Log In

Reset Password

Southwest Colorado braces for eclipse traffic

Drivers heading toward Mesa Verde National Park should prepare for ‘heavy traffic,’ CDOT warns
Mesa Verde is bracing for thousands of visitors this weekend during the annular eclipse, which will pass directly over the national park. (Durango Herald file)

The Colorado Department of Transportation and public land managers are bracing for the influx of visitors expected to descend on Southwest Colorado this weekend.

The event will be best visible in the United States Saturday morning along a path starting on the coast of Oregon, crossing over Mesa Verde National Park and the Four Corners, and ending in southeast Texas.

Unlike a total solar eclipse, the annular eclipse will create a “ring of fire” as the moon passes before the sun but does not entirely blot it out.

Saturday’s eclipse will begin at about 9 a.m. in the region, although the sun will be most covered at approximately 10:33 a.m.

CDOT spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes said the agency expects the event to attract significant attention in the area.

“It’s just obvious it’s going to be a busy weekend,” she said.

The path of the annular solar eclipse over North America. (Great American Eclipse, LLC, via NASA)

The agency expects U.S. Highway 160 in both directions from Mesa Verde, U.S. Highway 491 and Colorado Highway 184 to see a surge in traffic volume, although Schwantes said the agency does not know just how many people could visit the area.

“This could be a significant traffic event,” said CDOT Regional Transportation Director for Southwest Colorado Julie Constan in a news release.

Scientists from NASA and national park rangers will be present at various locations throughout Mesa Verde as a resource for the public during the event.

Kristy Sholly, chief of interpretation at Mesa Verde, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. She previously told The Durango Herald that the park would be covering certain structures in the park with protective material so that visitors can view the eclipse through them.

More information on viewing the eclipse from Mesa Verde can be found on the park’s website.

At Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Bureau of Land Management staff say they do not have personnel to provide any extra services, but said the site will remain open to the public and dispersed camping will be allowed in all locations other than those where it is normally banned.

There too, staff are preparing for a deluge of visitors.

“We're just hoping folks will continue to respect the landscape and leave no trace,” said Thomas Adams, an administrator at the site.

Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin said his office will have three deputies patrolling U.S. Highway 160.

Special glasses should be used to view the eclipse and will be available at Mesa Verde. NASA’s website contains more information on the event and how to safely observe it.


Reader Comments