When the sun comes up along the East Coast of the U.S. on Aug. 21, it will be just another summer day – until about 10:15 a.m. (PDT) on a rocky point just north of Newport, Ore.
According to a press release, that small point of land will be the first spot in the U.S. to experience a total eclipse of the sun in the past 26 years. As the total eclipse cuts a 70-mile-wide swath of “totality” through the center of the country, 27 KOA campgrounds in 10 states will be directly in its path. The “viewing band” for the total eclipse is only about 70 miles wide.
While the total eclipse will only last two minutes or so at any one spot along the way, eclipse chasers have been making their plans for years, and KOA campgrounds along the way will be popular spots to settle in and watch this once-in-a-lifetime event.
One of the first KOAs to experience the total solar eclipse will be the Waldport/Newport KOA, which hugs the Oregon coastline.
“We’ve been totally full for that weekend and that Monday since February,” said owner Ron Remund. “If we get a cancellation, it fills up immediately.”
Remund says the campground will be in “survival mode” for the few minutes of the actual eclipse. “There will be thousands of extra people just pulling over on the roads to watch. It’s going to be crazy during and after this event.” Remund said a story that ran on a local Portland TV station in February caused a rush that immediately filled his park for the eclipse.
Another KOA directly under the path of the eclipse is the Casper KOA in Wyoming owned by Al and Susan Dynarski.
“We started getting inquiries about the eclipse weekend more than three years ago,” Susan Dynarski said. “We opened our reservations early last summer just to cover that time period, and it filled right up.”
She noted there is a local eclipse festival planned in Casper, so there isn’t a need for any special events on the campground, but she does have special eclipse-watching glasses available for campers.
First-year Sweetwater/I-75/Exit 62 KOA Holiday owners Tim and Kathy Allen in Tennessee are also bracing for a crowd.
“We had a Knoxville TV station come in March and do a story about businesses getting ready for the eclipse,” Kathy Allen said. “They are going to come back and cover the actual event from the campground.”
The Sweetwater KOA Holiday has been full since the first of the year. “We’ve taken at least 500 calls since we filled up,” Kathy Allen said. “But we decided that we aren’t going to overpopulate the park and hurt the experience for our campers.” She said the facility has produced special commemorative t-shirts for campers, and also has the viewing glasses available.
“The actual eclipse is around 2:30 p.m., which is after regular checkout time, and before regular check in, so we’ve had some unusual problems to tackle.” Allen said she plans to open a large field at the campground for campers to comfortably view the event.