Three years ago, a hotelier in a town near Bend told me every room in their small city was already booked for the 2017 solar eclipse. Pretty sure I’d heard wrong, I asked him to repeat that.
“We started getting calls from all over the world back in 2011,” he said somberly. “It’s going to be huge.”
While the Total Solar Eclipse happening August 21, 2017 will be viewable all over North America (and even in parts of South America, Africa, and Europe), Central Oregon has been touted as one of the best spots on earth to see it. It’s partly our reputation for cloudless summertime skies, and partly that Madras, Oregon (45 miles northeast of Bend) is smack-dab in the direct line of totality. That means they’ll see approximately two minutes and two seconds of complete darkness around 10:19 a.m.
It’s the first Total Solar Eclipse since 1979, and there won’t be another viewable from the U.S. until 2024. Here’s what you need to know about seeing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse in Central Oregon.
Got a place to stay?
What that hotel owner told me three years ago wasn’t an exaggeration. Hotels in Madras, Prineville, Redmond, Bend, and La Pine have been fully booked for ages. Ditto that for campgrounds at all the state parks.
There’s a slim, slim chance you can still find a few private campgrounds with spots available, and I’ve seen several Central Oregon ranchers offering “self-contained RV sites” on their property.
If someone cancels a hotel room and you’re lucky enough to snag it, expect to pay a premium. Supply and demand is in full force, and I’ll admit I’m mind-boggled by the prices I’m seeing for rooms.
EDIT: A few lodging options have popped up in the comments on this blog post, so you may want to check there to see if they’ve booked up since then.
So where can I watch?
While the eclipse will be viewable from towns all over Oregon, it’s Madras that’s getting all the press as the town in the line of totality. As the moon begins to pass between the sun and the earth starting around 9:06 a.m., viewers in Madras will witness the shadow darkening the peak of nearby Mt. Jefferson before everything goes black and the area is plunged into total darkness for about two minutes at 10:19 a.m.
Sounds awesome, but getting there will be the trick. If you’re staying in an outlying town like Bend or Sunriver, don’t expect to jump in your car that morning and cruise to Madras. Experts predict traffic will be at a standstill, and a drive that would normally take an hour could take nine or ten hours. Seriously.
You can try driving out the previous evening, or you can settle for chilling at your hotel or campsite in Bend or surrounding areas and enjoying what will still be pretty darn fine views of the eclipse.
If you’re dead set on being on the line of totality, visit http://madraseclipse.com/ for everything you could possibly want to know about festivals, amenities, transportation, and more.
Traffic will be nuts, guys
I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one—traffic is going to be insane. Our towns in Central Oregon are small, which is why most of us love it here. The roadways weren’t designed for an influx of 100,000 to 500,000 vehicles in one weekend (which is what experts currently predict).
Fortunately, Bend is a pretty bike-friendly town, and weather in August lends itself to cruising everywhere on two wheels. Bring your bike from home, or make a reservation to rent a ride from one of our local bike shops.
Fighting traffic to get into Central Oregon before the eclipse will be challenging, but authorities predict getting out after the eclipse will actually be trickiest. Pro tip: If you can remain in Bend for a few days after August 21, you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration fighting traffic. Besides, it’s a pretty awesome place to hunker down.
How can I prepare?
Central Oregon authorities are regarding eclipse preparations like the ramp-up to a natural disaster, but their advice is spot-on. We don’t really know what to expect, so it’s smart to be ready for anything.
If possible, fill your gas tank 5-7 days before the eclipse, since there’s a possibility of shortages or super-long lines. Ditto that for stocking up on things like groceries, medications, or any supplies you might need for your trip.
Most importantly, be flexible and patient. There will be thousands of folks here vying for tables at restaurants, spots on coveted tours, and viewpoints at major landmarks. Just go with the flow and use the opportunity to put our Visit Like a Local tips into practice.
Need more info?
To learn more about the eclipse and to see the source of the map we shared above explaining the path of totality, check out this site: http://www.eclipse2017.org/
If you’re planning to stay in Bend, bookmark www.visitbend.com for everything you could possibly want to know about shopping, dining, and outdoor recreation in Bend, Oregon.
Want to check traffic conditions en route to, from, or around Central Oregon in the days surrounding the eclipse? The Oregon Department of Transportation’s TripCheck site is a great resource: https://tripcheck.com/Pages/RCMap.asp
And once again (because I can’t say it enough) this really is an awesome site dedicated to seeing the eclipse along the line of totality in Madras: http://madraseclipse.com/