Utah's Zion National Park certified as an International Dark Sky Park

Peter Watson

Zion National Park in Utah has become the latest protected area in the US to be certified as an International Dark Sky Park joining the state's so-called “Mighty Five”.

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The night sky above Virgin River flowing through Zion National Park, UtahScott Book/Shutterstock

The National Park Service and the International Dark-Sky Association have announced that Zion National Park in Utah has been certified as an International Dark Sky Park.

Following Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef national parks, Zion is the last of the so-called “Mighty Five” US national parks in the state of Utah to achieve the designation.

Dark Sky Places are recognized for the exceptional quality of the park’s night skies and provides added opportunities to enhance visitor experiences through astronomy-based interpretive programming.

“Zion has taken its place alongside the other ‘Big Five’ parks that are rightly counted among the crown jewels of the U.S. National Park Service. The high degree of international visibility of these parks and their popularity ensures that over 10 million visitors a year will learn about the importance of protecting their night skies.” – IDA Executive Director Ruskin Hartley.

The International Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 as a non-regulatory and voluntary program to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting polices and public education.

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One of Zion's most famous viewsBill45/Shutterstock

Zion National Park in Utah now joins more than 100 locations that have followed a rigorous application process that demonstrates robust community support for dark sky certification.

“Zion National Park is committed to conserving the park’s night skies for all future generations and to educating visitors about the values of this important resource,” said Jeff Bradybaugh, Zion National Park superintendent. 

Special events to celebrate

To recognize this support for dark sky conservation and interpretation, all Ranger-led programming during the week of June 7th will focus on promoting Junior Ranger Night Explorer booklets and night sky themes.

Please check the Park website for program details, Ranger-led Activities - Zion National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov).

There will also be an opportunity to celebrate this certification virtually. The National Park Service has developed a Junior Ranger Night Explorer program, encouraging young park visitors to explore the starry side of their national parks.

Children can become a Junior Ranger Night Explorer from home by downloading the booklet

Zion National Park in Utah

Established over 100 years ago in 1919, Zion was Utah's first national park and is home to a thousand-foot deep red rock canyon, nested in dramatic surroundings.

Zion National Park is known worldwide as a geologic wonderland of towering cliffs, deep and narrow canyons, and sweeping expanses of bare sandstone slick rock. 

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The East Entrance to Zion National Park in UtahJames Marvin Phelps/Shutterstock

Due to its location near the junction of three great geographic provinces of the American West (the Colorado Plateau, the Great Basin and the Mojave Desert), the Park protects a remarkable diversity of plant and animal species inhabiting several different life zones.

It also preserves evidence of nearly 8,000 years of human habitation, including the Mormon settlers of the mid-nineteenth century who gave the area its name.

Zion’s unique array of plants and animals enchant visitors as they absorb the rich history of the past and enjoy the excitement of present-day adventures of backpacking, camping, canyoneering, horseback riding, hiking or myriad winter activities during Zion's 300+ days of sunshine.

What is the International Dark Sky Association?

The International Dark Sky Association’s mission is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.

The Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.

The International Dark Sky Places Program offers five types of designations: communities, parks, reserves, sanctuaries and urban night sky places.

International Dark Sky Parks

Zion National Park in Utah has joined the global collection of over 100 International Dark Sky Parks.

