Sapphire, N.C. — A state park about six hours west of Raleigh is hosting a series of free events to celebrate the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, and the view just might be worth the drive.
The eclipse will be partially visible from Raleigh, but Gorges State Park is in the “path of totality," or the part of Earth that will lie entirely in the moon’s shadow as it blocks the sun.
Steve Pagano, the superintendent of Gorges State Park, said he is thrilled to host visitors for the once-in-a-lifetime event.
“Gorges State Park truly is a special place for this spectacular event," he said. "At an elevation of over 3,000 feet with a host of fun and educational eclipse activities, Gorges will be one of the best places to view the eclipse in the United States," he said.
Events run Aug. 19 through Aug. 21 and are free and open to the public, including:
- Aug. 19: Nature Day - Nature hikes, eclipse themed arts and crafts and programs on moon phases, eclipses, and astronomy
- Aug. 20: Fun Day - Music and special entertainment including falconry demonstrations
- Aug. 21: Eclipse Day - Food trucks, established eclipse viewing areas, educational activities, and live music from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m.
Viewing the total eclipse from Gorges State Park
At 1:07 p.m., the partial eclipse will begin.
At 2:36 p.m., the total eclipse of the sun by the moon will be visible. The total eclipse will end after about two minutes, but viewing will continue until 4:01 p.m. Safety glasses are recommended for viewing all but the totality of the eclipse and will be provided on site.
Visitors should arrive as early as possible on Aug. 21 and plan to spend the entire day at the park, staff said. Viewers should be in place by 11 a.m. Traffic is expected to be heavy in the area, and the park entrance will be closed as soon as parking capacity is reached.
Visitors wishing to make a weekend of the events can enjoy waterfalls, sheer rock walls, hiking, backpack camping, trout fishing, mountain biking and horseback riding while at the park.
It incorporates a portion the long-distance Foothills Trail and meets Lake Jocassee at the South Carolina border. More information about the park and events can be found online.