Eclipse 2017: How to See It in Arizona

This total eclipse occurred in a narrow area of the Southern Hemisphere in 2012. | Courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Maybe you've heard, but later this month, the U.S. will see its first total solar eclipse since 1979. And even though Arizona isn't in the path of totality, you can still see a partial solar eclipse from this state — if you've got the right equipment.

The August 21 eclipse will be visible throughout the country, but a total eclipse can be seen only in the narrow path of totality, which stretches from Oregon southeast to South Carolina. Those in Arizona will see a partial eclipse, when only part of the sun is obscured by the moon.

The Four Corners area, in the northeast corner of the state, will have Arizona's best view. There, about 78 percent of the sun will be obscured. But Phoenix will see about 63 percent of the sun blocked out; it'll be 70 percent in Flagstaff and 59 percent in Tucson.

In all three cities, the partial eclipse will begin around 9:15 a.m. and end around noon Arizona time. The time of maximum eclipse will be just after 10:30 a.m. Arizona time. (To get data for other areas of Arizona, visit NASA's eclipse website.)

Unlike a total solar eclipse, you can't view a partial solar eclipse with unprotected eyes — you'll damage your eyes or even go blind. But you can buy an inexpensive pair of eclipse glasses on Amazon or at one of many retailers. You also can view it with a telescope if you have a solar filter. (If you don't know if you have a solar filter, you don't have a solar filter.)

If you don't have the glasses or a filtered telescope, here's a low-tech solution: Get two index cards or white pieces of paper, and poke a hole in one of them with a safety pin. Then, hold the card with the hole up to the sun, allowing sunlight to stream through the hole and onto the other card. During the eclipse, you'll see that the projected image of the sun has a "bite" out of it.

If a partial eclipse isn't good enough for you, many organizations, including Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, are holding eclipse-related events that include live streams of the total eclipse. Lowell's event also includes telescopes set up to view the partial eclipse here. And you can watch live streams from various places in the path of totality by visiting this NASA website.

The U.S. won't see another total solar eclipse until April of 2024. And Arizona will have to wait until 2205 to be in the path of a total solar eclipse. The last one to pass over what's now Arizona occurred in 1806.

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Enjoy Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West on New Self-Guided Tour

Taliesin West, Scottsdale | Flickr user Teemu008

The former Arizona headquarters of one of America's greatest architects is introducing a tour that visitors can complete at their own pace.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West in Scottsdale launched the At Your Leisure Tour this month; it runs through August 27. From 1 to 2:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, visitors can explore the iconic architecture laboratory's public spaces without a guide or group — though docents will be present in each space to answer questions.

The At Your Leisure Tour costs $26 for adults, $22 for students and $12 for children. And this summer (through August 31), Arizona residents receive 50 percent off this or any other Taliesin West tour.

The new tour comes as part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation's celebration of the 150th anniversary of Wright's birth. Wright, who died in 1959 at age 91, created countless designs in his lifetime; more than 500 of them were built, and those include several structures in the Valley of the Sun, including Phoenix's David and Gladys Wright House — recently donated to the foundation's architecture school — and Arizona State University's Gammage Auditorium in Tempe.

Taliesin West is located at 12345 N. Taliesin Drive in Scottsdale. For more information, visit www.franklloydwright.org.

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The Kaibab Plateau: An Arizona Road Trip

The Grand Canyon's North Rim is just one of the Arizona Strip's spectacular sights. | Noah Austin

Last week, a pair of assignments for Arizona Highways took me to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and the surrounding Kaibab Plateau. I scheduled the trip a while back and had no idea it would come during three of the hottest days in the history of the Phoenix area, but that's exactly how it worked out when my wife and I headed up to the Arizona Strip.

The Strip, in many ways, is more tied to Utah than it is to Arizona. If you're driving, there are only two ways to reach it from the rest of the state, and we checked out both of them on this trip: Navajo Bridge, which carries U.S. Route 89A over Marble Canyon, and U.S. Route 89's Glen Canyon Dam Bridge, just downstream from its namesake and Lake Powell.

