June 13 – 20
Self-Lodger reservations open 8/1/19 – 12/31/19.
Camping reservations open 1/1/20 – 3/1/20
GCSP Future Dates
|June 5-12, 2021||June 18-25, 2022|
|June 10-17, 2023||June 1-8, 2024|
|June 21-28, 2025||June 6-13, 2026|
Each year, for one week, the National Park Service allows a group of amateur astronomers to set up their telescopes for the enjoyment of the visitors. The astronomers stay up far into the night, as long as there are people there and objects to see, just to show the general public the splendor of the night sky. Since 1991, there has been a public star party at the South Rim, and since 1994 one at the North Rim as well. These events were coordinated to coincide with each other, the dark of the Moon and the busiest time of year for the public. Sponsored by the Tucson Amateur Astronomers Association, the South Rim has been a huge success with the public and the park personnel. The North Rim event is now sponsored by the Saguaro Astronomy Club and promises to be just as successful.
My name is Steve Dodder. My wife Rosie and I will be your hosts for a delightful time under the stars. You’ll find volunteer and visitor details below, and questions can be answered by emailing me directly .
What Visitors Should Expect
This star party is for the visitors to the park and is included with the price of admission. If you happen to be at Grand Canyon while the party is in progress, you’re invited to join us! We present an astronomy-related slide presentation in the auditorium, adjacent to the front desk. After that, you’re free to have dinner, return to your cabin for warm clothes, or just hang out and admire the canyon, whatever you wish. As it gets dark, we will begin looking for any bright planets that may be in the sky at the time. Once it gets dark, around 9:00 pm, we’ll start showing double stars, star clusters, dying stars, galaxies and maybe a supernova or two! We’ll stay as long as it isn’t raining and there are interested visitors.
There is a tool we use to locate objects in the sky. It is a green laser, and has proven invaluable for pointing out constellations and where our scope is pointed. Please, do not ask us where to get one. Due to the abuse of some, (flashing airplanes and even police helicopters), there is a movement afoot to regulate them and restrict their use. The National Park Service would rather limit their use to our volunteers to prevent friction. No offense to you, it’s just safer for everyone.
The astronomers are volunteers and are not to be compensated by visitors. The Grand Canyon Star Party North Rim t-shirts are provided to identify our volunteers and are not for sale to the general public.
For visitors that have never been to a star party before, there are certain matters of etiquette to be followed. In a public setting, they can be somewhat relaxed, but the closer they are followed, the better the experience for everyone.
First, the telescopes you’ll see are the property of the individual astronomer. They are fairly sensitive to rough handling, so we’d appreciate it if they were treated with care. The eyepiece is not a handle or support for you. If you can’t see anything through it or what you see appears fuzzy, ask for assistance.
Second, please do not use a white-light flashlight or your cell phone on the veranda. Bright light deprives the eye of its ability to adapt to the dark. Once you leave the lodge, just wait a few moments and you’ll be able to see. If you have a red flashlight, or can cover your white one with a red cover, that should be fine.
This star party is intended for the public. We are there to show them what it means to observe under a dark sky and hopefully inspire them to get involved in restoring or preserving our night time for future generations. If you want to observe from this site and not share with the public, you are free to do so at any time. Just don’t expect to do it while this party is under way. This one’s for the visitors, with the incentive being a free camp site for a week, really showing someone what a dark sky can show, or just for the “Wow’s”. If you enjoy volunteering at your local school or science museum or planetarium, this is a solid week with that kind of reward.
Volunteering for this particular public star party has many rewards. First, it is held at arguably one of the most beautiful spots on the face of this Earth. Second, meeting the variety of people from all over the world is wonderful to experience. Third, showing someone the night sky for the first time is tremendously rewarding for you and enriching for them. I guarantee, if they don’t remember your name, they will remember the view! Fourth if it’s true what I tell people, that amateur astronomers are “paid” by the “wow”, I get very rich every year. Fifth, if you enjoy making someone smile, this is your party. Even in the dark, you can see them.
Star Party Parameters & Reservation Guidelines
This star party is organized with the satisfaction of the general public foremost in mind. Second in mind is complying with the rules and regulations of the National Park Service and cooperating with the North Rim Lodge. Last is the volunteer. We are here for the visitors, not for ourselves.To be eligible to attend this event as a volunteer, all you need is a telescope and enough knowledge of that scope and the sky to point at an object and describe it to a visitor. It would be nice if the information is fairly accurate, but close counts.
How to volunteer
Volunteering for the north rim is a bit different than for the south rim. The south rim has pretty much unlimited space on the field and nearly as much lodging available. The south rim field is ~49,000 sq. ft. in area, while the north rim veranda is ~3,000 sq. ft. The total population of the north rim, including staff is in the neighborhood of 400 people. Yavapai Lodge has 358 guest rooms alone and the park has 5 more lodges. South rim campground has ~320 campsites, plus 80 spots in Trailer Village. North Rim campground has 83 sites, total. Given this stark comparison, it’s necessary to limit the number of volunteers.
Volunteers fall into one of two categories, one that stays for the duration and one that does not. Those that stay the week have one of two options. They can sign up for a free campsite, (more on this later), or they can arrange their own lodging, whether it be camping, a cabin or the motel. I like to make a balance between those staying the week and shuffling the others to avoid gaps in telescope numbers. Ideally it would balance half and half. So, if you can stay for the first half, the second half or the middle half, let me know so I can balance the number of telescopes on the field for any given night.
If you choose to arrange your own lodging, regardless of the length of your stay, please follow the following procedure.
