Bill Sniffin: Eclipse Is When The Heavens Endow Us With A Magnificent Show

Columnist Bill Sniffin writes, “We did see the eclipse Saturday from the Green River, from the Pilot Butte Historical Site, and from the Merc in Farson. Wyomingites had a great view of the event.”

Bill Sniffin

October 15, 20235 min read

Nancy sniffin 10 14 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

BEAVER, UTAH - To a great many people, myself included, experiencing an eclipse is a religious experience.

This is God showing off.

He is demonstrating His intelligent design of the universe by putting together an impossible show. How is it possible to have one moon and one sun that just happen to look to be the same size and every so often, they block each other out creating a miraculous viewing experience? Yeah, it is showing off. This could not be a natural occurrence.

Several million folks from Oregon to Texas enjoyed such a “ring of fire” eclipse Saturday, and we were going to be part of it.

Beaver, Utah, Was Epicenter

We had been in Las Vegas and were headed back to Lander. On Saturday we could join a few hundred thousand others around Beaver, Utah, right there on Interstate 15. We would stop somewhere or pull over and let those magical light rays descend upon us. It was going to be great. Except it wasn’t.

My wife Nancy had a health scare and although she is better now, she was not out of the woods as we headed north. I could not put ourselves in a position that if something bad happened, how could we handle it out there in the middle of nowhere in that big traffic jam?

So we went through the area the day before. Lots of folks already gathered.

Farson View Was Amazing

We did see the eclipse Saturday from the Green River, from the Pilot Butte Historical Site, and from the Merc in Farson. As it turned out, Wyomingites had a great view of the event although they were 400 miles from Beaver.

Folks who love eclipses are known as umbraphiles. The eclipse they love the most is the total eclipse. There is one of those coming up April 8, 2024, in Dallas, Texas. We are hoping to be there.

A total eclipse brought so many people to Wyoming back in August, 2017. I estimated a million people visited the Cowboy State to enjoy it. They were not disappointed.

Another kind is the annular “ring of fire” eclipse, which is what happened Saturday. Because the moon’s orbit in not circular, at times, the moon is farther away and thus does not totally block the sun, creating a ring of fire.

Back in 2017, here is what happened in Wyoming.

The Cowboy State offered up a perfect Bluebird Day, with perfect skies and a golden sun that disappeared into blackness for up to 140 seconds. Despite fears of clouds, rainstorms and inclement weather, the day was just unparalleled. 

Folks in most parts of the state, but especially Alta, Jackson, Pinedale, Dubois, Riverton, Lander, Shoshoni, Casper, Douglas, Wheatland, Lusk, and Torrington, got fantastic views.

  • Eclipse 10 15 23
    (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • Eclipse sign 10 14 23
    (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • Eclipse 3 10 14 23
    (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • Beaver UT Main Street closed day before the eclipse
    (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • Eclipse 2 10 14 23
    (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • Eclipse 1 10 14 23
    (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

2017 Eclipse In Wyoming Was Amazing

State officials had been preparing for this eclipse for two years and there were fears that the state could not handle the crowds. These fears were mostly unrealized except until after the event, when all those cars, trucks, and RVs clogged the highways, as folks headed home.

Pat Schmidt reported traffic was 10 mph from Wheatland to Cheyenne. He saw lots of vehicles with extra gas cans strapped to the roofs.

It was bumper-to-bumper south of Riverton and southeast out of Lander for eight miles after the eclipse.

On the day before Eclipse Day, the Wyoming Dept. of Transportation (WYDOT) estimated an additional 217,000 vehicles on Wyoming roads over normal numbers. That number was doubled on the big day, so it could add up to 1 million people.

And it was not just tourists or eclipse aficionados who came to Wyoming. It was also family and friends wanting to come home to experience this totally unique event.

Tourists Came From All Over

Our house was typical. We had 15 extra family members here from California and Colorado. Our experience was duplicated all-across the state.

Oddball events were supposed to happen during times like these. But as best as we can tell, members of a suicide cult did not slay themselves in Jackson Hole nor was there a camel sacrificed in the Red Desert outside of Lander. Alas, for the sake of the cultists and one poor camel, they were just rumors. Not sure how many babies were conceived during the totality.

It is also assumed that at least some Arapaho Indian men shot arrows at the eclipse in commemoration of that famous eclipse of 1878. That was when real braves reportedly did shoot arrows at the moon because some sinister force was blocking out their sun.

Google featured Dubois in its Mega-Movie on the eclipse, using more than 1,000 photographers across the country.

However, in Dubois, Sheriffs officers were called because someone heard a ticking sound coming from a backpack that one of the photographers had left behind. Inside was a camera that had its motor running, sounding like a bomb.

Lander enjoyed a 67-second eclipse. We journeyed to my sister’s house in Riverton, where the totality occurred for twice as long. 

During the eclipse, we saw crescent shaped shadows and eerie bright and dark spots during the long periods leading up to and immediately after the totality. The totality was a total unique experience.

Paula Wannacott and Fred Pickett of Rock Springs got married in a Riverton back yard during the eclipse as did Lander’s Dave Kellogg’s oldest daughter Julia, who got hitched in Alta.

Then-Gov. Matt Mead reported at 4:45 a.m. on eclipse day that traffic on Interstate 25 past the governor’s mansion looked bumper-to-bumper, based on the headlights.

Wyoming put out the red carpet and was rewarded with perfect weather and perfect skies for a once-in-a-lifetime event. Next one is in about 50 years.

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.