Today, Sinks Canyon State Park achieved the prestigious honor of being designated Wyoming’s first-ever International Dark Sky Park, by DarkSky International. This designation is a monumental achievement towards helping to protect and preserve the integrity of the dark skies in Sinks Canyon for both humans and wildlife. “We hope to be an inspiration for others to follow suit and keep the skies dark over this vast state dark for future generations to enjoy,” said Park Superintendent Jessica Moore.
Sinks Canyon State Park staff embarked on the Dark Sky designation application in 2019, began replacing outdoor light fixtures in 2020, and wrote the extensive application document in 2022.
During this process, staff installed a public demonstration project at the Visitor Center that showcased the newly installed shielded/motion sensor light fixtures. The fixtures were accompanied by an interpretive graphic highlighting why fixtures were changed and to encourage guests to keep their own outdoor lighting to a minimum.
Staff also offered new programs with night-related topics such as night adaptations, moth identification, and constellation tours, according to Skylar Sargent, Maintenance Technician at Sinks Canyon State Park. Sargent was involved in the process from the very beginning and was instrumental in installing the new light fixtures throughout the park.
“Sinks Canyon’s night sky is an absolute marvel. After working the better part of three years towards the Dark Sky Park designation, I am ecstatic to share this threatened resource with our visitors,” Sargent said. Sinks Canyon State Park is excited to continue to provide dark sky programming and help guests to not only understand but also appreciate the importance of our dark skies.
The dark sky designation is not only good for wildlife living in Sinks Canyon, it’s also good for the community of Lander.
“The Wind River Visitors Council is thrilled that Sinks Canyon State Park has been recognized as an International Dark Sky Park,” said Helen Wilson, executive director of the Wind River Visitors Council. “The amount of work, education and support that goes into such a designation is tremendous, and it demonstrates Sinks Canyon’s passion for not only dark skies but for their commitment to protecting the things that make Wind River Country special. This designation will undoubtedly bring those seeking room to roam, which will result in tourism dollars being spent throughout Wind River Country and contribute to a strong economy.”
“Located in a deep canyon, protected by steep walls, Sinks Canyon provides a unique place to experience the wonders of the night sky and engage with nature. This certification demonstrates support for dark sky conservation at the local and state levels and draws attention to the significant resources of the park, surrounding protected lands, and communities,” said Amber Harrison, Dark Sky Places Program Manager. “Being the first International Dark Sky Park in Wyoming is an outstanding achievement, and we look forward to continuing work with dark sky advocates in Wyoming.”
About Dark-Sky Program
The International DarkSky Places Program was founded in 2001 as a non-regulatory and voluntary program to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through effective lighting policies, environmentally responsible outdoor lighting, and public education. When used indiscriminately, artificial light can disrupt ecosystems, impact human health, waste money and energy, contribute to climate change, and block our view and connection to the universe. Sinks Canyon State Park now joins more than 200 places that have demonstrated robust community support for dark sky advocacy and strive to protect the night from light pollution. Learn more by visiting www.darksky.org/conservation/idsp.
The mission of DarkSky is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. Learn more at darksky.org
Sinks Canyon State Park is a 600-acre park just outside the city of Lander, WY. The park is uniquely located inside the canyon walls and features stunning geology, abundant wildlife, and a variety of recreation opportunities. The canyon is an international climbing destination and is home to two campgrounds, hiking and biking trails, a seasonal visitor center, a cave system, and the beautiful Popo Agie River which flows down the length of the canyon. The river creates a unique geological feature as it “disappears” into the canyon wall, only to reappear ¼ mile down the canyon. This phenomenon, known as the Sinks and the Rise, draws thousands of visitors each year and remains a geological mystery since the water cannot be tracked through the tight cracks and crevices as it travels underground. The protection of the steep canyon walls creates the ideal dark sky viewing opportunity and is accessible to visitors year-round. With no closures or access restrictions, guests can enjoy the dark sky throughout the night.