Experience the Great American Solar Eclipse in Jackson County, NC
Jul 13, 2016 02:52PM
● By Melanie Heisinger
Jackson County, North Carolina, is one of the few areas in North Carolina where visitors and residents can experience next year’s extremely rare celestial phenomenon—a total solar eclipse. All of the county’s towns—including Sylva, Dillsboro, Cullowhee and Cashiers—are in the direct path of The Great American Solar Eclipse.
On August 21, 2017, the towns will have a stellar view of one of nature’s most visual displays followed by a few minutes of complete darkness.
At 2:35 p.m. on August 21, 2017, the disc of the moon will move fully in front of the sun, casting a shadow across the Earth's surface. The sky will turn pitch black, the air will cool, animals will act as if it were night time, stars will be visible; such are the unique phenomena that make up a total solar eclipse. From Oregon to South Carolina, cities inside the 70-mile-wide path of the solar eclipse will experience darkness in the middle of the day. This is the first time in 26 years that America has seen a total solar eclipse, and it is one of the few that will sweep the nation from Atlantic to Pacific coasts.
“For many, this will be the first and only total solar eclipse they will witness in their lifetime,” said Nick Breedlove, Jackson County Tourism Director. “Generally the average time between total solar eclipses in major cities across the U.S. is a few hundred years apart.”
In Jackson County, totality times (of total darkness are below):
· Sylva: 1 minute, 45 seconds
· Dillsboro: 1 minute, 50 seconds
· Cullowhee: 1 minute, 55 seconds
· Cashiers: 2 minutes, 23 seconds
The place with the longest totality is about 2 minutes 40 seconds, but some destinations throughout the country will only see 15 seconds of darkness. “We consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to experience almost two minutes of darkness,” said Breedlove.
Jackson County is working to develop events, specific viewing locations, public safety and accommodation promotions specifically for the eclipse event. In fact, Southwestern Community College in Sylva secured a 1.5 million dollar NASA cooperative agreement, and a major focus of year two of the five-year agreement will be promoting safe and educational viewing of the solar eclipse.
"Our goal is for everyone in Jackson County to experience a safe viewing of the eclipse by way of solar viewing glasses while understanding the mechanics of the solar system that make such events possible," said Matt Cass, Principle Investigator for the Smoky Mountains STEM Collaborative and science department chair at Southwestern Community College.
Lodging has already sold out in cities across the path of the solar eclipse, and Jackson County expects to do the same. From intimate bed and breakfasts, to family vacation homes or budget-friendly mountain hotels, find a place that is right at www.MountainLoversNC.com.Many Jackson County partners will offer special packages and events that will be included on the website.
“This solar eclipse will bring a lot of new people to Jackson County who haven’t been here before, and hoteliers, local retailers, crafters and restaurants will benefit,” said Western Carolina University Economist and Director of Hospitality and Tourism Dr. Steve Morse. “We want people to take a day off work and stay here in Jackson County to experience the eclipse.”
The eclipse is not the only natural beauty that visitors will find in Jackson County. The county is also home to the highest lake east of the Mississippi, Lake Glenville, at 3,500 feet above sea level; Whitewater Falls, the second highest cascading waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains; the most photographed courthouse in the U.S. in Sylva; more mountain heritage trout waters than other counties in North Carolina; and the highest point along the Blue Ridge Parkway at Richland Balsam. From the stars to the mountains, visitors can experience some of the Southeast’s greatest natural beauties—all in Jackson County.
“We’re encouraging visitors to make a weekend of it and choose their own adventure – whitewater rafting, hiking, brewery and culinary tours and more,” Breedlove said. “Friday night kicks off with 'Concerts on the Creek' in Sylva and ‘Groovin on the Green in Cashiers’, Saturday is an arts and crafts festival in Dillsboro along with educational panels about the eclipse. Apart from that, we want people to experience first-hand why our mountains here are so special.”