The roar of the rapids and grandiosity of the cliff walls might initially draw one in, but the starry night skies will confirm anyone’s love of Grand Canyon. All you have to do is look up before you drift to sleep in the canyon and you’ll see the milky way shining brightly among a sea of stars, passing satellites and maybe a planet or two.
For many in cities across the world, the simple pleasure of a starry night sky is almost non-existent with the increase of light pollution. This is not the case in Grand Canyon. In 2019, Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) was designated as an International Dark Sky Park in part for its exceptional quality of starry nights. GCNP takes this award seriously and we river trippers benefit greatly from that pledge.
It can be fun to read up a bit about the astronomy or purchase a field guide to the night sky prior to your river trip. A few astronomical features to keep your eye out for are the Big Dipper, North Star, Milky Way, and the constellations Scorpius, Leo, Hercules, the Summer Triangle, and Corona Borealis.
Waking up in the middle of the night and clearly observing the Milky Way and so many constellations was a cherry on top of our adventure, I often found myself not wanting to go back to sleep, as I just wanted to gaze upon those stars. I could not feel more fortunate for having the opportunity to make this trip.” — Mel from Golden, CO