Oregon Dark Sky Loop

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These Unique Sites Have Allowed Us To Capture Images like this

Looking at State Park light pollution levels and other Oregon astronomy places, we saw the opportunity for a brand new dark sky loop. Similar to the hood River fruit loop, this is a tourist attraction and opportunity for highlighting these attractions. Needless to say, these aren’t the only night sky opportunities in the state of Oregon. Rather, these are sites are close to the majority of the largest cities and are easily accessed usable. We have visited all of these sites ourselves and can attest to being able to use these sites.

This trip should take a few days to complete, depending on how many days you spend at each location, as each location highlights some of the diverse areas of the state of Oregon, from the central deserts surrounding John Day, the Columbia River, and the Mount Hood area. The beautiful thing is that this loop can be started at any point and in any direction, and all of these locations have onsite camping and accommodations available for use.

Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Located near Waso, Oregon, Cottonwood Canyon State Park s almost 1/2 way between Portland, OR and the John Day Fossil Bed Monuments, with the drive being about 2 hours to each location. Opened in 2013, the park now has over 8,000 acres of land, which makes the park the 2nd largest Oregon State Park by land as of this writing. However the park also is one of the least visited parks in Oregon, 3rd least visited on 2019, which makes it great for stargazing. The park is located on the way between Portland and the John Day Fossil Beds, which makes it a great stopover location. The park has so many locations that provide great views of the horizons and dark skies. With so many camping spots available and amenities such as toilets, it is a perfect location to sleep over. For those interested in visiting, check out this article!

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument Area

Please note, to use the official monument for photography, you have to get a permit and sign paperwork with the US NPS and have items such as insurance. Otherwise, photographing the night sky on the monument itself could be considered trespassing. We are not telling nor encouraging you to trespass on the actual monument itself, as what we are saying is that the surrounding Bureau of Land Management camping sites provide the same level of Astronomy experience without the worries of paperwork.

The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument area makes an amazing area for viewing amazing daytime scenery and some of the best Oregon nighttime skies. Located in a Bortle black skies, the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument has 3 separate units that have a lot of land to explore the historic and unique geographic landscape. The National Monument area provides the same dark skies that those who attend the Oregon Star Party, with the benefits of lots of land to do astronomy without a lot of competition. Although there aren’t a lot of electrical outlets for use for imaging, there a plethora of DSLR and viewing opportunities without having to compete with finding the best spots, as there are acres of land that are available near the BLM campgrounds. There are a lot of campgrounds and areas for viewing the night skies.

Prineville Reservoir State Park

Located in almost the geographical center of the state of Oregon, Prineville Reservoir State Park is a great place to go stargazing. It is important to ensure that you have a proper Oregon State Parks permit to ensure that you are allowed to stargaze at night and the the rangers dont give you trouble. The park is located in the Oregon high desert park, with the reservoir a result of Bowman Damn. In 2021, the IDA, International Dark Sky Association, designated Prineville Reservoir State Park an International Dark Sky. The park has camping and is located close to the city of Prineville so it makes a great place for stopping to get supplies for the rest of the journey. The skies have actually been getting darker over the years as the State Parks Department takes light pollution very seriously. With so much shoreline, there are a plethora of opportunities to stargaze at the shore and have great views from horizon to horizon. For more site specific stargazing information, check out this article.

Lost Lake Resort

Located in the Mount Hood area, Lost Lake Resort area provides extensive outdoor areas and amazing astrophotography opportunities with Mount Hood and other mountains! The area is a Blue Bortle zone and provides an avenue for Oregon astronomy that is in a wooded and mountainous area that is beautiful! Lost Lake resort has miles of hiking and fishing during the day and a plethora of camping available for reservation. Moreover, one can sleep in their car if desired, but one might have to pay a night fee. The area is uniquely located that its close enough to cities such as Hood River and Portland that it makes this a great place to start or finish, but it is also extremely beautiful and can be used as a place to visit the Mount Hood Forest and entire area.

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