Park earns designation as an ‘International Dark Sky Park’.
The stars really do shine brighter at Prineville Reservoir State Park. The central Oregon campground and boating destination is now a certified International Dark Sky Park, making it the newest addition to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Dark Sky Places Program. Prineville Reservoir is the first Oregon park and the second place in Oregon to be honored with the designation (the first was Sunriver in 2020). The park joins only 174 locations worldwide.
The certification recognizes not only the park’s exceptional night sky viewing but also its efforts to provide night sky programs for visitors and reduce light pollution by installing responsible lighting. As part of the application process, park staff replaced harsh outdoor lights with softer yellow and red lighting that reduces skyglow.
“We are proud to help protect the night skies above Prineville Reservoir from light pollution and share Oregon’s incredible dark sky with visitors who may not be able to see the Milky Way from home,” said Oregon Parks and Recreation Director, Lisa Sumption.
Prineville Reservoir State Park was selected for its expansive dark skies that connect the growing city of Bend and population centers west of the Cascade Mountains to the vast starry skies that envelope southeastern Oregon.
You can see the Milky Way
“The park offers a genuine night-sky experience for those coming from light-polluted cities,” said Bill Kowalik, chair of the Oregon Chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association. “Formal recognition of this International Dark Sky Park will help to educate the public and decision-makers about light pollution and the value of the night sky to people and to our greater wild ecosystem.”
For time immemorial, humans have felt compelled to gaze to the sky and ponder the magnitude of the universe. Beyond the sheer wonder they inspire, research shows dark skies also improve our health. Removing artificial light at night — especially the blue light emitted from our electronic screens — may help restore our natural sleep patterns and reduce the risk of myriad health conditions, including obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, and cancer. Yet, more than 80 percent of North Americans live under light-polluted skies.
Wildlife also depends on natural cycles of day and night to signal when it’s time to hunt for food, mate, or migrate. Artificial lights in cities disturb this natural process, making it all the more important to install smart lighting and protect wide open spaces.
Protecting night skies at Prineville Reservoir and other Oregon locations also makes economic sense, said Bob Hackett, Associate Director of Travel Southern Oregon.
“This designation makes Prineville Reservoir a premier destination for stargazing, driving overnight visitation, and drawing tourism dollars to the region while enhancing the quality of life for residents,” he said.