After Voyageurs National Park received the International Dark Sky designation in December 2020, the park and the Voyageurs Conservancy have been working to expand public programming on the natural and cultural significance of Voyageurs National Park’s dark, starry skies. Recently, the conservancy launched the Dark Sky Initiative, a joint effort to preserve light pollution-free habitats for the species who call the park home and expand public programming to visitors.
The Dark Sky Initiative is designed to bring Voyageurs’ boundless sky and countless stars to anyone’s fingertips. During the park’s busy summer months, Voyageurs Conservancy education specialists and park rangers present weekly Dark Sky Programs featuring guided constellation tours across space and telescope sessions for visitors. With its brand-new 18’ telescope, participants will have the opportunity to view distant planets, galaxies, and mesmerizing starscapes like never before.
“We are still figuring out what it means to be a dark sky park and how to best share this feature with the public, says Christina Hausman Rhode, Executive Director of Voyageurs Conservancy. We working to establish joint goals and exploring new projects like innovative ways to connect visitors to the night sky adding full-time dark sky staff to promote learning year-round.”
In August, hundreds of visitors took part in the third-annual Star Party. This lively multi-day astronomy festival features special speakers, Perseid meteor shower viewings, arts and crafts, telescope sessions, guided constellation tours, and more.
In an effort to expand Dark Sky programming beyond park visitors, the conservancy brings the wonder of Voyageurs’ night skies to students across the country through its Virtual Dark Sky Classroom. These free programs introduce youth to dark sky concepts including Light Pollution, Northern Lights, and Moon phases and include a live, virtual classroom visit from a conservancy night sky expert.
The park’s new visitor center on Crane Lake presents the perfect opportunity to weave together the story of preservation of darkness and preservation of cultural stories. Voyageurs Conservancy and the National Park Service are designing and fabricating 1,500 square feet of exhibit space in a new visitor center in Crane Lake, the eastern gateway to Voyageurs National Park.
For more information, visit www.voyageurs.org/darkskies.