Eclipse planning: Traffic may present a special challenge

October, 2017 Posted in Community, Nature, News

By Mary Owen

The Great Eclipse is coming Aug. 21 and bringing with it thousands of people to the Santiam Canyon.

“Traffic numbers are expected to be high,” said Allison McKenzie, executive director of GROW-EDC. “Expect traffic like we have on a normal holiday weekend plus what it would be like to have two home games in Eugene and Corvallis at the same time. It will be busy!”

McKenzie advises having friends and family come early for the weekend and stay after Monday to avoid some of the crowds at airports, train stations and on the road.

“And we’d love to have them stay with us!” she said. “There are plenty of camping spots available, including Camp Taloali and the Sublimity Harvest Festival grounds, plus spots in downtown Stayton, Scio and at the United Methodist Church in Stayton. You can even pick up a ‘do-it-yourself’ camping kit at the festival grounds if you decided to stay over and didn’t bring your gear.”

Ranger Grady McMahon with the Detroit Ranger District, Willamette National Forest, said district staff members will camp out at many of the popular trailheads and viewing areas to welcome and inform the public about the eclipse and how to “leave no trace” so that the impacts to the land will be reduced.

“We look forward welcoming visitors and helping them create lifetime memories of the natural world – terrestrial and celestial,” McMahon said. “We anticipate a great number of visitors, and there is a good possibility for congested roads and already full campsites.”

McMahon asks campers to stay on trails and not create new campsites or fire rings.

“August is a time of high fire danger, so be prepared to camp using gas stoves as fires may likely be prohibited at this time of year,” he said. “Bring a small shovel to bury your human waste and toilet paper. If you have gloves and an extra trash bag, please consider taking out something another visitor may have left behind.

“Be prepared to share the woods with your fellow outdoor enthusiasts,” he added

Camping or not, McKenzie encourages visitors to “stay longer, play more, get off the road and into our woods and waters.”

“We have plenty of fun outdoor recreation activities throughout the North Santiam River Country for those who stay over after the eclipse,” she said.

She also encourages folks to grab their  Eclipse 2017 guide and figure out events they would like to attend that weekend. A Howl at the Moon party will kick off the weekend Friday night in downtown Stayton, and activities abound throughout the Canyon all weekend.

“Give yourselves plenty of time to experience and savor this special weekend with your neighbors, friends and family,” McKenzie advised.

Other tips include keeping food and water with you throughout the weekend, especially if traveling by car.

“We all know what it’s like when we have a traffic accident on Highway 22,” she said. “Even if traffic moves slowly, you could be in your car for a good long while at different points throughout the weekend. If you have food and water, you’ll be all set for whatever happens.

“Some people are even going so far as to have a little portable toilet on board, too, like the kind you use while camping,” she added. “If you’re prepared, you’ll be a lot happier.”

Local residents can help by extending North Santiam River Country hospitality to those who aren’t prepared, McKenzie suggested.

“A bottle of water, a nice piece of fruit, or a homemade cookie go a long way toward ensuring happiness and good street credibility for our communities,” she said.

Local businesses are gearing up to handle the crowds of people that will be coming into town from all around the world, McKenzie said.

“We’re routinely hearing about groups coming from England, Germany and Japan to spend time with us that weekend,” she said. “Think about how you want to welcome visitors. We’ll have eight to 10 designated River Fusion 22/eclipse information spots along the Highway 22 corridor. Eclipse 2017 guides can help people know what’s going on and can help visitors find fund things to do in the woods, on the water, and in our small towns.”

Since cell service may be tricky that weekend, McKenzie said the River Fusion 22 team will be distributing extra eclipse guides, posters and other material to make it easier for visitors to get connected.

“Plus, no matter how busy you are with visiting friends and family or your business, take time to view the eclipse on Monday morning,” McKenzie said. “This is a special event for Oregon, and we are smack dab on the path of totality. Those who chase eclipses around the world speak with awe about what the experience is like. The world won’t end if you pause for a few minutes to enjoy yourself!

“River Fusion 22 and the eclipse is all about escaping and celebrating the weekend with us,” she added. “Get off the hot concrete and away from the crowds to find some peace, nature and friendly hometown good times off the grid.”

The last joint tourism teams/event producer meeting before River Fusion 22 and the Great Eclipse weekend will be at Wednesday, July 19, 10 a.m. to noon at the Gates Fire Hall.

“The public is invited to participate in this meeting to learn about events happening over the weekend, including our first-ever regional festival, River Fusion 22,” McKenzie said. “Hear a re-cap about state agency expectations for the weekend, and learn how best to prepare for, enjoy and benefit from the influx of visitors who will be in our area during that time.”

For information or to RSVP for the meeting, message McKenzie at

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