Tonto National Monument is best known for its ancient Salado cliff dwellings, but the National Park Service site northeast of Phoenix is now getting attention for its pristine night skies.
The monument has been designated an International Dark-Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association, the Park Service announced this month, adding that the award "means that Tonto National Monument has exceptional opportunities to observe the night sky, and has implemented efforts for preservation of the nocturnal environment and educational programs for the public."
The monument's staff undertook a two-year effort to earn the designation. It included retrofitting the light fixtures at the site to prevent light pollution; acquiring data for darkness analysis and monitoring; and interpreting the importance of dark skies for visitors.
Nighttime activities at the monument include the "Park After Dark" series of night sky programs. "Our staff is committed to offering experiences that will help visitors reconnect to their dark sky heritage," said Eric Schreiner, the monument's chief of interpretation.
For more information, visit the Tonto National Monument website.