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Autumn Overnight at Dakota Nights Festival

TRNP’s Annual Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival!

…Final BCA Outing of the Warm Season!!!  Not to be Missed!
Friday evening til Sunday, September 23 to 25, 2016

We’ve all looked at the stars.

But there’s something to be said for standing in a Badlands field with friends and with strangers, gazing outward into the Universe.  Whether finite or infinite, it is mind-bending.  Mere specks on a small blue planet, we have much to learn.

Combine official Dakota Nights Festival events with BCA hikes and time with friends.  After dark gatherings at Peaceful Valley Ranch offer a field of top-grade telescopes – a first time experience you won’t want to miss and an annual pilgrimage for those who’ve been before.  Daytime hikes promise to be autumn glorious.

Highlights of the weekend:

Dr. Tyler Nordgren presenting "Come for the Stars, Stay for the Sun"

Friday, September 23, 7 pm MT at the South Unit’s Cottonwood Campground Amphitheater

Dr. Tyler Nordgren, professor of physics and astronomy at California’s University of Redlands, artist, photographer, astronomer, and night sky ambassador.  For more info on Nordgren who promises to be an inspiring speaker see:

Peaceful Valley Stargazing

Friday at 8 pm MT following Nordgren’s presentation.

Be sure to bring warm clothing suitable for what could be a very cool evening.  Join park visitors in a field of telescope stations lit only by the stars and a myriad of small red lights to protect night vision – it’s a magical setting and a wow moment with the Universe.

Boicourt to Jones Creek Hike

Saturday, September 24, 9:30 am MT

Meet at the Cottonwood Picnic Area parking lot.  We will carpool to the Boicourt Trail and descend into the broad valley, going off trail until we pick up the Lower Talkington.  Our exit will be via Jones Creek where we will have cached a couple vehicles for return to Boicourt, a short distance along the scenic road.  It is an estimated 4.5 mile loop hike and will include moderate to rough terrain.  

This hike is for those that have admired the panoramic view south from Boicourt Overlook with a desire to get a closer more intimate look.  Should be a blast - but good hiking boots are REQUIRED and walking sticks may be necessary for some on the steeper portions.

Be sure to bring adequate food and water.  Estimated time on the trail is 4-5 hours depending on our group’s speed, curiosity and chatter.

Dr. Joe Shaw presenting “Optics in the Air”

Saturday, 3:30 pm MT at the ND Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora

The natural world offers all sorts of fascinating optical phenomena. Dr. Joe Shaw, director of the Optical Technology Center at Montana State University in Missoula, reveals the science behind sky colors, rainbows, halos, auroras, and more. Learn where, when and how to see these beautiful displays.  For Dr. Shaw’s bio see:

Dr. Joe Shaw presenting "Chasing the Midlatitude Aurora"

Saturday, 7 pm MT, Cottonwood Amphitheater

Dr. Shaw focuses on the Aurora Borealis commonly called Northern Lights.  Most BCA-ers know Northern Lights so bring your questions and stories!

Peaceful Valley Stargazing

Saturday at 8 pm MT following Shaw’s presentation.

Once is never enough so…

Be sure to bring warm clothing suitable for what could be a very cool evening.  Join fellow park visitors in a field of telescope stations lit only by the stars and a myriad of small red lights – it’s a magical setting and a wow moment with the Universe.

Rim Trail Hike

Sunday, September 25, 9:30 am MT

We will again meet at the Cottonwood Picnic Area parking lot.  You will likely want to decamp prior to the hike.  Depending on your plans after the hike, we will drop off a few cars in town or at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center as parking at the trailhead is limited.

This hike will approach the Park from a locked gate along its eastern boundary.  Be prepared for a low scramble to get under the fence.

Our intent is twofold.  First, to enjoy a spectacular view of the terrain more commonly seen from the west atop Buck Hill, and secondly, to face the reality of just how close the proposed Davis Refinery is to our treasured National Park.

An estimated 4 mile round trip, we will hike as far as the Southeast Corner Spring.  For those staying strictly on trail, it’s easy hiking with little elevation change.  As good BCA-ers, we will allow for side-trip explores as the group desires.  3.5 hours has been allotted for the round trip so that folks may head home, back to Medora for additional Park events or into the wild on your own for one last weekend adventure.

Things to Note:

  • We’re flexible; join BCA as your wants, needs and schedule allow.
  • BCA outings promise new experience, new ideas and renewed friendship with much to learn and share with each other.
  • We are each responsible for our own meals and accommodations, whether camping or lodging.  Camp sites may be easier to claim with the cooler temps of late September, but reservations may also be made through  (reserve-able South loop sites are currently very open; reserve-able North loop RV compatible sites are going fast.)
  • Bring outdoor gear suitable to a range of temps and conditions.  Don’t forget your binocs, camera, water bottle and walking sticks if you use them.  Hiking boots are a MUST unless you are a bighorn sheep.
  • Further official TRNP info for Dakota Nights Festival may be found at

Please, RSVP to or 701-255-4958 so we don’t hit the trail without you! Thanks.

Later Event: October 23
BCA 2016 Annual Meeting