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City of Rocks gets International Dark Sky designation

The International Dark Sky Places program recognizes communities, parks and other areas that minimize artificial light at night and allow people to see the stars.

ALMO, Idaho — City of Rocks National Reserve on Wednesday was named an International Dark Sky Park, making it the second Idaho park to receive the designation along with the Craters of the Moon National Monument.

The International Dark Sky Places (IDSP) program was founded more than 20 years ago to recognize communities, parks and other places that minimize artificial light at night and allow people to see the stars.

There is no artificial lighting within the City of Rocks' boundaries, as officials hope to keep the reserve's night sky the same "as they were by Shoshoneans and their ancestors, and by immigrants on the historic California Trail and early settlers," according to Wednesday's announcement

In order to achieve the official certification from the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), the "City" worked to improve outdoor lighting by partnering with Castle Rocks State park. 

Lighting improvements included an administrative unit and visitor center, making all of Castle Rocks State Park's outdoor fixtures dark-sky friendly. The City of Rocks and Castle Rocks are considered 'sister parks.'

"Experiencing the dark skies in City of Rocks is truly magical," acting Superintendent Tara McClure-Cannon said. "It brings the past to life in ways that you just can't experience during the daylight hours. To know that you are camping in the same spot that people camped for thousands of years and looking up at the sky without modern light pollution – basically seeing the same sky as our ancestors – is an awe-inspiring moment."

The City of Rocks is known around the world as one of the best places for rock climbing. The City of Rocks National Preserve was 14,407 acres when it was created in November 1988. 

The area receives more than 120,000 visits each year. Officials said they are "committed to continuing to monitor light pollution" near the City of Rocks National Preserve, as development continues in nearby Magic Valley and Utah's Salt Lake Valley.

City of Rocks is very proud to announce its designation as an International Dark Sky Park. The reserve now joins more...

Posted by City Of Rocks National Reserve on Thursday, February 2, 2023

"Even though City of Rocks is exceptionally dark with its current practices, they committed to lead by example by finding an avenue to demonstrate quality lighting to its visitors," IDA's Director of Conservation Ashley Wilson said. "It's this level of dedication and incredible nighttime experience that warrants the coveted Dark Sky Park certification."

The City of Rocks' commitment to dark-sky advocacy, light pollution protection and proper outdoor fixtures allows it to join more than 200 places recognized by the International Dark Sky Places program.

"The statistic that I hear a lot is that over 80% of Americans have never seen the Milky Way from home," McClure-Cannon said. "So that means that we have to preserve places like City of Rocks, and have these light policies in place to prevent us from losing these dark skies, where it's really the last vestiges of where Americans can experience just seeing the Milky Way."

To find a full list and map of IDA International Dark Sky Parks, click here. For more information on the City of Rocks National Preserve, click here.

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