Will the Great American Eclipse Be the Biggest Travel Day in U.S. History?

Great American Eclipse is Aug. 21, 2017
Great American Eclipse is Aug. 21, 2017
Great American Eclipse is Aug. 21, 2017


Where will you be on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017? It’s the day of the Great American Eclipse and it may be the biggest travel day in United States history. The 60 to 70-mile path of totality will sweep down from Oregon to South Carolina, meaning most people wanting to be in complete darkness for the two minutes when the moon moves between the sun and Earth will need to travel to view it.

GreatAmericanEclipse.com is forecasting “considerable traffic impacts” and “estimate between 1.8 and 7.4 million people will travel to the path of totality.” All these people traveling to view this solar eclipse means congested roadways and booked accommodations.
GreatAmericanEclipse.com has used various software to determine estimates as how many and where people will be viewing this stellar event.

The Great American Eclipse is pretty special because it’s been 99 years since a solar eclipse cast from coast to coast. People will be traveling from abroad to witness the eclipse and travelers have booked hotel rooms sometimes years in advance. I even have family traveling from New York to the Charleston area to chase the solar eclipse.

HipCamp – Last Minute Camping for Eclipse Chasers
But, if you’re one of these eclipse chasers and have not booked your lodging by now, you are not totally out of luck. HipCamp.com has uncovered available camping sites waiting for you. These may be on state or federal land or perhaps a farmer’s field. Camping may be primitive to “glamp-orous” and lakeside to a treehouse. HipCamp sites begin at $25. Visit the designated Great American Eclipse HipCamp page to see a map showing the path of totality and locate a camping spot to view this solar event.

Tourists Headed West: Rocky Mountain Eclipse of 1878
Although rare in the U.S., solar eclipses happen about every year to year-and-a-half, but may happen in places not easily accessible, such as the middle of an ocean or Antarctica. I recently interviewed Dr. Steve Ruskin, Historian of Astronomy, about solar eclipses and specifically, an 1878 solar eclipse. His latest book, America’s First Great Eclipse: How Scientists, Tourists, and the Rocky Mountain Eclipse of 1878 Changed Astronomy Forever, is a fascinating journey following some of the adventurers who traveled to the Rockies. Apparently, this eclipse of 1878 was kind of a big idea, too.

“Tourists came on the railroad…tourists came all the way out west in 1878 not only to see the Rockies but to see this eclipse over the mountains,” he told me, “Even In 1878 when the only way to get to the Rockies was by train, thousands of tourists, tens of thousands probably came west. Hotels were suddenly overwhelmed to the point where one hotel owner in Colorado Springs ended up renting out all the local livery stables so he could house his guests there instead of horses.”

And that’s not the most interesting place someone could have stayed. He said in Denver after they ran out of hotel rooms, they rented billiard tables and cots in bars and restaurants for people to sleep. Wonder if you can find something like that on AirBnB?

“It was crazy back then and I think we’re probably going to see something similar although on a much bigger scale because people can just hop in their cars and drive. But I think it’s that shadow path, that 70-mile wide band that people are going to want to aim for. I think in some of those areas it will be quite crowded,” he added.

Solar Glasses 1878 Style!
Today, we have fun, funky eyewear to protect our eyes from the solar eclipse but what did they use during the Rocky Mountain Eclipse of 1878?

“They had to use smoked glass,” Dr. Ruskin said. He explained how people used “broken glass and coat it in soot from a candle flame-or an oil lamp and they would cut their fingers.” He added one woman wrote she almost burned her house down. Yikes!

In addition to tourists, astronomers traveled to the Rocky Mountain Eclipse of 1878 and like what will most likely happen with the Great American Eclipse, there were many citizen science projects.

“Astronomers couldn’t travel with support crews so they hired locals to help,” he explained, such as running, documenting through photographing, or sketching the sun during totality.

One of those astronomers who traveled was Maria Mitchell who Dr. Ruskin believes her to have “led the first female eclipse expedition in history.”

She was the U.S.’s first astronomy professor and first professional astronomer and taught at Vassar College, an all-female college in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. She and her female students traveled to the Rockies and observed the eclipse in Denver.

When Is the Next Solar Eclipse?
Now, this is not the first time I’ll see a solar eclipse, although I will have about 70 percent totality here in Southwest Florida. I remember being in elementary school and making some kind of box to watch an eclipse. It was 1979 and that one occurred in the Pacific Northwest while other parts of the U.S. could partially view it.

If you miss this one, you can catch the next solar eclipse in the United States on April 8, 2024. Dr. Ruskin said rather than running coast to coast, it will run south to north from Mexico, across Texas northward to Canada.

“People are just as amazed at the site of a solar eclipse now as they were back then,” Dr. Ruskin said.

Dr. Steve Ruskin
America’s First Great Eclipse
Website: www.firstgreateclipse.com
Purchase on Amazon. America’s First Great Eclipse: How Scientists, Tourists, and the Rocky Mountain Eclipse of 1878 Changed Astronomy Forever

Catch my interview with Dr. Steve Ruskin on WKDW 97.5 FM.

Will you be traveling for the Great American Eclipse? Are you planning now for the April 8, 2024 solar eclipse?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links in order to support this blog, my traveling habit and my special needs dog.



Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, SoloTravelGirl.com with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

2 thoughts on “Will the Great American Eclipse Be the Biggest Travel Day in U.S. History?

  1. Buffalo will be a hotspot for viewing on April 8, 2024. I believe it will occur around 10AM so brunch will be in order in the back 40!

Comments are closed.

Solo Travel Girl's 2023 Reading List
Featured Fuzzies, Gadgets & Stuff Inspiration Travel Resources

Solo Travel Girl’s Reading List to Enrich My Life in 2023

Cheers to another new year. Here’s Solo Travel Girl’s reading list to enrich my life in 2023. These books will help enrich my mind, body, and soul and lead me to a more meaningful life.

Continue Reading
Hurricane Ian Memorial Wall, Ft. Myers, Fla., Oct. 16, 2022
Featured Florida Fun Life Lessons Travel Resources

Traveling to Developing Countries Prepared me for Post-Hurricane Living

More than two months ago, Hurricane Ian ripped through Florida and I’m finding my new normal. I’ve realized how much traveling to developing nations prepared me for post-hurricane living. Here’s how.

Continue Reading
Photograph by Outdoor Afro from Nature Swagger by Rue Mapp, published by Chronicle Books.
Adventure Featured Inspiration Nature Travel

New Outdoor Book “Nature Swagger” Celebrates Black Joy

“Nature Swagger: Stories and Visions of Black Joy in the Outdoors.” is a book by Outdoor Afro CEO and Founder Rue Mapp.

Continue Reading