Eclipse viewing on public land goes without issueAug 27, 2017 From staff reports
Thousands of national and international visitors took advantage of prime viewing and camping opportunities on public lands managed by the BLM and state during the 2017 Great American Eclipse.
The BLM estimates that more than 10,000 people flocked to the path of totality within the northern half of the Lander Field Office area.
Initial reports indicate that the public lands visitors practiced shared conservation stewardship, leaving sites in generally good condition.
"In my 17 years with the BLM in Lander, I have never seen visitation like this," outdoor recreation planner Jared Oakleaf said. "There were people camping and viewing the eclipse in places where we rarely see people outside of hunting season."
Oakleaf was pleased with the positive interactions staff had with eclipse-goers.
"It was rewarding to host people from across the nation as they visited their public lands in the Lander area," he said. "Overall, the visitors demonstrated a strong desire to comply with regulations and take care of the land."
Lander Field Office employees conducted extensive resource patrols before, during and after the eclipse, providing critical information and assistance to visitors.
One of the field office's busiest eclipse viewing locations was the Castle Gardens Rock Art Site, which saw approximately 2,000 people.
BLM employees are conducting follow-up patrols to rectify any issues associated with the influx of visitors.
"We are pleased with the initial reports that people have packed their garbage out and the limited findings of resource damage," said Curtis Bryan, BLM assistant field manager for resources. "However, we are prepared to reduce or alleviate any remaining impacts identified during our follow up patrols."
Anyone who locates a problem area can notify the Lander Field Office at (307) 332-8400.
Other public lands in the path of totality were also highly valued spots for visitors who came long distances.
Steve Schacht, ranger for Shoshone National Forest's Washakie district, said that his staff had interactions with roughly 5,000 visitors during the weekend. Rangers took extras measures to prevent bear conflicts, confiscating four coolers in the Dubois area and three in the Lander area.
Schacht said those with confiscated coolers were generally understanding and said it's an indication the U.S. Forest Service could continue such practices in the future.
Lands controlled by the state of Wyoming were also popular spots.
Lori Hogan, marketing and development manager for Wyoming State Parks & Cultural Resources, said "an overwhelming number of people said they would return and spend more time exploring the state."
The Wyoming Office of Tourism is conducting an economic impact study on the eclipse and will be releasing findings from that study in October.
Justin Rowlatt from New Delhi, India, watched the eclipse at Ocean Lake and said it was worth the 25 hour flight to Salt Lake, not accounting for drive time. Rowlatt and a group of seven friends from London and Ireland ended up in Pavillion partly by chance, as a result of what Rowlatt called "extraordinary American generosity at its finest."
"We're standing in a Walmart check-out queue in Evanston, talking about where on Earth we're going to pitch ... and this guy behind us called Chad heard the conversation and said 'just wait up guys, wait up, don't go.' After finished purchasing his gear, he told us owns 120 acres and said we were more than welcome to go up and camp on his land ... he han't even asked our names"
The eight eclipse chasers said one of the best parts about the experience is that they may have never visited the area otherwise, but had an amazing journey, with one of the highlights being the Aug. 20 rodeo in Pavillion.
All were moved by the eclipse, describing it as something that must be experienced to be understood.
"Trying to kind of articulate words that describe what it's like to see an eclipse, the only thing that comes to mind is, you take bar of gold, and imagine how precious it is to look at that, hold that, and then when you look at the light of the sun in an eclipse, it's beyond that, it's beyond platinum. It's priceless," Londoner Gideon Carr said.