Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.
Category: Worth the Drive

April 8 Solar Eclipse will be a celestial celebration

If blue skies prevail on the afternoon of April 8, an avalanche of visitors from near and far will join many of Arkansas’ 3 million residents in marveling at the long-awaited total solar eclipse.

With April 8 looming, weather forecasts can provide a better sense of visibility prospects as the eclipse moves northeast at 1,700 miles an hour between 1:46 p.m. and 1:59 p.m. from Texarkana to Corning. Those are two of the 10 Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas headquarters cities in its path. The others are Mena, Arkadelphia, Ozark, Clinton, Jacksonville, Salem, Newport and Jonesboro.

“I think we have a pretty good chance of clear skies that afternoon,” says P. Clay Sherrod. The director of Arkansas Sky Observatories on Petit Jean Mountain has given presentations on eclipse planning in more than 60 communities during the past year.

Sherrod reports that Arkansas’ recent weather history for April indicates a 55% to 60% chance of clouds. But he adds that “any clouds may be scattered. And the important thing is having clear skies for the few minutes of the eclipse.”

Tourists and traffic

Arkansas towns are celebrating the eclipse in creative ways. Russellville will host a mass wedding celestial ceremony. Photo courtesy of Total Eclipse Russellville.

Estimates of visitor volume for April 8 and the previous weekend vary widely, ranging as high as an improbable 1 million or more.

To explain the enormous demand, Sherrod points out, “Solar eclipses are extremely rare. That’s why people get so excited about them. This is going to be one experience you’ll never forget, for good and for bad.”

The “bad” he foresees is based on the traffic gridlock and other problems that took place during the total eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, which passed north of Arkansas.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) has issued a 13-page traffic management plan. Unsurprisingly, it forecasts that traffic volume “will exceed capacity on many roads” during the day of the eclipse.

Because the path of darkness passes over Little Rock and other cities with commuter traffic, “what is normally a half-hour commute could take several times longer.” Where possible, ARDOT suggests that “local businesses and employees could be best served by avoiding commuting by working from home, adjusting schedules and other means.”

The report notes that “several school districts have announced closures on the day of the eclipse, allowing students to experience this rare event with their families, and also avoiding the logistical challenges of operating schools and school buses.”

Challenges aside, Sherrod says this sky show “is going to be the granddaddy of all eclipses ever to have happened over North America.” He reminds viewers of the necessity of wearing eclipse glasses to protect their eyes from possible permanent damage.

Everything under the sun

Cities have scheduled multiday events starting on the weekend of April 5-7 and building up to eclipse day. There are charges for some programs. An extensive listing is available at: Also see our Around Arkansas calendar (page 42) for a listing of events.

Hot Springs National Park is one of two national parks in the path of totality. Photo courtesy of Hot Springs National Park.

Hot Springs National Park is one of two national parks in the path of totality, inspiring four days of activities in and near the Spa City. Venues include Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, Garvan Woodland Gardens and Mid-America Museum of Science.

Twenty-five of the 52 Arkansas State Parks will experience totality. They could be among the most crowded places, though the wide-open spaces at some parks offer potential solitude for viewers who prefer secluded viewing to mingling with throngs.

Amid all this anticipation and planning, remember that should clouds intervene on April 8, you’ll have to wait 21 years for another total solar eclipse over Arkansas. That date will be Aug. 12, 2045.

Stellar streaming

For Arkansans living outside the eclipse’s totality zone, a stay-indoors alternative exists. Arkansas Sky Observatories on Petit Jean Mountain plans an April 8 livestream via YouTube of the entire eclipse path across the state from noon to 3 p.m. Visit

“Never before has an eclipse been streamed worldwide from Arkansas,” Sherrod says. “You can … watch the state’s entire eclipse path — 4 minutes of totality, plus 3 hours of partial eclipse — on your mobile device or computer.”