JACKSON — Officials in Wyoming’s Teton County are already setting up management plans to prepare for a crush of 40,000 tourists, including people camping illegally, who are expected to swarm Jackson Hole next summer to see a total solar eclipse.
Jackson Hole lies in the path of the first total solar eclipse that will be viewable from the mainland U.S. in nearly four decades. The eclipse will occur Aug. 21, 2017, and will be visible from 12 U.S. states.
The last total eclipse over the U.S. happened on Feb. 26, 1979, and was visible from parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and North Dakota.
Next year’s eclipse will happen during the busy summer tourist season in Jackson Hole, which borders Grand Teton National Park and is a gateway to neighboring Yellowstone National Park.
“Illegal camping is going to be a huge issue with this,” Teton County Emergency Management Coordinator Rich Ochs told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
He added: “Hotels are already full, the ones that book this far out. People are coming here because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event. Not getting a hotel room is not going to stop them. So we’re going to have issues — a lot of nuisance issues.”
While Teton County isn’t promoting the event like some other Wyoming cities, local officials know how attractive Jackson Hole during the summer even without an international event.
“It’s like running advertisements for a time when you’re going to completely sell out,” Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jeff Golightly said. “We’ve heard of hotels that sold out two years ago. There will be no bargains at that time.”
In contrast, officials in Casper are promoting it as “the best place to view the 2017 total solar eclipse.”
Ochs said communities in and around Jackson Hole are already reserving anticipated extra needs, like portable toilets.
“We already realized when we’re looking at getting resources for this event, we really can’t look to our mutual aid partners to the east and the west because they’re having the same issue we are,” Ochs said. “We’ve got to look north and south.”
Grocery stores have also been advised to stock up on bottled water and gas stations alerted to keep their tanks full.