Boise & Garden City

Watching the eclipse in Boise? Here’s what you need to know.

Boise State Prof. Brian Jackson and students in his Physics 205 Stellar Astronomy class don protective sunglasses for viewing a solar eclipse.
Boise State Prof. Brian Jackson and students in his Physics 205 Stellar Astronomy class don protective sunglasses for viewing a solar eclipse. Statesman file

Don’t despair if you can’t get out of Boise on Monday for the Great American Eclipse.

The city isn’t in the “path of totality” — where the moon will blot out 100 percent of the sun — but we’ll peak just shy of that, with 99.5 percent of the sun covered.

The eclipse will begin at 10:10 a.m. in the Boise area and reach its maximum by about 11:30 a.m.

Seeing the near-total eclipse will be an experience you’ll never forget, local astronomers say, and the forecast shows the sky will be clearer here than in other parts of the state. Parts of Eastern Idaho could have 30 to 40 percent cloud cover, the National Weather Service says.

cloud cover
Projected cloud clover on Monday in Idaho. National Weather Service

Many of the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Idaho are expected to head to rural areas along the path of totality with lots of open sky, including Emmett, Weiser, Stanley and Idaho Falls. A group of 250 from Japan is among the masses headed to Weiser, according to a local tourism official.

Hotel rooms in Boise are scarce, and rental cars are all gone, said Terry Kopp, director of sales for the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A survey of 15 large hotels in the city earlier this week showed only a handful of vacancies through the eclipse, with room rates now soaring to $700 a night, Kopp said. That compares with about $130 to $150 in mid-August in a year when there isn’t a huge event, she said.

Lights will come on in Boise

So if you’re in Boise, where’s the best place to watch it? That’s not difficult to find.

“Anywhere you can see the sun will be a good place,” said astronomer Brian Jackson, who teaches physics at Boise State University.

More specifically, rooftops or any location where trees and buildings aren’t going to block your view. When darkness falls on the city, the street lights will come on, said city spokesman Mike Journee. That’s because of photocells in the lights that turn them on and off based on light levels.

Where’s Mayor Dave Bieter going to watch the eclipse?

“The mayor has a regular schedule that day and will likely watch it here from City Hall,” Journee said.

Go to a city park, Table Rock, Bogus or BSU

Those who can slip away from home or work for a short time should consider making a quick trip to a city park or to Table Rock, or even someplace near the airport, said David Olsen, president of the Boise Astronomical Society.

“The more you get away from buildings and trees, the better off you are,” Olsen said.

Bogus Basin will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for eclipse watchers. Visitors can hang out on the new lawn in the base area, ride a chairlift or hike up the mountain.

A chairlift ride up the mountain will be $15. Breakfast will be available from 8:30 a.m.-11 a.m. There will be live music in the base area. A variety of other activities will be available until 4 p.m. in the “Fun Zone,” including summer tubing, a climbing wall, a bungee trampoline and a gem panning station.

Boise State University will host a watch party on The Quad, a grassy area at the center of campus. It’s open to students, faculty, staff and the general public. There were be three food vendors, a pinhole camera-making station and solar-themed music by the student radio station. Bring a blanket and/or chair to the party, which runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The public is encouraged to walk, bike or take a bus. The campus will be buzzing Monday, as classes for the fall semester start right after the eclipse party. The university’s enrollment last year was about 24,000.

Another option is the Western Idaho Fair. It has all sorts of eclipse merchandise, and will be raffling off seats to view the eclipse on The Giant Wheel.

fair glasses
Get free eclipse glasses at the Western Idaho Fair. Western Idaho Fair

Still need glasses? The visitors bureau will distribute 1,000 free solar eclipse glasses at the Capital City Public Market on Saturday. Here are some other options.

The Western Idaho Fair passed out 5,000 sets of glasses Friday; they were gone before 2 p.m.

Public talk, hike and astronomy conference

Jackson has been giving informational talks about the eclipse all over Idaho this year.

The last one he’ll do for students and the general public is at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Jordan Ballroom of Boise State University’s Student Union Building, 1700 University Drive.

The university’s Outdoor Program is organizing — for students only — a hike in the Boise National Forest on Monday. The cost is $15 per person.

The university arranged an international astronomy conference to coincide with the total solar eclipse, Jackson said.

About 113 astronomers from around the world, including Japan, Belgium and France, are participating in the Exoclipse Conference. Many are bringing family, so the total number coming to Idaho for that event is actually double that.

Jackson didn’t want to disclose where the group is headed, for fear of adding to the crush of visitors at their location. He’s under no illusion they’ll be alone.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people who think they’ve found the one little [good] spot to view the eclipse,” Jackson said. “Odds are, if you’ve thought of a good place to see the eclipse, someone else has too.”

Eclipse traffic in the Boise region will be heaviest on Monday — particularly after the event, a traffic analyst said. Local motorists should avoid Interstate 84 the next few days, if possible.

“If you think about a sporting event, or anything like that, people come at all times,” said Lauren Dominick, senior director of analytics and modeling for fleet management software developer Omnitracs. “But once it’s over, everyone tries to leave at the same time. That Monday afternoon is definitely going to be the most impactful.”

Oregon was already seeing the impacts of eclipse tourism Thursday, when traffic was backed up for 15 miles near Prineville. Idaho Transportation Department officials encourage residents and travelers to the Gem State to check and the I-15 app to stay on top of road conditions and delays.

ITD is providing daily updates on traffic counts at 25 sites around the state to give the public a snapshot of where most people are headed. Check the daily updates around 2 p.m. at (under the “news” tab).

The first round of data showed traffic “a little above normal” for a 24-hour count period that started early Thursday afternoon, ITD spokesman Vince Trimboli said. Banks-Lowman Road, U.S. 93 at Craters of the Moon, U.S. 95 at Lucile and I-15 at the Utah border were showing increases.

“People haven’t gotten off work, and the weekend hasn’t officially begun,” Trimboli said. Starting tomorrow [Saturday], we’ll have more narrative. We’ll give people an idea where the traffic is going.”

Flaggers are on standby at several spots around the region, including I-84 and U.S. 95, Idaho 55 and the Banks-Lowman Road, and the latter road’s intersection with Idaho 21, Trimboli said. Elmore County has flaggers on standby at the interstate’s junction with Idaho 20, he said.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller