Conservation Department invites people to watch eclipse in nature

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Department of Conservation is encouraging eclipse viewers to visit the state’s conservation areas Aug. 21 to get “an escape from crowded cities and light pollution,” according to a news release.

The department’s website says there are nearly 1,000 conservation areas across Missouri, and 54 of them lie in the solar eclipse’s primary path.

The media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation, Robert Hemmelgarn, said all areas are free and open to the public. 

“They offer a great opportunity for Missourians to get out and enjoy, experience the eclipse in a more wild environment than you can get in town,”  he said.

Hemmelgarn said people would have a rare chance to see how wildlife reacts to eclipse. 

“For a lot of animals, some bird species, for instance, when it gets dark outside, that’s a cue to them that the day, it’s over and it’s time to go back to roost,” he said. “There may be interesting things to watch in wildlife to see how they react to this nighttime in the middle of a day for a couple of minutes.”

Hemmelgarn said, when it comes to preparing for the once-in-a-lifetime experience, there’s still a sense of mystery.

“The last total eclipse to occur in the state of Missouri was in 1869,” he said. “So there’s still a lot of things that we don’t know. We’re not exactly sure what to expect with this eclipse. It’s been a long time since we’ve had one here.” 

The department says some conservation areas may require visitors to obtain special-use permits for group camping.