We stopped at Navajo Bridge to see if we could spot the California condors that recently made a nest near the bridge. We spotted the cave but weren't able to see any condors — possibly because it's hard to see a black bird in a black cave. After lunch at Marble Canyon Lodge, we took a detour down to Lees Ferry on the Colorado River, where we visited Paria Beach and the Paria Riffle (pictured). Then we continued west, past the towering Vermilion Cliffs and up onto the Kaibab Plateau. (Click each picture for a larger version.)

We stayed at Jacob Lake Inn, which dates to 1923 and features a motel and cabins — plus a general store, a restaurant and some of the best cookies you'll find. The inn is centrally located on the Strip, offering easy access to the North Rim to the south and several of Utah's national parks and monuments to the north. The lake (pictured) for which the inn and community are named is now just a small pond; it's named for early Mormon settler Jacob Hamblin.

We spent most of two days at the rim, checking out Cape Royal, Point Imperial (pictured) and the hiking opportunities around Grand Canyon Lodge. Because it was hot even up at the Canyon, we didn't hike down into the gorge, opting to stay at the cooler climate of the rim. If you're in search of solitude and quiet, I can't recommend the North Rim enough. The South Rim has its charms and is certainly more accessible, but up north, there's less development and just as much natural splendor. (And it's cooler.)

We also explored some forest roads, including one route that led us to this spectacular view (pictured). It's likely you'll read about the drive to this location in an upcoming issue of Arizona Highways.

The drive to the Canyon on State Route 67 (the North Rim Parkway) is spectacular, too. This (pictured) is DeMotte Park, a huge meadow surrounded by ponderosa pines and other evergreens. We saw several deer and wild turkeys here, along with some of the North Rim's famous (or infamous) bison herd.

We then took the scenic route back to the Valley, heading up into Utah and east on U.S. 89 to Lake Powell and Page. That gave us a chance to enjoy the view from the Echo Cliffs as we descended from Page to the Marble Canyon area below.

On our way home, we couldn't resist a stop at the San Francisco Peaks' Lockett Meadow (pictured), which I hadn't yet visited. Then it was on to Flagstaff (for dinner at Diablo Burger) before returning to Phoenix.

We've got a lot of hot days left this summer, and a trip to the North Rim and the surrounding area can provide much-needed relief. It's one of my favorite places in Arizona, and if you visit, I'll bet it'll become one of yours, too.

— Noah Austin, Associate Editor

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Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum Will Reopen

Courtesy of Mark Goebel (Flickr)

A museum that celebrates Arizona's minerals and history of mining has a new funding source and will reopen after closing in 2011.

As the Associated Press reported, the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum, located at 15th Avenue and Washington Street in downtown Phoenix, is getting a new lease on life thanks to the state Legislature, which passed a bill to transfer ownership of the museum to the University of Arizona. Governor Doug Ducey signed the legislation in late April.

The UA will now be responsible for museum operations, but the state will contribute $600,000 per year to the facility. That money will go toward rent and hiring a curator, the AP reported.

When it was open, the museum was renowned for its extensive mineral and rock collection, along with the mining artifacts and equipment on display. Some 40,000 schoolchildren toured the museum every year, museum supporters told the AP.

The facility closed in 2011 for renovations, but funding for those improvements never materialized and the museum remained closed. Much of the mineral collection has been on display or in storage at an Arizona Historical Society facility in Tempe.

There was no timetable for when the Mining and Mineral Museum might reopen.

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Grand Canyon's North Rim Opens Today

The North Rim's Cape Royal offers stunning views of the Grand Canyon. | Peter James

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon sees about as many visitors in an average year as the South Rim sees in an average month. But that's certainly not due to a lack of beauty or things to do on the remote north side of the Canyon, which officially opens for its 2017 season today, May 15.

Part of the reason for the lack of visitors is the driving distance: From Flagstaff, it's 130 miles farther to the North Rim than to the South Rim. Accordingly, there are more visitor services and lodging options on the south side. But up north, you'll find solitude, super-dark night skies and gorgeous scenery.

If you're looking for scenic drives, we recommend Cape Royal Road, a paved route that features views of Angels Window and ends at the North Rim's southernmost overlook, and the rugged route to Point Sublime, which offers views unlike any other spot at the Canyon. Even the drive to the rim, on the North Rim Parkway, is one of Arizona's most gorgeous routes.

