With one of the lower bortle ratings in the state park systems and especially that of phase 1, Colorado bend state park proved one of our more successful observing nights. The camping area is located in a small valley flanked by hills. Despite the terrain visibility is 15-20 degrees above the horizon. We stayed in a tree-lined section of the upper mesa. The assigned site was not one we could park next to but from car to camp was no more than 40 yards. Our camp area was separated from the parking area by a narrow pathway and field area. Finding a level space on the field directly across from our tent, we set up our scopes and gear.
This park is on the outer perimeter of our phase 1 range but well worth the travel. Its remote location and distance from any major towns or cities prove ideal for dark sky observing. the environment may change a bit as the weather warms up and foliage starts to fill out the trees and bushes. meaning, this is a park best left for visiting during the winter months when observing astronomically. As the camp facilities are in the basin of the valley be prepared for strong winds. we experienced these after 2 a.m. but had prepared for the weather by covering and staking down our scopes and securing our gear. As it was January we experienced little to no humidity though this will most likely also change with warmer weather due to the proximity to the river.
sites are $13-15 per night with a $5 day use fee and are assigned on a first come first serve basis. This is one of the smaller parks with regards to the number of available sites, however, it has proven to have the most site options for astronomical observing. We were situated in Site #28 and of the sites we visited, all but a few suggested for use. Sites #1,2,3,4,6,12,14 and 16 are all located in the southeast riverside portion of the camp area and would be good for short term stays as well as longer term arrangements and groups. Sites #21 and 22 are North of the first group and are also situated along the river bank and suggested as camping options. Please note that this first group of sites are walk in options only. Parking is up on the mesa and pathways are designated for passage down to the riverside. These are advised for astronomers with light weight scopes or the means for cart transportation.
On the upper portion of the camping area we have the drive up sites #39-46. Sites #27 and #28 require a short walking distance on relatively level ground.
this is a more rugged park with regards to camping as there are no formal bathroom or shower facilities. Toilets are compost only and rinse-off showers are all that are provided. Potable water is in the vicinity of all campsites and if you have any need for electricity you must tote in your own power.
Despite the need to be more self sufficient, I cannot suggest this park more with regards to observing the night sky. There are no formal astronomy programs at this time however, there is an AMPHITHEATER that can be used for ad hoc programs and is available on a first come first serve basis.
Group Site #29
Our scope and equipment set up across the path from our campsite, #28.