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Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve: Idaho’s Most Magical Destination

Last updated December 01, 2020 by Totally Boise

Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve is one of the most magical destinations in Idaho. Approximately 906,000 acres, the area was established to preserve darkness and thus, accessibility to incredible views of the stars, planets, solar systems, and galaxies.

Aside from its absolute beauty, the dark reserve is America’s first gold-tier international dark sky reserve that protects nature and wildlife from the ground to the stars.

Member of the Dark Sky Planning Group, Carol Cole, talked about the lengthy process leading up to founding the reserve in 2017.

“It was probably a two-year effort of bringing folks together, then applying to the International Dark-Sky Association,” Cole said.

Formed in 1988, The International Dark-Sky Association came together to preserve lands from light pollution. And, in 1972, Congress decided to preserve and protect the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

Although seeing the Milky Way is a common sight among Idahoans, they may not realize that due to light pollution, “The Milky Way is not visible to more than one-third of the world’s population,” according to Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve.

Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve is one of the few places where you can experience a view of the Milky Way.

Photo Credit: Jordan Ragsdale

Benefits of Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve

Light pollution disrupts ecosystems and people, allowing space where only natural light keeps ecosystems intact and can have many health benefits.

“Light pollution disrupts migratory patterns in animals,” said Cole.

Humans have evolved with artificial light; however, the reserve can protect sleep patterns among the local wildlife.

Protecting natural light and darkness also helps the human population. Artificial light can increase risks for cancer, sleep disorders, and depression.

Taking photos and studying the night sky can also help us understand our solar system and surrounding galaxies. The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve has become a landmark for astrophotographers as they work to gather some of the most incredible images of the skies surrounding Central Idaho.

Jordan Ragsdale, a local Boise astrophotographer, told us that the Dark Sky Reserve is one of Idaho’s biggest treasures and continues to offer some of the most spectacular views known to man.

Read about astrophotography here:

Jordan Ragsdale Article

An Idaho Community

What do Stanley, Sun Valley, Ketchum, and Smiley Creek all have in common? They are all part of the dark sky reserve initiative to lower light pollution. The skies are so brightly lit with natural starlight because of the towns’ initiative in preserving the land.

When traveling through these towns at night, you might notice that it’s pretty dark. That’s because most street lights face downwards, have timers, or are motion sensored. This allows for light pollution to be limited, and travelers and residents can view the beauty of our night skies from the most natural lens, your eyes!

How to Visit

Visiting The Dark Sky Reserve is easier than you think — you can camp, stay in a nearby city, or backpack through The Sawtooth National Forest. While the Summer is a heavily trafficked — yet breathtaking time to visit, there is year-round access through State Highways 75, 21, and U.S. Highway 93.

Keep It Clean

Respect, protect, and be safe — that’s Central Idaho’s Dark Sky Reserves request. By following these three simple guidelines, we can continue to enjoy the natural land around us, protect the surrounding wildlife, and keep ourselves safe while doing so. The “Leave no trace” attitude the reserve has, protects yourself and surrounding nature while exploring.




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