The Dark Sky of the Upper Rio Grande

One of the most wondrous things about living in Mineral County is

our wondrously dark, star-filled night sky.
Join us in helping to preserve this natural wonder.

The Distance between us

 

The land and the stars could not be further apart, and yet the way we use the land can obfuscate the stars, hide them. In a sense, the more we change the land, the more we lose sight of our starlit sky. So even while the land and stars are separated by our feet, hooves, tractors, tires, wings, atmosphere and outer space, they are connected. A Dark Sky Reserve is a response to our land use, our culture, our obsession with growth. Ironically, a Dark Sky Reserve provides nothing for the stars themselves — besides the opportunity to be seen, known, and dreamt about — rather it provides something for us, for people, for our neighboring plants and animals. That is not to say that our attention to the stars is meaningless, but rather our actions are fleeting in the eyes of a star, like the ocean watching a drop of rain. A Dark Sky Reserve is therefore an opportunity to preserve what is already there, to honor what is taken for granted, to spark our imagination, and maybe, just maybe, to feel connected to our universe through light and time.

Why Preserve our dark sky?

 

A Dark Sky Reserve is about more than the stars themselves, and includes the water, land, plants, animals, culture, and future of our home. Ultimately, through designation and the act of limiting light pollution and unneeded lighting, the region can experience more efficient use of energy, expanded tourism, a better sense of wellbeing, and education and stewardship opportunities. Other benefits include:

Wildlife and Nocturnal Ecosystems: Darker skies help migratory birds stay on course and breeding frogs to find a mate in wetland areas, and more.

Our Health and Safety: Research shows that darker skies can decrease risks for obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more. Reduced glare makes driving safer and helps pedestrians see what is most important. Down-lighting focuses light where we need it to see.

Energy consumption: the International Dark Sky Association estimates that using outdoor lighting only when necessary could save up to $3.3 billion annually in the U.S.

Economic Development: Dark Sky tourism is low-impact, quiet and offers meaningful stewardship experiences.

Inspiration and Imagination: The sense of wonder at the vast starry night has always lifted the human spirit, uniting us all under one sky.

Creating the Southern San Juan Dark Sky Reserve

Creating the Southern San Juan Dark Sky Reserve

Community Engagement and Citizen Science

Community Engagement and Citizen Science

Colorado Stargazing

Colorado Stargazing

Creating the Southern San Juan Dark Sky Reserve

What is a Dark Sky Reserve?

 

The International Dark Sky Association defines a Dark Sky Reserve as:
“A public or private land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment. Reserves consist of a core area meeting minimum criteria for sky quality and natural darkness, and a peripheral area that supports dark sky preservation in the core. Reserves are formed through a partnership of multiple land managers who have recognized the value of the natural nighttime environment through regulations and long-term planning.”

The proposed Southern San Juan Reserve includes approximately 400,000 acres of land in Mineral County, most of which is managed by the Rio Grande National Forest. There are two core zones which encompass portions of both the Weminuche and La Garita Wilderness Areas, while the periphery makes up the rest of the reserve, including the corridor following Highway 149.

Why pursue designation?

 

Headwaters Alliance envisions a future where our sky stays as dark as it is now. We have an incredible stargazing resource here in the San Juans and would be wise to take steps in multiple directions to keep it that way. Respecting the view of our night sky encourages folks to be more thoughtful about their use of lighting, future developments, responsible growth, and protection of other natural resources. A Dark Sky Reserve is therefore about more than the stars themselves, and includes the water, land, plants, animals, culture, and future of our home. Ultimately, through designation and the act of limiting light pollution and unneeded lighting, the region can experience more efficient use of energy, expanded tourism, a better sense of wellbeing, and education and stewardship opportunities.

Who is involved?

 

Headwaters Alliance is leading the initiative and application process. The application requires that the principal landholder, the USFS, be involved as well as local government, both the City of Creede and Mineral County. Lastly, and potentially most importantly, our community is at the heart of this process, which includes private landowners and businesses like you.

Community support helps our application, viability and future of the reserve, our community engagement goals, and leverage with decision makers in local government and at the Rio Grande National Forest. We have developed an MOU to officially join the Southern San Juan Dark Sky Reserve Coalition. Stay tuned for updates!

Community Engagement and Citizen Science

How you can help!

 

Whether you join us for a Star Party, collect light measurement readings or educate community members about being Dark Sky friendly, we have something for you!

Join, develop or host a Dark Sky event

Check out our calendar to see what events are happening. Or contact us at: coordinator@headwatersalliance.org.

Become a Citizen Scientist, and take sky quality measurements

Learn more here.

Dark Sky Friendly Actions

Learn more here.

Colorado Stargazing

Where to look?

 

As you explore the Creede and Mineral County area, you’ll notice that the stars are unmistakable. In fact, you’ll notice stars you never knew existed. We encourage you to stop, look up, and appreciate this natural wonder in your travels. At the same time, we ask that you stay on designated trails and roads, camp responsibly, and leave no trace. While the entire proposed reserve is excellent for stargazing, here’s some locations we recommend:

The Bachelor Loop, notably the historic Town of Bachelor

Pool Table Road, almost anywhere along the road is ideal

Love Lake

Big Meadows Reservoir

Experience the Night

 

In 2019, the Colorado Tourism Office launched the Colorado Stargazing: Experience the Night campaign to highlight the extraordinary stargazing opportunities in southern Colorado, including right here in Creede and Mineral County. While we are still in process of earning the International Dark Sky accreditation, our dark sky beckons visitors into the area. Even without yet officially existing as a Dark Sky Reserve, we officially exist as an unparalleled location for viewing our starlit sky. Please stay on trails and roads. Head to the Colorado Stargazing website to learn more!