Sky Festival will include speakers, activities, demonstrations and Ranger programs throughout the weekend. Speakers include Wally Pacholka, an internationally recognized astrophotographer of National Parks. His photographs have been seen in Time Magazine, National Geographic and the NASA website among other places. Wally will speak on Friday night, July 25 at the Wuksachi Lodge. Dr. Story Musgrave, a former astronaut, will speak about his inspiring journey from farm kid to lead mechanic of the Hubble Space telescope. You can hear Dr. Musgrave speak on Saturday night at the Wuksachi Lodge. NASA engineer and Mars rover mission operations team member, Nagin Cox, will speak on Saturday night at the John Muir Lodge.
Dr. Story Musgrave
Activities include water rocket demonstrations at Lake Kaweah, which is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Junior Sky Ranger booklets will be available throughout the weekend in addition to solar scope viewing, solar system hikes and astrophotography workshops. On Saturday night, an evening star party will take place at the Wuksachi Lodge. The Kern Astronomical Society will offer Festival goers the opportunity to glance into deep space using highly effective telescopes. This evening program will surely be a main event for the Festival.
National Park Service rangers, Sequoia Natural History Association naturalists and volunteers from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, International Dark Sky Association and other organizations will speak throughout the weekend on various topics, from astrobiology of caves to sky myths and stories to the preservation of our healthy, dark skies in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
What else do Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have to offer?
Hiking in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
From hiking to horseback riding to camping and fishing, our National Parks offer plenty of recreational opportunities. Walk inside any visitor center to get more information or visit www.nps.gov/seki . If you are looking for a private tour of the Parks, consider contacting the Sequoia Field Institute at 559-565-4251 or Sequoia Sightseeing Tours at (559) 561-4189. Additional Ranger programs will be available throughout the weekend as well.
Where can I get more information?
Visit www.sequoiahistory.org later in the summer to see a full schedule of events. Also, you can call the Sequoia Natural History Association at 559-565-4441 for the most up-to date information.
I can’t attend the Festival. Are there other astronomy programs I can attend in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks?
Yes. During the summer the Sequoia Natural History Association offers regular Wonders of the Night Sky astronomy programs at the Wuksachi Lodge on Wednesday and Friday evening beginning at 9:00pm. Additionally, each month we offer an extraordinary Full Moon on Moro Rock program. During the rising of the Moon over the Great Western Divide, a Sequoia guide will share cultural and science stories. In the fall, Beyond the Naked Eye Astronomy programs offer visitors additional opportunities to look at deep space with telescopes and binoculars. Check our calendar at www.sequoiahistory.org for full details about our programs.
Can I volunteer for the Festival?
Yes! We are currently looking for festival volunteers who would be interested in helping out during the weekend. Free entrance to the Parks and camping would be provided, in addition to the opportunity to learn more about astronomy and gain experience with the National Park Service and its partners! Call 559-565-4441 if you are interested in volunteering during the weekend.
What does it cost?
The Dark Sky Festival and all associated programs are free. You pay only the entrance fee to get into the Park, which is typically $20 per vehicle. We encourage you to support our National Parks by shopping at our National Park visitor centers, making a donation, attending a Crystal Cave tour or consider joining the Sequoia Natural History Association as a member during your visit.
Where can I stay?
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have several campgrounds and lodging options throughout the Parks however we encourage you to plan ahead and reserve early for the event. Camping and lodging in Sequoia National Forest is also an option. Additionally, our friends at Visalia Convention and Visitors Bureau have a number of lodging options just outside the park
Wuksachi Lodge, Sequoia National Park
Are there dining options within the Parks?
There are plenty of places to eat while visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks such as Wuksachi Lodge and Lodgepole Deli and Marketplace. Additionally, your family can enjoy an outdoor picnic at one of the available picnic areas such as idyllic Halstead Meadow, Lodgepole Picnic Area, Columbine picnic area or other locations around the Parks. There are a number of dining options outside the park as well.