Solar Eclipse Guide

August 21st marks the date of the “Great American Solar Eclipse” and Valley County is in the path of totality! We know there is a lot of anticipation for the event, and along with that anticipation, a lot of questions. Make sure you are ready to take full advantage of this amazing natural wonder with our Solar Eclipse Guide.

What is a solar eclipse?

A total solar eclipse occurs when a new moon comes between the Sun and Earth and casts a shadow across the Earth. Eclipses occur because the moon and the sun appear to be the same size to our human eyes. In fact, the sun is 400 times wider than the moon, but it is also 400 times farther away, so they appear to be the same size in the sky. The darkest part of the eclipse, the totality, is almost as dark as night and Valley County will have some of the best, most breathtaking views from anywhere in the country.

What happens during a total eclipse?

During a total solar eclipse, the disk of the moon blocks out the light from the sun, and the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, becomes visible. The corona isn’t an indistinct haze; skywatchers report seeing great jets and ribbons of light, twisting and curling out into the sky.

Plants and animals act as though night is falling, as flowers close up and birds return to roost. The temperature can drop 10 degrees or more.

Where is the best place to view the eclipse?

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A large part of Valley County is in the path of totality. That means you can enjoy prime viewing from Donnelly to Cascade to Smiths Ferry.

What time is the eclipse?

The time of the eclipse varies from location to location. Here are the timetables for key places in Valley County. Totality lasts only a few brief minutes although the partial eclipse will last for a few hours.


Start of Partial Eclipse: 10:11:35 am
Start of Total Eclipse: 11:27:27 am
Maximum Eclipse: 11:27:52 am
End of Total Eclipse: 11:28:17 am
End of Partial Eclipse: 12:50:04 pm


Start of Partial Eclipse: 10:11:27 am
Start of Total Eclipse: 11:26:53 am
Maximum Eclipse: 11:27:50 am
End of Total Eclipse: 11:28:47 am
End of Partial Eclipse: 12:50:11 pm

Smiths Ferry

Start of Partial Eclipse: 10:11:14 am
Start of Total Eclipse: 11:26:37 am
Maximum Eclipse: 11:27:43 am
End of Total Eclipse: 11:28:48 am
End of Partial Eclipse: 12:50:12 pm

To find more times, visit NASA’s interactive eclipse path map.

How do you to view the solar eclipse?

The only moment it’s safe to look at the eclipse is during the 2-3 minutes when the sun is completely behind the moon. Before and after that — during the partial eclipse — special eclipse glasses, or welder’s goggles, must be worn. That’s because the sun’s surface is so bright that if you stare at any portion of it, no matter how small, it produces enough light to permanently damage your retina. Regular sunglasses just won’t cut it.

If you are looking to order eclipse glasses, find them here – yes, they look silly, but they will make sure you don’t hurt your eyes!

How do you photograph the solar eclipse?

We all carry around our smartphones to take pictures, but that is not a great way to capture the eclipse. Though it may be OK for a few moments, it’s not wise to point your smartphone camera at the brilliant, un-eclipsed sun for an extended period of time without putting a filter over the lens. PLUS…totality lasts for just a few minutes! Sit back and enjoy (with your snappy eclipse glasses, of course).

If you are planning to take a few photos with your smartphone (or even with your camera), be sure that it is fitted with a solar filter. Ideally, the best way to photograph the eclipse is with a telephoto lens. Don’t have one? Neither do we – but we can bet all of the amazing photographers out there will capture some fabulous shots we can enjoy after the event!

What will traffic be like to the best viewing locations?

In a word, heavy. NASA is predicting August 21st to be one of the worst traffic days in US history. Generally speaking, we are assuming traffic in Valley County will be similar to big event weekends – think Fourth of July and Winter Carnival. Our advice? Leave a day (or two) early! Make the eclipse an extended vacation so you won’t have to battle the highway traffic to stake your prime viewing location.

One important note: don’t obsess with being directly under the center line of the totality path. To see totality, you just need to be within the 70-mile wide path. Of course, the closer you are to the center of the path, the longer totality lasts. However, as long as you ARE within the path, you can experience totality!

Can I still find lodging?

Yes! That said, lodging is filling up fast, especially in Donnelly and Cascade. McCall, while not in the totality path, still has available hotel rooms and vacation rentals. If you do book a place in McCall and you are planning to drive south to view totality, make sure you plan to leave early and give yourself plenty of time (that traffic, remember!).

What about camping?

Camping is a great option, but expect some competition. Most designated campgrounds and RV parks that accept reservations are full. That said, dispersed camping is available on a first come, first served basis.

If you are planning on camping, keep these things in mind:

  • August is peak wildfire season in Idaho. A small spark can rapidly become a large fire. Know fire risks and respect fire restrictions, such as campfire and county burn bans. Avoid parking or driving on dry grass as your vehicle can spark a wildfire. Use existing fire rings or camp stoves.
  • Cell service may not be available, so plan your route in advance and pack a map.
  • Many roads on public lands are gravel and may require a high-clearance or four-wheel drive vehicle.
  • Tread lightly and leave no trace. Leave your site better than you found it.
  • Remove all trash and remember to pack it in, pack it out!
  • Choose sites that are already established.
  • Camp at least 200 feet away from water sources.

Don’t forget the necessities!

It is August. It is hot! Be sure to bring plenty of water with you. While you are at it, pack snacks and something to sit on. Identifying the nearest restroom is also a good idea. You don’t want to be running around looking for the bathroom during the eclipse!

McCall Chamber