Looking to spend the night? Grand Canyon Lodge's cabins are legendary, but they're often booked months in advance. Just north of the park, though, is Kaibab Lodge, which offers affordable rooms. Farther north is Jacob Lake Inn, which also is reasonable. And if you're planning to pitch a tent, try the North Rim Campground, located just north of Grand Canyon Lodge.

Dining options are mostly at Grand Canyon Lodge, which offers meal service and an evening buffet, plus a saloon and a deli. You can work up an appetite by hiking one of several hiking trails, including the Rainbow Rim Trail and the North Kaibab Trail. (The latter was damaged by a recent landslide that also took out the North Rim's water pipeline, but the park announced last week that repairs had been completed and all park services are available.)

Enjoy this unique and scenic part of Arizona while you can — most North Rim operations shut down October 15.

To learn more about the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, call 928-638-7888 or visit www.nps.gov/grca.

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Hoodoo? You Do!

Rhyolite hoodoos are the centerpiece of Chiricahua National Monument. | Noah Austin

Early this month, I headed down to Southeastern Arizona for an Arizona Highways assignment. On our way back to the Phoenix area, my wife and I decided to visit Chiricahua National Monument.

It was the first visit to this natural wonder for both of us, and while I've seen many photos of the monument in the magazine, they truly don't do this place justice. On the Echo Canyon Loop, an easy 3.5-mile hike, we enjoyed stunning views of the monument's hoodoos — the rock spires for which this National Park Service site is best known. The number and size of these bizarre formations were unlike anything I'd seen in Arizona.

I started wondering how, exactly, these hoodoos formed, so I did some research and thought I'd share it with our readers.

According to the Park Service, hoodoos are the result of a process called frost wedging. The hoodoos at Chiricahua are made of a type of volcanic rock. Like many rocks, it features small vertical cracks, called joints. When water fills these joints and freezes, it expands by about 9 percent, exerting enough pressure to shatter the rock; when the ice thaws, the broken rock is washed away, widening the cracks. During the Pleistocene ice ages, from 1.6 million to about 10,000 years ago, this happened repeatedly, eventually creating jagged columns of rock.

The columns were then smoothed by erosion over thousands of years. Wind erosion played a big part, with sand carried by the wind acting as a kind of sandpaper. Chemical weathering, lichen growth and other factors contributed as well, the Park Service says. The result is a collection of spectacular rock formations, each with its own distinct shape and character.

I definitely recommend a trip to the monument and a hike on the Echo Canyon Loop, which still shows some signs of the 2011 Horseshoe 2 Fire but is in great shape overall. The remote monument doesn't get a ton of visitors, and on the entire loop, we saw just one other hiker, despite it being a Sunday morning with perfect weather. The hike took us about two hours — mostly because we stopped every few minutes to shoot photos. I expect you'll find yourself doing the same.

— Noah Austin, Associate Editor

Chiricahua National Monument is located near the intersection of state routes 186 and 181 in Southeastern Arizona. To learn more, call the monument at 520-824-3560 or visit www.nps.gov/chir.

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Oracle State Park Now Open 7 Days a Week

Courtesy of Oracle State Park

Following a series of closures and restrictions amid the Great Recession, Arizona State Parks and Trails is back up to full speed.

As of March 1, Oracle State Park north of Tucson is open seven days per week, the department announced. The park is the last in the state parks system to fully reopen to the public after restrictions were put in place starting in 2009. It reopened in 2012, but with limited hours.

"We are thrilled that Oracle State Park is going to be open every day," said Sue Black, executive director of Arizona State Parks and Trails. "The community of Oracle is growing, and this park is a significant piece of this economic development."

The 4,000-acre park offers monthly environmental programs, including hikes and lectures, and features a 15-mile network of trails. It's a haven for a variety of plant and animal species, and its location, in the northern foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, is also ideal for stargazing. In 2014, the International Dark-Sky Association designated the park an International Dark-Sky Park.

The parks system had record attendance and revenue in 2016, according to the news release, and continues to operate without appropriations from Arizona's general fund.

Governor Doug Ducey said the state's parks "are points of state and community pride and bring economic benefits to communities across the state," adding that forward thinking and innovative management have helped the parks prosper.

