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The Annular Solar Eclipse is Weeks Away - Here’s What You Need to Know to Visit Respectfully

The Annular Solar Eclipse is on October 14th, 2023 - and the path is going through San Juan County. Bears Ears National Monument and the surrounding region is expected to experience a massive influx of visitors - an estimated 10-20,000 people - during the days leading up to and after the eclipse. 

With these increased levels of visitation, the county, surrounding Indigenous communities, and the landscape itself will inevitably be affected. If you plan to visit the region to experience the eclipse, it's important to be conscious of your impact on the landscape and the people and cultures who are tied to it. Here's what you need to know to be a responsible and respectful visitor: 

Visit With Respect

In Bears Ears National Monument, evidence of early people who once inhabited the vast canyons and mesa-tops is everywhere: there are more than 100,000 documented cultural sites within the national monument’s boundaries, making the region one of the most extensive archeological areas on earth. Petroglyphs, pottery sherds, cliff dwellings and structures remind visitors of not only those who walked these lands before us, but the sanctity of this region.

The region’s Tribes and Pueblos believe that Bears Ears is more than a “monument” because to them, this is considered a sacred, living landscape where the plants, soil, animals, sky, and water are all interconnected. Every part of the natural world works in a harmonious circle of life, one giving way to the next.

A sweeping view of desert landscape, with rocks and a river in the foreground and rolling mountains in the background Image courtesy of Chris Quirin

During any visit to the Bears Ears landscape, it is the responsibility of each individual to preserve these cultural sites both out of respect to the region’s Tribes and Pueblos who trace their ancestry here, and for all visitors who come next. That’s why Bears Ears Partnership developed the Visit With Respect(Se abre en una ventana nueva) campaign, educating and giving well-intentioned visitors the resources they need to visit the Bears Ears region without degrading this sacred landscape and all that it holds. 

It’s important to follow Visit With Respect’s easy-to-remember tips(Se abre en una ventana nueva) - including “View Sites from a Distance,” “Dogs and Archaeology Don’t Mix,” “Don’t Touch Rock Imagery or Make Your Own,” “Steer Clear of Walls,” and “Leave All Artifacts.” 

Here are some other friendly reminders, that align with these VWR tips: 

  • There is limited water, so don’t allow your pets - especially dogs - to venture into any body of water. 
  • Know where your pets are allowed and keep them leashed - especially dogs. It’s okay to have them in a campsite.
  • Avoid taking artifacts. 
  • Prevent yourself and others in your group from touching rock imagery or leaning against structures. It’s illegal to do so. 
  • Refrain from taking plants or unearthing them. Most are considered traditional foods and medicines, or are utilized for other cultural purposes.

Land Awareness

In addition to being aware of your individual impact on the landscape, remember that Bears Ears is the ancestral homelands of numerous Tribes and Pueblos, and bordered by the White Mesa Ute and Navajo Nation. Whether you’re out for a hike, a drive, or finding a place to camp for the night, it’s important to know where the White Mesa Ute and Navajo Nation lands boundaries are - keep an eye out for signs marking boundaries of White Mesa Ute lands and remember that the San Juan River acts as a natural boundary for Navajo Nation lands. 

You’re not allowed to disperse camp within Tribal Nation boundaries, and it’s important that what may seem like a dirt road may actually be a road leading to someone’s home and property. For information on where you can camp or disperse camp, visit Bureau of Land Management Monticello’s website. (Se abre en una ventana nueva)

Cultural Awareness

Many of the region’s Tribes and Pueblos have traditional beliefs and deep-rooted practices surrounding the eclipse. Practices differ from Tribe to Tribe, but all have sensitive and spiritual meanings pertaining to the eclipse. Some Tribes are allowed to view the eclipse, while others - like the Navajo and Ute Indian Tribes - do not look at it. This can include reflections (water, mirrors, windows) or photos. 

My grandparents taught me that during an eclipse, I should be mindful and respectful of this natural phenomenon. My siblings and I had to remain indoors, sit still, and not eat or drink during the duration of the eclipse. They emphasized it’s a time to be quiet and courteous of something that’s greater than ourselves. It goes back to traditional teachings of a passing and a renewal. Not only would it harm our eyes if we tried to look at it, but it could cause us health or spiritual issues, potentially causing an imbalance or disconnect in our lives.” - Semira Crank, Diné (Navajo)

With that in mind, please avoid posting photos of the eclipse on social media - for those forbidden from looking at the eclipse, accidentally coming across a photo can disrupt an individual’s spiritual harmony. If you do choose to post, please add a warning(Se abre en una ventana nueva) so that your Indigenous friends, acquaintances, and family can scroll past your posts and videos. 

Keep in mind that local business may be short-staffed as Indigenous owners and employees might be gone for the morning or all day, so please be patient. Ultimately, when you’re visiting during this celestial event, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the community and culture so you have a successful visit to the landscape.

A sweeping view of desert landscape Image courtesy of Chris Quirin

Conoce más

We hope that all visitors who come to the region to experience the eclipse enjoy their time on the landscape and are safe - all while remembering to Visit With Respect by being conscious of their impact not only on the landscape, but on the people and cultures who are tied to it. 

To make this possible, we ask that visitors keep in mind the information shared above, and to do your own research. Here are some starting points: