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Dark-Sky Sites:

Texas

 

Sites:


Town: Albany

Observing Site: Fort Griffin State Historic Site

Address: 1701 North US Highway 283, Albany, TX 76430

Telephone number: (325) 762-3592

URL: http://www.visitfortgriffin.com or www.facebook.com/visitfortgriffin

Restrictions:  A park use permit is required, and is available at the park.  Entrance fee: $4 per adult, $3 per student (6-18), and 5 and under are free.  Nightly camping fees are $22 for full hook-up, $15 for water/electric, $12 for water only, and $27 for a shelter.  Note that you need to make an advanced reservation if you want to camp or use a trailer.  Call the park headquarters at the number above for more information.

Directions: Albany is located about 30 miles northeast of Abilene, and about 140 miles west of Dallas-Forth Worth.  Fort Griffin Park is another 15 miles north of Albany, on HW 283.  The park's web site has directions and a map.    Click here to create a map using Google Maps.

Current weather:   Click for Albany, Texas Forecast

Clear Sky Clock Copyright A.Danko

How are the sky conditions?

Typical naked-eye magnitude limit on a clear, moonless night:
     At the zenith: 6.7
     East: 6.3 
     West: 6.7 
     North: 6.7 
     South: 6.3

Best horizon: West to North 

Worst horizon: South East to South West 

Comments from contributor:  Members of the Dallas and Fort Worth clubs have been using this site since the late 70s. Starting off in contention with the State Park administrator, we are now not only encouraged, but the parks department has constructed an observing area without lights, away from the camping area, with power and parking! The skies are excellent, and often very dry. Situated on the edge of the 'Caprock' it can be windy at times, but usually calm by nightfall. Spring days can be stormy. Although Abilene is some 60 miles S-SW from the site, the skydome has little impact except on humid nights (<15 Degrees). To the East some 40 miles a retirement area surrounding a lake has started to grow and produce a similar light dome. Since the site is quite a bit higher than either Abilene or the lake area there is little protection from these sources. The West, North and overhead are impressive with exceptional sky quality on many nights. Users come from as far away as Houston to use this site. Often there will be 20 or more astronomers on a good night in the summer, winter use drops off even though the skies are clearer. The site is used by the Fort Worth Sidewalk Astronomers on a monthly basis for star parties and they do generate quite a bit of traffic. However, that is done in the camping area and only spill over traffic happens in the observing area.

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Town: Big Bend National Park

Observing Site: Big Bend National Park--Persimmon Gap Picnic Area

Address: Main Park Rd (extension of State Route 385), Big Bend, TX 79834

Telephone number: (432) 477-2251

URL: http://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/pgapvc.htm and http://www.big.bend.national-park.com 

Restrictions: A National Parks Pass is required to enter the park; it costs $15/week.

Directions:  From Marathon, Texas, go south on US-385 for 41 miles until you get to the north entrance of Big Bend National Park.  At the entrance is the Persimmon Gap Visitors Center.  Go 1/4-mile south and turn right.  Continue 1/4-mile to the picnic area and turn right.  Click here to create a map using Google Maps.  Click here for a National Parks Service map.

  Current weather:   Click for Big Bend National Park, Texas Forecast  Click here for current weather information from Big Bend Park headquarters

How are the sky conditions?

Typical naked-eye magnitude limit on a clear, moonless night:
     At the zenith: 7
     East: 7
     West: 7
     North: 7
     South: 7

Best horizon: The southern horizon is an astronomer's dream; it is essentially a true horizon.  At a latitude of 29.7N, the horizon is low enough to make out 3 stars in the Southern Cross. 

Worst horizon: There is a mountain that takes up about 10 degrees of the north. 

Comments from contributor:  This site is an unbelievably dark shrine to the heavens.  Zodiacal light in March lasts 3 hours after twilight ends.  Even the Winter Milky Way is overwhelming.  Pleiades nebulosity and the California Nebula show up easily in binoculars.  M13 and M92 are direct-vision objects, and the desert air means much less extinction than would be expected near the horizons.  Omega Centauri is a visual overload and is easily resolvable if more than a few degrees above the horizon (it transits at 13 deg.) The sky simply has zero light pollution. A seasoned observer could easily get down to 8th-magnitude with the naked-eye. The site itself has a gravel parking lot with pit toilets and two picnic tables with pavilions.  This makes for evening cookouts and a handy table to place your stuff.