Oracle State Park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. For more information, call 520-896-2425 or visit www.azstateparks.com/oracle.

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Phoenix Company Launches Guided Verde Valley Tour

The Verde Canyon Railroad winds beneath steep cliffs. | Courtesy of DETOURS

Want to explore the scenic Verde Valley of Central Arizona, but don't know where to start? A Phoenix-based company has the trip for you.

DETOURS announced last month that it's now offering a daylong guided tour that includes several highlights of the Verde Valley, plus a ride on a historic railroad.

After being picked up at hotels in Phoenix and Scottsdale, guests head north toward the iconic mining town of Jerome, then to Clarkdale for a tour of the Copper Art Museum. They then take a four-hour ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad, which offers views of red-rock canyon walls and the Verde River.

"There are so many places you won't find on your own on Google Maps," says DETOURS owner Jeff Slade in a news release. "The 20 miles of railroad track between Clarkdale and Perkinsville are rich with history and wildlife, and our guides offer the knowledge and stories to give you the best Arizona experience possible."

The tour operates Wednesdays and Saturdays, and the $235 cost includes transportation, unlimited bottled water, museum admission, lunch and a first-class seat on the train. To learn more or book a trip, visit www.detoursofthewest.com or call 480-633-9013.

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You Can Help Name the Grand Canyon's Newest Mule

This Grand Canyon mule doesn't have a name yet, but it will soon. | Courtesy of Xanterra

A mule that takes Grand Canyon visitors from the South Rim to Phantom Ranch is looking for a name, and you can help choose it.

Xanterra, which runs the visitor services at Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim, said in a news release that the possibilities for the mule's name have been whittled down to 10 finalists from thousands of suggestions submitted by USA Today Network members.

Unfortunately, that means if you've got a really creative idea (such as "Ferris Mueller") ... well, it'll have to wait for the next mule-naming contest, if there is one. For now, you can visit this website and cast a vote for one of the 10 finalists: Adira, Agave, Aliya, Amara, Amberley, Hiraani, Nayla, Sariel, Victory and Vista.

You have until Friday (February 24) to cast your vote. By doing so, you'll be entered for a chance to win a $500 Visa gift card, Xanterra said.

In related news about getting around at the Canyon, park officials would like to remind visitors of the Tusayan Route, a seasonal South Rim shuttle route. The route debuted a few years ago but is starting earlier this year, March 1, to alleviate spring break traffic. It'll run until September 30.

The route allows visitors to park in Tusayan and take a shuttle to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center on the South Rim (a valid park pass is required). From there, they can hop on any of the park's other shuttles to explore overlooks and hiking trails. To learn more, click here.

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Ed Mell, Arizona Opera Bring Zane Grey Novel to Life

Ed Mell's iconic landscapes, such as this depiction of the Ajo Mountains, form the backdrop for a new Arizona Opera production. | Courtesy of Arizona Opera

The Arizona Opera is about to launch a production based on an iconic Western novel — with help from legendary Arizona artist Ed Mell.

Riders of the Purple Sage, based on the 1912 Zane Grey novel of the same name, is scheduled for two performances next weekend (February 25 and 26) in Tucson, and three the following weekend (March 3-5) in Phoenix. Mell, a friend of Arizona Highways (you might remember his painting on the cover of our 90th Anniversary Issue in April 2015), designed the sets for the production.

The opera is the first world premiere produced by the Arizona Opera, and is described as a "Wild West adventure through the sweeping vistas and massive canyons of the Southwest." It's performed in English and composed by Craig Bohmler, with libretto adapted from Grey's book by Steven Mark Kohn.

The Tucson performances are February 25 at 7:30 p.m. and February 26 at 2 p.m. at Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Street. In Phoenix, you can see the production March 3 and 4 at 7:30 p.m. and March 5 at 2 p.m. at Symphony Hall, 75 N. Second Street. For tickets or more information, call 520-293-4336 (Tucson) or 602-266-7464 (Phoenix), or visit www.azopera.org.

The production is part of the opera's Western Cultural Festival, which features explorations of Arizona's history, culture and art. To learn more about other events on the festival schedule, click here.

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