Bandelier offers stargazing and free camping

Friday and Saturday (June 23-24) will be a great opportunity to get out, go camping at Bandelier, and take a good look at the starry heavens, as the park celebrates their Third Annual Night Sky Fiesta and also the Great American Campout.

For the Night Sky Fiesta, visitors will have the chance to do both daylight and nighttime astronomy. From 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday, astronomy volunteers will have solar scopes set up on the back porch of the Visitor Center. These special telescopes have powerful filters that allow observers to safely look directly at the sun. 

Then on each evening at 8:30 p.m., there will be a special program at the Juniper Campground Amphitheater. The evenings will begin with a ranger presentation, followed by a “Telescope Sandbox.” This activity gives visitors the chance to learn how to operate telescopes, including using star charts to point the scope at particular objects in the night sky. In addition, it is planned that each evening there will be at least one “tour” of constellations, with a ranger using a special green laser to point out many of the ones that are visible. Of course, all of these activities depend on weather and cloud cover, but so far the forecasts look favorable!

Saturday is also the date of a nationwide event, the Great American Campout, sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation to encourage people to enjoy and protect wildlife and the outdoors. At Bandelier, camping will be free at Juniper Campground that night, except for the group sites. Non-group sites are first-come, first-served. Campers can practice taking good care of wildlife by being sure to store food in their vehicle or the provided bear boxes so that bears, and other animals including coyotes, squirrels, and mice, won’t be attracted to campsites in search of people food. With the hot, dry weather, campers should take care of the outdoors by being sure that if they choose to build a campfire, it is in the established fire grill and is never left unattended. Campers and non-campers are both welcome to attend the astronomy programs.

On Saturday and Sunday, visitors are invited to visit with the cultural demonstrator on the back porch of the Visitor Center 10 a.m.  – 4 p.m. This week’s artist will be  drum-maker Tim Herrera from Cochiti Pueblo.

This is shuttle season at Bandelier. For visitors not planning to camp at Bandelier and arriving between 9 AM and 3 PM, parking is available at the White Rock Visitor Center or at the shuttle parking area in Juniper Campground. Campers can drive directly into the campground, find a site and register at the self-registration location, and then take the shuttle from the campground to the Visitor Center. Any visitors arriving before 9 AM or after 3 p.m. can drive down to the Visitor Center, as well as those who are eligible for an exception due to having a disability placard, traveling with a pet, being on park business, being a group traveling in their own van or bus, or being on their way to doing an overnight backpack trip.

For more information, check the park website at nps.gov/band, the Facebook page at BandelierNPS, or call the Bandelier Visitor Center at 505-672-3861 x 517.