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Curecanti National Recreation Area Certified as an International Dark Sky Park

Milky Way Galaxy as viewed from the Elk Creek Campground, NPS image by Troy Hunt.

GUNNISON, Colorado, USA – The National Park Service and the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) proudly announce Curecanti National Recreation Area as an International Dark Sky Park. This certification recognizes the exceptional quality of Curecanti’s night skies and the opportunities to enhance visitor experiences through astronomy-based interpretive programming. Curecanti is the first National Recreation Area to be certified under this program.

“As the newest International Dark Sky Park in Colorado, Curecanti National Recreation Area continues to build the Dark Sky portfolio across the State, serving as another admirable example of what can be done to protect the night sky,” said IDA Executive Director Ruskin Hartley.

“There is a deep appreciation for dark skies in this community,” said Curecanti Superintendent Deanna Greco. “The National Park Service is strongly invested in their preservation, interpretation, and protection.”

Many partners supported Curecanti in the certification process, including the towns of Gunnison and Lake City, the Gunnison Valley Observatory, the Black Canyon Astronomical Society, Western Colorado University, and the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative. “This designation emphasizes how special the dark skies of the Gunnison Valley are and how important it is to preserve this natural resource,” said Dr. M. Suzanne Taylor,

President of the Gunnison Valley Observatory Board of Directors. Curecanti continues to work with its partners in developing future dark sky experiences for visitors.

In support of dark sky conservation at Curecanti, park rangers present astronomy programs at the Elk Creek campground and the Gunnison Valley Observatory. Children are encouraged to participate in the junior ranger night explorer program from home or by obtaining a booklet at the Elk Creek Visitor Center.

The International Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 as a non-regulatory and voluntary program encouraging communities, parks, and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education. Each International Dark Sky Place follows a rigorous application process that demonstrates robust community support for dark sky certification. The first National Park Service unit to receive the certification was Utah’s Natural Bridges National Monument in 2007. Today, Curecanti joins many other National Park Service units as an International Dark Sky Place.

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

For more information about exploring and protecting night skies at Curecanti, visit the park website at or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram at “curecantiNPS.”