First, please check with me. I’ll let you know, usually the same day, when there’s a gap I can fill. Then, make your lodging reservations. North Rim fills up fast, so early reservations are important. I’ll take reservations until we either have 5 scopes each night or New Year’s Eve, whichever comes first. Watch this page for updates on availability. Once you know your room/cabin number, please let me know so I can contact you if I have to. If you arrange your own lodging, you are free to stay as long or as short as you like.
If you choose to stay the week and reserve one of the free campsites, please follow this procedure.
Send me an email, beginning 1/1/20 0:00:00 MST requesting a spot. Please include your telescope of choice and the method of camping, (eg. 12” DOB, 4” solar, 14’ Trailer), and if you’d be willing to give a talk. I will take emails on a first come, first served basis until the veranda is full. Telescope numbers can depend on size. We seem to be attracting a lot of “big glass”, thus reducing the amount of space available even more. I have a plan for this, so not to worry. If you reserve a camp site or cabin for the week, and have to cancel within 30 days of the event, you’ll have to wait a year to be considered again, unless you can come up with a volunteer or someone steps up to replace you. It just leaves us in a bind for volunteers, and when there’s a limited amount of space available, one absence can have a big impact.
Star Party Parameters
Camping at the north rim is different than the south rim. There are no hookups at all at north rim. There is no separate Trailer Village. There are showers available for a fee, a small general store and fresh water available, as well as a dump site and trash pickup. Gas generators are allowed, but only between the hours of 7 – 9 am and 6 – 8 pm, strictly enforced. WiFi hotspots are located at the general store and the saloon. Cell phone coverage is spotty, at best. I strongly urge you to assess your camping skills and preparedness before committing to a camp site, and be sure to ask me before reserving a cabin or room on your own. Once you arrive, I normally have everyone checked in already, but you should check in at the campsite kiosk to verify your campsite. Tell them you’re with the Star Party and they’ll direct you.
The Kaibab Lodge Event is ON!
For the past several years Gene Fioretti has coordinated with the Kaibab Lodge and SAC for the Grand Canyon North Rim Star Party. It is not at the North Rim, but is located approximately 5 miles north of the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park on the edge of a beautiful meadow. You drive right past it on your way to the North Rim. There is no light pollution there, the skies are steady and the full-sky views of the cosmos are superior and pristine.
The viewing site is primitive and in order to use electronic telescopes you would need to bring your own battery power. The lodge has a capacity for approximately 130 people. DeMotte campground can hold another 130 and is usually full, so the potential for having a significant crowd for viewing in the evenings is present, but usually the lines are quite manageable and viewing by the public is generally over by 10:30-11 PM. This leaves the rest of the night open for more advanced astronomers to work under the best of skies if they wish.
The surrounding National Forest is all open for primitive camping. The adjacent DeMotte campground is available for camping. It is also primitive (two well maintained bathrooms with toilets, no running water with a water tap outside). The campground does give us one campsite, and additional sites can be reserved online. The lodge affords us one cabin which can accommodate four single people(a set of bunk beds and two double beds in three non private rooms), or up to six if there were two couples using the double beds. There is one bathroom with a shower. The lodge supplies towels. The only phone is at the lodge desk. No usable cell phone signal. Limited and heretofore unreliable WiFi inside the lodge.
We have given nightly astronomy talks inside the lodge for the last two years. We bring our own projector and use a sheet strung over a ceiling log beam for a screen.
Staying at the lodge affords the unique activities of hiking on the Kaibab plateau, going on guided four-wheel expeditions from the lodge and driving to extremely unique views of the Grand Canyon from elevated positions north of the canyon. Of course there is driving down to the Grand Canyon for a visit to the lodge at the rim. Day trips to cities in southern Utah have also been enjoyable. The lodge has a full restaurant serving breakfast lunch and dinner and there is a well-stocked general store in the gas station just across the road.
So if you have a spirit of adventure and desire some of the best viewing you will ever have, consider the Kaibab Lodge. Sign up by contacting Gene Fioretti at firstname.lastname@example.org
Who to contact?
For the Grand Canyon North Rim event, contact Steve Dodder directly, or call my cell phone at 602-390-0118. For more on the Kaibab Lodge event, email Gene Fioretti. For more information about the South Rim event, visit the official site of The Grand Canyon Star Party by clicking the “Official GCSP Page” link above.
Coordinator, North Rim Grand Canyon Star Party
Grand Canyon’s North Rim Lodging
The North Rim park has a lodge, motel rooms, cabins, and camping facilities. Outside the entrance to the North Rim park is the Kaibab Lodge.
* North Rim Lodge, Motel Rooms, and Cabins:
Their web site says they offer hotel and motel rooms and cabins inside the North Rim park from $107 to $146 per night.
* North Rim Camping – National Park Service:
These sites are managed by the National Park Service. From their web site:
Sites are shaded by large Ponderosa pine and quaking aspen trees. Campground is at 8,200 feet elevation. Ranger programs and visitor center nearby. Bathrooms and water located throughout campground. Laundry and showers near the campground for a fee. Wood and charcoal fires only in grills provided at each site, dependent on fire restrictions. Sites are restricted to 6 people, 2 vehicles, and 3 tents (or an RV). NO HOOKUPS AVAILABLE. A vehicle which is towing a trailer, pop-up, tent trailer, a fifth wheel, or a motor home pulling a vehicle is considered 2 vehicles at your site. Check in at the Campground Kiosk upon arrival. If arriving late, reserved sites will be posted after closing. Check in 11am, check out 10am MST. Off road camping or parking not allowed. Sites 11, 14, 15, 16 and 18 provide a great view of the canyon and are $25 premium sites. Note that the North Rim is ONLY accessible by vehicle from May 15 to October 15.
Use the online National Park Service Reservation Center
U.S. callers: 800-365-2267
U.S. and international callers: 301-722-1257
* Kaibab Lodge:
This is a private lodge outside the gate to the North Rim.