Living in a beautiful country with bountiful camping locales lends itself to being a destination for casual stargazers – Canada has so much wilderness, you would think it would be easy to see the night sky. However, over 80% of us live in urban areas (StatsCan), with artificial light dimming our view of the stars. Still, it’s easy to set out with the sole purpose of observing the night sky.
SeaChange co-founder Anne had one memorable evening many years ago when, instead of putting the kids to bed at the usual time, she and some friends drove up a bumpy old road to the top of Mount Maxwell on Salt Spring Island. The group sat in the back of a pickup truck, a bundle of assorted people wrapped in old Mexican blankets, watching for shooting stars.
However, for most Canadians finding appropriate places for stargazing can be difficult without having some direction. Locals may be delighted to learn that Canada is a leader in setting aside places for people to watch the stars – places where the encroachment of artificial light is restricted by law. These are called Dark Sky Preserves, and they are the work of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC). Canada is the only country so far to set actual criteria for darkness – darkness complete enough so that you can actually study the stars.
Here is a list of Dark Sky Preserves in Canada, from the RASC website.
- McDonald Park Dark-Sky Park, Fraser Valley, BC – 2003 (from Fraser Valley Astronomer’s Society)
- Jasper National Park Dark-Sky Preserve, AB – 2011
- Beaver Hills Dark-Sky Preserve, AB – 2006
- Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park Dark-Sky Preserve, SK/AB – 2004
- Grasslands National Park, SK – 2009
- Gordon’s Park, Manitoulin Island, ON – 2008
- Bruce Peninsula National Park and Five Fathoms National Marine Park, ON – 2009
- Point Pelee National Park, ON – 2006
- Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve, ON – 1999
- Mont-Mégantic International Dark-Sky Preserve, QC – 2007 (from IDA)
- Kejimkujik National Park, NS – 2010
- Kouchibouguac National Park, NB – 2009
- Fundy National Park, NB – 2011
- Mount Carleton Provincial Park, NB – 2009
So what are we all waiting for? Pick a Dark Sky Preserve near you, pack a thermos of hot chocolate and a sandwich, load some old Mexican blankets in the car and head out in your woolies. Canada is a great place for star gazing.
Photo Credit: Shawn Nielsen