The world’s largest ‘dark sky sanctuary’ is now in this US state

The Oregon Outback has been certified as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary, making it the largest of its kind in the world. 

The 2.5 million acres of sanctuary in Lake County of southeastern Oregon is sparsely populated, very remote and primarily comprises public lands.

The area of land about one-half the size of New Jersey is now committed to starry night protection for the benefit of visitors, residents and wildlife. 

Government, advocate and tourism officials with the Oregon Outback Dark Sky Network are still working to expand the protected area, which will encompass over 11.4 million acres when complete. 

An International Dark Sky Sanctuary designation means the area is among the most remote and often darkest places in the world whose conservation state is most fragile.


Night Sky – Standing in Awe at Warner Valley Overlook in Southern Oregon. Photo credit: Joey Hamilton/Travel Oregon

The so-called "Oregon Outback" is a desert area with varied topography that is home to an array of wildlife including American pronghorn, bighorn sheep, sage grouse, white-tailed jackrabbits, and migratory birds navigating the Pacific Flyway.

Light pollution can disrupt wildlife, one of many documented side effects, according to DarkSky International, a U.S.-based nonprofit that aims to reduce light pollution.

Other dark sky sanctuaries in the United States include: 

  • Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (More than 1 million acres in Minnesota)
  • Black Gap Wildlife Management Area (103,000 acres in Texas)
  • Massacre Rim Wilderness Study Area (101,000 acres in Nevada)
  • Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (87,500 acres in Maine)
  • Devils River State Natural Area (About 20,000 acres in Texas)
  • Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge (9,225 acres in Montana)
  • Medicine Rocks State Park (345 acres in Montana)
  • Rainbow Bridge National Monument (160 acres in Utah)
  • Cosmic Campground (3.5 acres in New Mexico)

Other countries that have sanctuary designations include: South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Wales and the South Pacific islands of Niue and Pitcairn.

This story was reported from Detroit.