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. For more site specific stargazing information, check out this article.
Great Views Of The Entire Sky
With a landscape that is relatively flat, and the reservoir providing no tree cover, the area provides fantastic views of the night sky. These views are unrestricted and provide a view of the entire sky from the banks of the reservoir, that allow for viewing of objects in all directions at all times of night.
Dark Sky Site
In 2021, the IDA, International Dark Sky Association, designated Prineville Reservoir State Park an International Dark Sky. As the IDA says, “The Park is at the edge of a vast expanse of natural nighttime darkness extending into the greater part of southeast Oregon earmarked for a future International Dark Sky Reserve.” Therefore, this site is very dark and currently the only Dark Sky Park in Oregon, but this will likely to change as Cottonwood Canyon State Park and others are looking to become a Dark Sky Park as well.
Has Been Getting Darker Over Time
Every few months, the Oregon chapter of the IDA puts out a report detailing brightness over the past few months at select locations. Prineville Reservoir is one of those spots and as seen in the 5th report, the steps taken to maintain dark skies have been successful! It looks as if the skies have been getting darker over that period by 1.8%.
On The Way
If you’re traveling to somewhere such as to the John Day Fossil Beds, the state park makes a great stopping spot. If you have your astronomy gear, you can use them here. The site makes a great middle ground for those traveling somewhere else and need a break but also want an astronomy experience.
Good Amenities And Activities
At Prineville Reservoir, daytime activities include fishing, boating, and 2 hiking trails. There are 2 campgrounds in the area that both have hookups and facilities, which are Prineville Reservoir State Park, and Jasper State Recreation Site. If both of those sites are full or not what you fancy, there is also a privately owned resort that rents cabins, offers campsites nearby.