The United States National Park Service and the International Dark-Sky Association have teamed up to announce the 100th designated International Dark Sky Park – Mesa Verde National Park in Southwest Colorado. The designation comes steps have been taken at Mesa Verde National Park to ensure that their destination is a spot that caters to visitors throughout all hours of the day.
Not only is Mesa Verde a great place to catch views of the night sky due to little light pollution, the park has also added opportunities for visitors to get more out of their stargazing in the form of astronomy-based interpretive programming.
“Given the significance of today’s announcement to the history of the International Dark Sky Places Program, we are especially gratified that the newest accredited site is Mesa Verde with its rich archaeological and cultural value," said International Dark-Sky Association Executive Director Ruskin Hartley of the April 5 news.
Mesa Verde National Park spans more than 50,000 acres and is home to more than 4,000 known archeological sites containing artifacts left behind by former residents. With 26 different Native American tribes associated with the area, the exceptionally dark skies at this destination have long played a role in local culture and continue to hold significance.
The International Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 and has since designated more than 160 destinations in 21 countries as 'dark sky places.' These spots go above and beyond to meet the requirements for certification, often including steps like installing dark sky-friendly lighting and creating educational programs.
There are now six 'dark sky' parks in Colorado and nine total 'dark sky' locations. Parks include Mesa Verde National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Hovenweep National Monument, and Jackson Lake State Park. Other dark sky locations include Norwood, Ridgway, and Westcliffe & Silvercliffe.
Mesa Verde National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site found just outside of Cortez, Colorado. It protects some of the best-preserved Ancestral Puebloan sites in the country and is a popular spot for travelers seeking to learn about Colorado's ancient culture, as well as outdoor recreation enthusiasts.