  1. Albanyà (Spain)
  2. AMC Maine Woods (USA)
  3. Antelope Island State Park (USA)
  4. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (USA)
  5. Arches National Park (USA)
  6. Ballycroy National Park and Wild Nephin Wilderness (Ireland)
  7. Big Bend National Park (USA)
  8. Big Bend Ranch State Park (USA)
  9. Big Cypress National Preserve (USA)
  10. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (USA)
  11. Bodmin Moor Dark Sky Landscape (England)
  12. Bryce Canyon National Park (USA)
  13. Buffalo National River (USA)
  14. Bükk National Park (Hungary)
  15. Canyonlands National Park (USA)
  16. Capitol Reef National Park (USA)
  17. Capulin Volcano National Monument (USA)
  18. Cedar Breaks National Monument (USA)
  19. Chaco Culture National Historical Park (USA)
  20. Cherry Springs State Park (USA)
  21. Chiricahua National Monument (USA)
  22. Clayton Lake State Park (USA)
  23. Copper Breaks State Park (USA)
  24. Craters Of The Moon National Monument (USA)
  25. Davagh Forest Park and Beaghmore Stone Circles (N. Ireland)
  26. De Boschplaat (Netherlands)
  27. Dead Horse Point State Park (USA)
  28. Death Valley National Park (USA)
  29. Dinosaur National Monument (USA)
  30. Dr. T.K. Lawless County Park (USA)
  31. East Canyon State Park (USA)
  32. Eifel National Park (Germany)
  33. El Morro National Monument (USA)
  34. Elan Valley Estate (Wales)
  35. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (USA)
  36. Flagstaff Area National Monuments (USA)
  37. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument (USA)
  38. Fort Union National Monument (USA)
  39. Fremont Indian State Park (USA)
  40. Galloway Forest Park (Scotland)
  41. Geauga Observatory Park (USA)
  42. Goblin Valley State Park (USA)
  43. Goosenecks State Park (USA)
  44. Grand Canyon National Park (USA)
  45. Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument (USA)
  46. Great Basin National Park (USA)
  47. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (USA)
  48. Headlands (USA)
  49. Hehuan Mountain (Taiwan, R.O.C.)
  50. Hortobágy National Park (Hungary)
  51. Hovenweep National Monument (USA)
  52. Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park (Japan)
  53. Jackson Lake State Park (USA)
  54. James River State Park (USA)
  55. Jordanelle State Park (USA)
  56. Joshua Tree National Park (USA)
  57. Kartchner Caverns State Park (USA)
  58. Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park (USA)
  59. Kodachrome Basin State Park (USA)
  60. Kozushima Island (Japan)
  61. Lauwersmeer National Park (Netherlands)
  62. Mayland Earth to Sky Park & Bare Dark Sky Observatory (USA)
  63. Mesa Verde National Park (USA)
  64. Middle Fork River Forest Preserve (USA)
  65. Møn and Nyord (Denmark)
  66. Natural Bridge State Park (USA)
  67. Natural Bridges National Monument (USA)
  68. Naturpark Attersee-Traunsee (Austria)
  69. Newport State Park (USA)
  70. Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park (England)
  71. Obed Wild and Scenic River (USA)
  72. Oracle State Park (USA)
  73. Petrified Forest National Park (USA)
  74. Petrova gora-Biljeg (Croatia)
  75. Pickett CCC Memorial State Park & Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area (USA)
  76. Pipe Spring National Monument (USA)
  77. Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (USA)
  78. Prineville Reservoir State Park (USA)
  79. Quetico Provincial Park (Canada)
  80. Ramon Crater (Israel)
  81. Rappahannock County Park (USA)
  82. Rockport State Park (USA)
  83. Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument (USA)
  84. Sky Meadows State Park (USA)
  85. Slumgullion Center (USA)
  86. South Llano River State Park (USA)
  87. Staunton River State Park (USA)
  88. Steinaker State Park (USA)
  89. Stephen C. Foster State Park (USA)
  90. Tomintoul and Glenlivet - Cairngorms (Scotland)
  91. Tonto National Monument (USA)
  92. Tumacácori National Historical Park (USA)
  93. UBarU Camp and Retreat Center (USA)
  94. Valles Caldera National Preserve (USA)
  95. Voyageurs National Park (USA)
  96. Vrani kamen (Croatia)
  97. Wai-Iti (New Zealand)
  98. Warrumbungle National Park (Australia)
  99. Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (Canada/U.S.)
  100. Weber County North Fork Park (USA)
  101. Winklmoosalm (Germany)
  102. Yeongyang Firefly Eco Park (South Korea)
  103. Zion National Park (USA)
  104. Zselic National Landscape Protection Area (Hungary)

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

Phoenix, AZ
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