FREMONT COUNTY, Iowa (KWQC) - On Monday, millions of Americans and visitors from around the world will flock to a 70-mile wide path, stretching from Portland, Ore., to Charleston, S.C. They will be there to witness, for what most will be, a once-in-a-lifetime event – a total eclipse of the sun.
Part of that narrow swath, known as the path of totality, will include the extreme southwest corner of Iowa in Fremont County, near Waubonsie State Park and the town of Hamburg. And so, at 1:05 p.m., this small 582-acre area of Iowa will experience a 32-second glimpse of the 2017 total eclipse.
“Part of this area is public ground,” says Matt Moles, with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources State Parks Bureau and former technician at Waubonsie. “We are making sure a portion of that small public area is mowed for eclipse watchers and we were lucky enough to locate a telescope to use at the viewing.”
Parking is very limited at the site, but the towns of Hamburg and Sidney plan to provide shuttle services for the event.
“We are going to do everything we can to get people there to enjoy the experience,” says Dr. Mike Wells, superintendent for the Hamburg Community School District. “We even have 150 solar glasses and plan to grill some hotdogs for the viewers.”
The hotdogs, solar glasses and seats on the bus are available on a first-come, first-served basis. And the shuttle will leave from Marnie Simons Elementary School in Hamburg at approximately 11:00 a.m.
The Sidney shuttle will depart from the Fremont County Historical Museum at 10:30 a.m. and seat availability is on a first-come, first-served basis as well.
“We have no idea how many people will come to view the eclipse at this spot but we’ll try to accommodate as many as possible. A lot will depend on the weather,” says Moles.
Other than the walk-in campsites, all the cabins and all the campsites that can be reserved at Waubonsie State Park are taken for the Sunday night before the eclipse. Sunday is not typically a full day for most campgrounds.
“If this occupancy is any indication, we could see quite a few people,” says Moles. “Of course, some folks may have plans to go into Missouri to get closer to the center of the path.”
The length of time the sun will be in the total eclipse phase varies across the path of totality. The center of the path will experience the longest duration, more than 2-1/2 minutes in some areas and the duration of the eclipse will decrease as the distance from center increases.
Even if your plans don’t include a trip to the Waubonsie/Hamburg area on Monday, Iowans will have an exceptional eclipse experience – weather permitting, of course. Most of Iowa is in the 90 percent or greater range. Des Moines, for example, is expected to witness a 95 percent eclipse.
Those who haven’t yet decided where to view the eclipse might want to consider the unobstructed open areas of Iowa’s state parks and recreation areas, lakes, streams or wildlife management areas. Many of these spots will provide an ideal setting for this natural phenomenon.
Please remember: Special glasses, a pinhole projection box or special filters for a telescope are needed to safely view a solar eclipse. Only during the short time of totality is it safe to look at the sun without eye protection.