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Last-Minute Notes for The Great American Eclipse

Are you gearing up and getting excited for the historic spectacle on Monday, Aug. 21st, when a total solar eclipse will race over Nebraska from the northwest to the southeast?

Good! Thought so. Me, too!

Here are some last-minute notes to assist you in safely and enjoyably experiencing The Great American Eclipse in The Cornhusker State.

Plan ahead. Buy your state park permit ahead of time. Take additional supplies (water, food, insect repellent, sunblock, etc.). Carry park brochures and a road map. Fill your vehicle tank full of gas. Have your ISO-approved eclipse glasses ( ISO 12312-2). Beat the crowds and leave early. Maybe camp the night before the eclipse at a preferred state park land. Check for fire restrictions (parking and campfires). Stay tuned to traffic reports using the 511 system. Do not park along roadways or trespass on private land. Monitor weather conditions and have a contingency plan to go to another park or area if yours has reached capacity or there is heavy cloud cover in the forecast for your location. Prepare to use your motor vehicle lights manually during low light. On boats, be sure your lights work, the required safety equipment is on board, life jackets are worn and your vessel is not overloaded! And, above all, pack your patience for the eclipse day!

Game and Parks lands available. From Fort Robinson State Park in the northwest to Indian Cave State Park in the southeast, there are 35 state park lands that lie in the 70-mile wide, diagonal path of the total solar eclipse or what is called the path of totality — the strip of land in which the sun will be entirely obscured for a short period of time. Additionally, 147 state wildlife managements areas (that offer primitive camping) can also be found in that path. Open Fields and Waters sites are not open for eclipse viewing or camping, as those tracts of land and water are only open for walk-in hunting, fishing and trapping activities.

With little to no low light pollution, Game and Parks public lands offer perfect places for watching this spectacular outdoor occurrence.

Viewing deck at Indian Cave State Park near Shubert, NE. Photo by Kevin Holliday/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Attend park events. Nearly two dozen interesting, fun events pertaining to the eclipse are scheduled at various state park lands. For specific information on those as well as an interactive map of state park lands within the path of totality, go here.

A red-winged blackbird gleans stalks of bulrush for insects with minimal light. Photo by Jon Farrar/NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Pick a good spot to view the eclipse. Make certain your location is not blocked by tall tress, high hills, or a major ridge. Expanses of prairie grasslands, crop fields or water bodies as well as vistas or observation points in hilly areas are good sites to watch the eclipse. Also, astronomers recommend that you have two good hand spans worth of clearance for viewing the position of the sun at the time of totality, that is, before the lower light period begins. General Nebraska eclipse information can be found at this link.

Expanses of water offer unobstructed, scenic views of the total solar eclipse. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
The Nebraska Sandhills area in the path of totality will give eclipse chasers wide open skies and tremendous views of the total solar eclipse. Remember to not park along roadways and that permission is required to go onto private land. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Help others, bring extra eclipse glasses. Be neighborly and pack a couple additional pairs of ISO-approved solar eclipse glasses. You may save retinas for a couple folks who forgot their special glasses or may have had them damaged in transport.

ISO-approved total solar eclipse glasses. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Prepare to be awe-struck! Witnessing a total solar eclipse is a rare, phenomenal experience! It is not “geeky” or “nerdy,” it truly is a big deal! In history, solar eclipses caused the downfalls of monarchs. They also initiated fear and worries that the universe was coming to an end. The ancient Vikings even believed that giant wolves chased the sun and moon and when they caught them an eclipse happened. Consider what Jeffrey Kluger of Time Magazine writes: “Ultimately, the Great American Eclipse will be more than tourism, tax revenue or even astronomy. It will be about culture. Very much unlike Woodstock, it will be a celebration that knows no single region, subculture, or demographic slice. It would be a sublime act of American vanity to infer anything other than serendipity in the eclipse’s occurring when we so need the uplift.” This cosmic wonder is a unique one where you can directly participate, be pleasantly awe-struck and part of history! Experiencing a total solar eclipse is a once in a lifetime thing!

The sun’s corona at totality. Photo from NASA.

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About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Public Information Officer and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media sites, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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