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Town: Fort Davis (sort of...)

Observing site: Davis Mountains State Park

Address:  P.O. Box 1707, Fort Davis TX 79734

Contact person: Park ranger

Phone: (432) 426-3337.  The Texas State Parks Department can be reached at (800) 792-1112.

URL: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/davis_mountains/

Restrictions: A small extra fee is required by Park Officials, in addition to the regular nominal entrance fee.

Directions: To get to Fort Davis State Park, head south and east down Highway 118 off Interstate 10 East from El Paso.  Continue past McDonald Observatory, and a couple of miles past the Prude Ranch. If you find yourself in the town of Fort Davis, back up and try again as you've gone a few miles too far.  Click here to create a map using Google Maps.

Current weather:   Click for Fort Davis, Texas Forecast

How are the sky conditions?  Clear, dark, seeing and transparency both seemed great to me as a beginner.

 
Typical naked-eye magnitude limit on a clear, moonless night:
     At the zenith: 7
     East: 6+ 
     West: 6+ 
     North: 6+ 
     South: 6+

Best horizon:  Can see down to - 60 declination or better to the south. Wow.

Worst horizon: As a beginner who was concentrating mostly on the south that evening, I'm afraid to guess. However we were on top of one of the tallest mountains in the region and could see at least 20 miles in most directions.

Comments from contributor:  Note also that Fort Davis is home to the annual Texas Star Party.


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Town: Hubbard

Observing site: Hubbard City Lakes

Address:  Highway 31, Hubbard, TX
76648

Contact person: Michael Green

Phone: (254) 576-2838

URL: http://www.centexastronomy.org

Restrictions:  Fees: RV sites: $15.00; primitive camping (tent): $10.00 overnight.  To register for camping, contact the City of Hubbard at (254) 576-2576.  Contact Michael Green for further information and updates.

Directions: From Waco, take I-35 north to Highway 84 east (exit 338A).  Continue east for 6 miles until the highway divides into Highway 84 and Highway 31.  Stay left on Highway 31 for about 18 miles until you see a picnic/rest area on the right.  From Dallas/Ft Worth, take I-35 south to Corsicana Hwy (Highway 22/171, exit 368A).  Head east for 1 mile, then stay to the right on Highway 171.  Continue for 20 miles to Highway 31 in Hubbard.  Turn right for 2.4 miles to Hubbard City Lakes.  Lake One is on the south side of the highway, while Lakes Two through Five are on the north.  There are 5 RV hookups at Lake Three.  Primitive camping everywhere!  Click here to create a map using Google Maps.

Current weather:   Click for Hubbard, Texas Forecast

How are the sky conditions?  The conditions in Winter can be spectacular with cold fronts clearing out the sky!  The contributor says that he has seen M33, the Triangulum Spiral, with no difficulty.  During the Spring, Summer, and Fall, the air gets humid and can cause small light domes to appear in the north, east, and west.  After thunderstorms roll through, the sky can reach great transparency like that of cold fronts in Winter!

 
Typical naked-eye magnitude limit on a clear, moonless night:
     At the zenith: 6.5
     East: 6.5
     West: 6.5
     North: 6.5
     South: 6.5

Best horizon:  South -- no cut-off.

Worst horizon: North -- 25 deg maximum cut-off.

Comments from contributor:  For those who live in Dallas/Ft. Worth or Austin, this is a great site to travel to without being hours and hours away!  The light dome from Waco in the WEST reaches about a maximum 10 degrees during humid months.  DFW light dome shows to below Polaris in the North.  Due east, the dome reaches to no more than 10 degrees in humidity.  The South view is pristine!  I did a public star party at the HUBBARD CITY LAKES (LAKE NUMBER 4) to view COMET LINEAR after the turn of the century and saw it at 6.2 magnitude with the naked eye!  There are so many observing spots to choose from.  Most are primitive camping areas.  PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME IF YOU CHOOSE TO VISIT THIS SITE!  I WILL BE GLAD TO GIVE YOU A FREE TOUR!  Michael Green-founder of CENTRAL TEXAS ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY-WACO, TEXAS (http://www.centexastronomy.org)


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Town: Quanah

Observing Site: Copper Breaks State Park

Address: 777 Park Road 62 Quanah, TX 79252-7679

Contact person: Park rangers

Phone: (940) 839-4331The Texas State Parks Department can be reached at (800) 792-1112.

