Kartchner Caverns Honored as International Dark Sky Park

Courtesy of Kartchner Caverns State Park

Kartchner Caverns State Park is best known for what's underground. Now, it's being recognized for what's up in the sky.

The park, located south of Benson in Southern Arizona, recently was honored by the International Dark-Sky Association, Arizona State Parks and Trails announced recently. It's the second state park in Arizona to be named an International Dark Sky Park; the first was Oracle State Park north of Tucson, in 2014. Both are "silver tier" parks, meaning they have minor light pollution but still feature good night skies.

Sue Black, executive director of Arizona State Parks and Trails, said in a news release that the designation "supports our mission to preserve and protect Arizona's natural resources."

Of course, most people visit Kartchner Caverns for its spectacular underground caves, which can be explored via guided tours. But there's also a campground and picnic tables, and the park hosts guided hikes and other events throughout the year.

The IDA began its Dark Sky Places Program in 2001. Other IDA-designated dark-sky locations in Arizona are Grand Canyon National Park; Wupatki and Grand Canyon-Parashant national monuments; and the communities of Flagstaff, Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek.

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After being gone from Arizona for 40 years, upon returning I learned of "dark skies" - this designation must have come about during my absence to Colorado. Anyway, such a designation makes me realize with pride, once again, what a special place we live in, to have this unique window into space and where we all cooperate to ensure its continuance.

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