If you have seen one of our events advertising a Deep Sky Party, then this is the post you should be reading. This should give you all the info on how to attend, what to expect, and how to behave!
So… How Do I Get There?
Orion Bear Astronomy usually does their public Deep Sky Parties at the Cottonwood Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. This area of the park is further east, about 30 miles east of Indio, CA.
From Interstate 10, the correct exit number is 168 onto Cottonwood Spring Rd. There are signs that help direct you towards Joshua Tree National Park, but if you’re unsure, make a left if coming from the west (right from east).
Along the way, you will see a parking lot for the Bajada trail. Use this stop to send any last messages you need, because as you continue north, once you go through the mountain pass, you will lose cell service!
You will eventually arrive at a (paved) fork, where there is a visitor center. Make a right at the fork, and then make a left at the next fork into the Cottonwood Campground sites. There are signs there that help guide you. It’s all paved roads, so any working vehicle will do!
Be sure to check where we are, as we may be at an individual campsite site within one of the loops, or be at a larger group site.
We will either have a group site reserved, or an individual site(s). Sometimes, we just setup at the picnic area or parking lots nearby which is always first come first serve and doesn’t require a reservation.
When an upcoming event is about to happen, this page does get updated with a map showing exactly where you’ll find us!
The site is located in the high desert, about 3,000 feet in elevation, thus has extreme differences in temperature based on the season. During the summer, the temperatures can be nice at night, but during the winter, you can be dealing with below freezing conditions! Always check the weather.
DO NOT get caught in the desert with shorts and sandals/flip flops; there are spiders, scorpions, and reptiles that live in the ground, and yes, we’ve encountered them at the sites! While these creatures don’t want to bother you, it is possible you can run into one if you’re not careful. Thankfully, scorpions are easy to see at night thanks to their shells glowing in the dark under UV lights – the kids actually love searching for them!
There are also plenty of plants with needles that break off easily and stick to your clothes and skin… so you have been double warned!
How Dark Can It Get?!
As mentioned in this article, this campground is the darkest of all the campgrounds in the park, and it is much less light polluted than the sites closer to Palm Springs and the towns along CA-62.
There are still low ambient light domes seen in the west and south, but the rest of the sky above is quite dark and beautiful! It’ll be dark enough to where the sky appears black, the Summer Milky Way appears complex, but your immediate surroundings will still be vaguely visible once your eyes fully adapt to the dark.
How Is The Weather Looking?
Here are several resources that will give you a better idea what the weather can be like out there.
This is cleardarksky’s forecast over Cottonwood. When it comes to clouds, transparency, and seeing conditions, the darker the shade of blue, the better. You can visit the page to learn more what the colors mean.
ECMWF – European Center For Medium Range Weather Forecasts – temperatures are listed in Celsius, but do give a good detailed outlook on cloud cover and wind.
In the event the party gets cancelled due to bad weather, there will be notices made on our social media pages, and you can always contact us if you haven’t received any news.
Arrival and Leaving
We have the site reserved overnight, but you may arrive and leave as you please. We prefer you arrive while there is still light out, it’s just easier to set up that way, but we understand if you can’t come until later. When you do decide to leave, just please be considerate when it comes to lights, as we are tying to keep our eyes adapted to the dark.
Camping and RV Parking
As Cottonwood Campground is a campsite, of course you can camp there overnight. We have the site reserved for just that purpose!
This campground is mainly for tent camping, and the parking lot near the group sites aren’t really suitable for RV’s, thus it’s recommended you take a normal vehicle – it’s just easier.
If you must bring your RV, many individual campsites do have enough space to park your RV, but they’re meant for the respective individual site. It is a popular spot, and can fill up on weekends, so unless you can reserve a campsite, or find an open site that isn’t reserved, you may have a tough time finding a suitable parking spot for your RV.
When we are focusing solely on observing, we will implement a RED LIGHT ONLY rule. The main reason is to help keep your eyes adapted to the dark at night, and white lights will ruin that. If people are doing long exposure imaging, you may get asked not to shine any lights at all, especially near a telescope while the camera’s shutters are open. Some telescopes have glow tape on their legs to help people see them at night.
If you bring a white flashlight, we can still cover it with red cellophane. Unless you are given permission or there is an emergency situation, don’t shine any white lights!
Food and Drinks / Amenities
Unless it’s arranged and/or we say otherwise, food and drinks will be on a “bring your own” basis – we don’t like to bring a bunch of food all the way out there if the guests aren’t going to eat it!
If anything, don’t forget to bring water!
There are some park tables and fire pits provided, but make sure it belongs to our campsite. There are also bathrooms with running water and toilet paper! When we’re all done, there are large trash bins near the bathrooms. Whatever you bring, please make sure we leave the park in the same condition we arrived in !
You don’t need to bring any equipment to enjoy the party. There will be personal telescopes, and if you would like to bring yours please do so! But if you don’t have any, you are more than welcome to look through them! You’ll be told this in person, but please don’t put your hands on any equipment without authorization!
This event is free! However, we do accept donations of any amount to help cover the cost of reserving the sites and providing some amenities. You can donate in person or through this website!
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