For approximately two minutes on the morning of Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a narrow swath of Oregon will go dark, as the sun fully disappears behind the moon from Newport to Ontario.
The 2017 solar eclipse is one of just four total solar eclipses expected to be visible coast-to-coast in an approximately 200-year window, between 1901 and 2099, and the only one that will fully obscure the sun in Jefferson County during that period.
The eclipse will only be completely visible across a 70-mile band, known as the path of totality. In Central Oregon, the path of totality stretches north-south from Maupin to Redmond, with Madras near the center.
“I don’t believe you can get a more authentic natural experience than this eclipse,” said Alana Hughson, president and CEO of the Central Oregon Visitors Association. “We’re lucky to be in the path of totality.”
In Madras, the moon will begin to pass in front of the sun at 9:06 a.m., according to information provided by the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. From 10:19 to 10:21 a.m., the sun will be fully obscured.
However, visitors looking to rent a room in Central Oregon for the eclipse could be out of luck, as hotels in Madras and elsewhere are booked more than a year in advance.
Because of its lack of light pollution, relatively clear skies and dramatic views of the Cascades, Madras has become the unofficial center for eclipse watchers in Oregon. Hughson said Central Oregon is a better bet for having an unobscured view of the eclipse than locations along the line of totality that are closer to the coast.
“You’re likely not going to have to deal with a cloudy day,” Hughson said.
Joe Krenowicz, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said the city of Madras is expecting at least 30,000 people in town for the event. Sandy Forman, event coordinator for the Jefferson County Tourism Group, which is working with the local chamber on the event, added that many of the visitors will be coming to Madras from locations such as Japan, Australia and New Zealand, drawn by the promise of watching the eclipse in clear conditions.
“We have a beautiful area, and we want to show it off,” Forman said.
However, the volume of tourists could present a challenge for the city, which is not historically a tourism center and had a population of 6,662 in 2015, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Forman said Madras has 325 hotel rooms within city limits, which began filling up as early as 2010 for the event. She estimated every hotel room in the city is already sold out for the weekend before Aug. 21, more than a year in advance.
Will O’Daniel, assistant manager at the Inn at Cross Keys Station in Madras, said he was advising people interested in watching the eclipse in Oregon to go as far away as Burns, with Madras sold out, and Redmond, Prineville and Bend filling up as well.
Jim Bankson, general manager of the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort & Spa, added that all 138 rooms at the resort have been booked for two years, after a group visiting from Japan reserved them in 2014.
Krenowicz said the city will work with Madras Airport to lease space for camping and RV parking. He estimated the space could accommodate about 10,000 people. Forman added that the Jefferson County Tourism Group is working with Central Oregon Rentals to facilitate RV rentals for visitors, though she said the company already had to add more RVs to keep up with demand.
For restaurants and hotels in Madras, however, the event is a welcome boon to the city’s tourism season.
Forman added that Madras will host several events in conjunction with the eclipse. The north side of town will host the Oregon Solarfest Music Festival the weekend before the eclipse, with a variety of musical acts and food carts. The Jefferson County fairgrounds will host an activity center for families, with food and commercial vendors. Both areas will host watch parties. Forman added that volunteers from NASA would be on hand for seminars, though a location is yet to be determined.
O’Daniel said the eclipse presents a rare opportunity to market the region to visitors, both in-state and international, who might not otherwise visit.
“A lot of people push us aside in favor of Portland, in favor of the coast,” O’Daniel said. “I think it’s a huge deal for Central Oregon.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7818,