URL: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/copper_breaks/

Restrictions: State Park entry fee of $2.00 per person, or free with a Texas State Park pass ($50/yr). Camping fees vary

Directions: The Park is located 12 miles south of Quanah or 9 miles north of Crowell, in Hardeman County off State Highway 6.  Click here to create a map using Google Maps.

 

Current weather:   Click for Quanah, Texas Forecast

 

How are the sky conditions: Excellent, with Milky Way very dense and visible to naked eye. Slight skyglow to the East and Southeast from the towns of Vernon and more distant (60 miles) Wichita Falls, which extends upward about 15 degrees. This is not a factor from the sites at the upper end of the park where brush and hillside obscure it. All other horizons are good. It is quite dry (I have never used my dew shield), usually with excellent clarity, although it can be gusty Winter through Spring, with extreme heat in the Summer.

Typical naked-eye magnitude limit on a clear, moonless night:
     At the zenith: 6.7
     East: 6.5
     West: 6.2 
     North: 6.5 
     South: 6.3

Best horizon: North and West

Worst Horizon: Southeast, 15 degrees

Comments from contributor: The husband & wife team of Park Rangers are both astronomers, and the Fort Worth Astronomical Society and the Dallas Texas Astronomical Society (TAS) both sponsor monthly "Skywalk" star parties Spring through Fall. The park now has several instruments for use on site, including Obsession truss mounts, some giant binoculars and solar observing instruments. See the park calendar on the park's web site for dates. A new observing area is being planned at the upper end of the park, where the seeing is best. The star parties are usually well attended, and experienced observers are encouraged to help maneuver the large scopes for participants, who usually trail off by 10:30 to 11:00, when the serious observing begins. Many weekends I have been a lone, undisturbed observer under these beautiful skies.

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Town: Quitaque

Observing site: Caprock Canyons State Park

Address:  P.O. Box 204, Quitaque TX 79255

Contact person: Park personnel

Telephone number: Park - (806) 455-1492.  The Texas State Parks Department can be reached at (800) 792-1112.

URL:  http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/caprock_canyons  and
         http://members.tripod.com/r_effect/mtnbikingtexas (contributor's site)

Restrictions: Park entrance fee, nightly camp site fee. Texas Parks and Wildlife Passport owners get into all state parks free, and receive a discount on camp sites. Annual Passport fee is $50.

Directions: The park is 3.5 miles north of State Highway 86 in Quitaque on FM 1065. First, go to Amarillo,
TX (from Dallas/Ft. Worth, take 287; from El Paso, take I-27; from Oklahoma, take I-44; from New Mexico take I-40). From Amarillo, take I-27 south to highway 86. Go east on 86 until you reach FM 1065. Go north on 1065. There are signs for Quitaque, as well as state park signs for Caprock Canyons State Park. Dallas/Ft. Worth folk do not have to go all the way to Amarillo: take the highway 86 south exit from highway 287.  Click here to create a map using Google Maps.

Current weather:   Click for Quitaque, Texas Forecast

How are the sky conditions? Fantastic. The Milky Way is extremely visible without aid. Scanning the sky with my scope provided me with the best view I've encountered to date in Texas. The park is 50 miles to the southeast of Amarillo, the nearest city. The nearest town, Quitaque, is 5 miles away, but any lights (town doesn't even have a stop light) are blocked out by the canyon walls.

 
Typical naked-eye magnitude limit on a clear, moonless night:
     At the zenith: 6
     East: 5
     West: 6
     North: 5
     South: 5

Best horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off): West 10 degrees

Worst horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off): East 29 degrees

Comments: The park is beautiful during the day and full of wildlife, including deer. There is plenty to do during the day: hiking, mountain biking, nature photography, bird watching, and horseback riding. At night, the Milky Way is so bright that it reflects off of the red canyon walls. After the coyotes go silent, the stillness is calming. The facilities are nice, and the best camp sites are those along the canyon ridge. See my Mountain Biking Texas web site for photos. Quitaque does not have an ATM machine.

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