A national preserve in northern New Mexico is receiving recognition for its dark skies. The Valles Caldera National Preserve (opens in new tab) in the Jemez Mountains has been certified as an International Dark Sky Park. (opens in new tab)
The National Park Service (opens in new tab) and the International Dark Sky Association (opens in new tab) announced on February 3 that Valles Caldera National Preserve near Jemez Springs, NM, has been certified as an International Dark Sky Park. This certification recognizes the exceptional quality of the preserve’s night skies and provides added opportunities to enhance visitor experiences through astronomy-based interpretive programming, according a story in the Los Alamos Daily Post (opens in new tab).
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Located in the Jemez Mountains of north-central New Mexico, Valles Caldera National Preserve is the newest national preserve in the US, having been designated by a preservation act in 2000. The preserve is centered around an ancient 13.7-mile wide volcanic caldera and surrounding landscape that includes hot springs, streams, fumaroles, natural gas seeps and volcanic domes.
The preserve property is known for its excellent hiking, wildlife viewing, camping, fishing and mountain biking in the summer, and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. It’s also a great place to learn about wonders of the night sky, according to Jorge Silva-Bañuelos, park superintendent at Valles Caldera National Preserve, who said it was possible to see the Milky Way, meteor showers, planets, and star constellations, unobstructed by light pollution.
“The night sky has inspired countless humans to dream, invent, and explore,” Silva-Bañuelos enthused. “With this certification, we are committed to preserving our dark night skies and sharing all that we can learn from them with our surrounding communities and visitors to Valles Caldera.”
While the certification does not carry any legal or regulatory authority, it demonstrates a commitment by land managers to reduce light pollution and improve night skies through use of energy-efficient, sustainable lighting. Certification also reaffirms a commitment to educate the public and local communities about the importance of dark-sky compliant outdoor lighting and opportunities to work together to preserve shared resources and values.
Valles Caldera joins more than 100 other locations (opens in new tab) around the world that have received a dark sky certification. International sites on the list include Bodmin Moor (opens in new tab) (England), Bukk National Park (opens in new tab) (Hungary), De Boschplaat (opens in new tab) (Netherlands), Eifel National Park (opens in new tab) (Germany), Galloway Forest Park (opens in new tab) (Scotland), Kozushima Island (opens in new tab) (Japan), Wai-Iti (opens in new tab) (New Zealand).
Other US parks on the list include Antelope Island State Park (opens in new tab) (Utah), Big Bend National Park (opens in new tab) (Texas), Canyonlands National Park (opens in new tab) (Utah), Death Valley National Park (opens in new tab) (California), Grand Canyon National Park (opens in new tab) (Arizona), Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (opens in new tab) (Colorado), James River State Park (opens in new tab) (Virginia) and Voyageurs National Park (opens in new tab) (Minnesota).
Check out Advnture's guide to the best places in the US for dark sky stargazing.
The International Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas to protect dark sites. The National Park Service web page for Valles Caldera (opens in new tab) states that astronomy events (opens in new tab) will be held throughout the year in collaboration with many partner organizations, including Los Amigos de Valles Caldera, Village of Jemez Springs, Los Alamos County, Pajarito Astronomers, and Pajarito Environmental Education Center.
International Dark Sky Park certification promotes public education and astronomy-based recreation in parks while improving energy efficiency and reduced operational costs through outdoor lighting upgrades, which in turn creates economic opportunities for neighboring communities through astronomy-based tourism.
Brian is an award-winning journalist, photographer and podcaster who has written for Runner’s World, The Times, Outside, Men’s Journal, Trail Runner, Triathlete and Red Bulletin. He's also the author of several books, including Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, and loves to run, bike, hike, camp, ski and climb mountains. He has wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of running shoes, completed four Ironman triathlons, as well as numerous marathons and ultra-distance running races.
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