Step into the heart of eastern Oregon, where the night sky unveils a spectacle so mesmerizing that it’s officially been crowned the world’s largest International Dark Sky Sanctuary.
Imagine a canvas stretching over 2.5 million acres in Lake County, twinkling with stars, a wilderness so vast it’s just the beginning of a dream to shield 11.4 million acres from the ever-encroaching glow of artificial light.

Dubbed the Oregon Outback International Dark Sky Sanctuary, this celestial haven, roughly the size of half of New Jersey, is a testament to the wonders that unfold when we embrace the darkness of the night sky. Here, the vast expanse of the Oregon Outback, known for its high desert charm, hot springs, volcanic monuments, epic rockhounding, and sagebrush seas, becomes a portal to the cosmos.

Oregon Outback becomes the largest International Dark Sky Sanctuary
The Oregon Outback Dark Sky Network (ODSN) has completed the first phase of a multi-phased project to establish a landscape-level International Dark Sky Sanctuary within the largest, contiguous dark sky zone in the lower 48 United States. Phase 1 (Lake County) of the proposed Oregon Outback International Dark Sky Sanctuary (OOIDSS) was certified as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary by DarkSky International, making it the largest International Dark Sky Sanctuary to date.

Phase 1 comprises 2.5 million acres in Lake County, southeastern Oregon. The certified area is about one-half the size of New Jersey in a region frequently referred to as the “Oregon Outback.” This novel nomination involved numerous federal, state, and local officials negotiating project boundaries and developing and endorsing a joint Lighting Management Plan (LMP). This effort required broad stakeholder engagement and is a model of collaboration and cooperation. When complete, the full OOIDSS will encompass over 11.4 million acres of protected night skies.

According to the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute (2016), the Outback is located within the largest, contiguous, pristine dark sky zone in the lower 48 United States, and this certification helps to protect a large portion of that zone. Of special note, within the Lake County portion of the OOIDSS are the unincorporated communities of Adel, Plush, and Summer Lake, the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, a portion of the Fremont-Winema National Forest, nearly 1.7 million acres of land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), including several areas designated as Wilderness Study Areas and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Summer Lake Wildlife Area, nearly 80,000 acres of state-owned rangeland, and the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway.


Image courtesy Gary Weathers Photography

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