Many Oregon motels are sold out and reservable campsites are going fast for an event that doesn't happen until the second half of next year. If you don't want to miss a total solar eclipse, mark August 21, 2017 on your calendar.
One of the reasons people are getting excited and planning ahead is that total solar eclipses near us are rare. If you miss the one next August, you'll have to wait until the year 2044 to see another total eclipse of the sun elsewhere in the American West.
Sandy Foreman of the Jefferson County Tourism Group said eclipse chasers from as far away as Japan, Australia and Europe booked up all the motel rooms around Madras in sunny central Oregon two years ago.
"Many experts are saying that Madras is the number one place in the world to view this from due to our weather clarity odds,” Foreman said.
Other Northwest cities under the roughly 60-mile wide "path of totality" -- in which the moon will completely blot out the sun -- include Lincoln City, Salem, Corvallis, John Day and Ontario, Oregon and Cascade, Stanley and Idaho Falls, Idaho. The moon's shadow will produce a partial eclipse across a much wider swath.
The Oregon State Parks system began accepting campsite reservations for mid-August 2017 last Thursday. It sold out all 1,200 reservable sites under the path of the total eclipse in about one hour.
Idaho State Parks still had camping reservations available as of Monday at several western Idaho parks under the eclipse path. More expensive private campgrounds, including in Madras, still have availability too.
The total eclipse will last about two minutes for people directly under its path. In the Pacific Northwest it will begin around 10:15 a.m. on a Monday morning on the Oregon coast between Waldport and Pacific City. The path of totality will then sweep across north central Oregon, move on into central Idaho and then race across the country, eventually moving out over the Atlantic Ocean from South Carolina.
The moon's shadow will take only 12 minutes to traverse the entire state of Oregon according to NASA calculations.
Numerous towns along the eclipse path are planning special events around the astronomical wonder. In Madras, the community created a four-day festival titled SolarFest, which will feature entertainment, science lectures, food booths and a kids fair.
Foreman, Travel Oregon and the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department are all warning of heavy congestion on roads on August 20-21, especially in the rural, inland areas which feature the highest probability of optimal weather conditions for viewing the eclipse.
"We're expecting traffic to be at a standstill, gridlock, so therefore we are putting together a shuttle service," Foreman said of Madras.
Another piece of eclipse advice that bears repeating is not to look directly at the sun without good eye protection. Next August, you are bound to see lots of sales on eclipse glasses, dark shades which filter the sun's harmful rays. Observing the partial eclipse phases of the event with the naked eye can lead to permanent eye damage.