Stargazers prepare! Stargazing in Gros Morne National Park in western Newfoundland is one of the best places for observing a dark sky. Thanks to its remoteness and wild mountains, forests, and lakes, the park enables us to enjoy stargazing at its finest.
After our road trip through the Maritimes, we ventured over to Newfoundland and Labrador by ferry, precisely to marvel at the beauty of Gros Morne National Park!
Luck would have it that during our time near The Tablelands, Parks Canada was hosting, for the first time, a stargazing event at Trout River.
Parks Canada hopes to turn this event into an annual festivity for locals and tourists alike. What’s more, they are hoping to turn Gros Morne National Park into a Dark Sky Preserve.
So if you wish to stargaze in Newfoundland, here’s why the Gros Morne National Park is the perfect spot!
Stargazing in Newfoundland and Labrador
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Newfoundland and Labrador, being the most easterly province and having a population density of just 1.4 people per square km, is an exceptionally ideal place to stargaze.
While there are a couple of places to stargaze, one, in particular, is in the Gros Morne National Park.
Why Stargaze in Gros Morne National Park?
The Gros Morne National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site affording its spectators’ incredible beauty.
Soaring fjords and moody mountains tower above a diverse panorama of beaches and bogs, forests and barren cliffs.
Shaped by colliding continents and grinding glaciers…
Indeed, Gros Morne offers outdoor enthusiasts everything imaginable. Grueling hiking adventures, kayaking, boating, wildlife viewing, and of course, stargazing.
The park is a massive wilderness area, and that means there’s little to absolute zero light pollution.
Light pollution clouds cities and larger towns, and quite literally, puts a wall between us earthlings and the infinite universe above.
While Gros Morne does have its fair share of small towns, they’re hardly able to affect a dark sky.
A dark sky is a perfect opportunity to see a full sky of stars. The Milky Way is even vastly visible to the naked eye under the right conditions.
A Dark Sky Preserve VS Stargazing
So what’s the difference between a Dark Sky Preserve and stargazing?
Dark Sky Preserves are designated dark sky places (by a designating body such as the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada). Their purpose is multifold: protect natural dark skies for wildlife and plant species; reduce harmful light pollution; to promote astronomy and share the love and curiosity of our planet and beyond.
For a location to be classed a Dark Sky Preserve, it must first satisfy a rigorous number of standards and protocols.
Stargazing can be done from anywhere, technically speaking, but it’s best when the night sky is clear and more importantly, dark.
Stargazing usually is practiced by astronomy enthusiasts who monitor and observe celestial occurrences and study far-off planets. While stargazing can be done with the naked eye, a stargazing chart or map and a set of tools such as a red laser and binoculars are used. Advanced stargazers or astronomists will have telescopes.
Stargazing with Parks Canada at Small-Town Trout River
So where should you go to stargaze in Gros Morne National Park? The Western Brook Fjord Pond and The Tablelands are great areas where you can enjoy an unhampered dark sky free from urban noise and light pollution.
However, if you venture to the very west of the park to small-town Trout River, you’ll have splendid views of the Milky Way from the lakefront park!
Trout River is a small community surrounded by picturesque mountain and lake views. Perhaps which is why Parks Canada chose this location to host their first annual stargazing event!
We met that night at 7 sharp on the flat lawn in front of the lake; far from any residential lights.
The event flyer, which we discovered earlier that day while shopping in Corner Brook, read:
Come enjoy an evening of star-gazing with Parks Canada and Dr. Svetlana Barkanova of Grenfell Campus — learn about the night sky & the stars, their legends and how life depends on darkness. Bring your own blanket!
The evening started off with some explications from Dr. Barkanova about what to expect, what we will see, and some rules. One thing I didn’t know before this event was that ”white light” (such as from our cell phones, street lamps, or car lights) ruins night vision. And that’s why red lasers are used instead.
We were given star charts to pinpoint out the stars and constellations above. Parks Canada provided hot chocolate for everyone, and Parks Canada entertained us with an interactive legend above the seven sisters in the sky. Those who volunteered to play the part danced around in a small skit.
We were able to pinpoint out Jupiter and Saturn, and even get a “close” look at Saturn’s rings through the enormous telescope on hand.
What to Bring & Wear for Stargazing in Gros Morne National Park
There are a few items that can make your stargazing experience more delightful. For one, as the flyer stated, bring a blanket!
- Red lasers or red flashlights
- Star chart or cheat sheet
- A warm coat
- Scarf, hat, or gloves
- Tripod and camera for night photography
- Foot/hand warmers
Other Locations in Newfoundland to Stargaze
Stargazing will be fantastic wherever there are dark, clear skies and no light pollution.
Considering that Newfoundland and Labrador are wildly remote with most people living in the capital city of St. John’s, there are plenty of places to stargaze.
Here are some recommendations of places to stargaze in Newfoundland and Labrador:
- Terra Nova National Park (Newfoundland’s first Dark Sky Preserve)
- The Torngat Mountains on mainland Labrador
- Boutte du Cap, Saint George (Port au Port Peninsula)
- L’Anse aux Meadows
- Stargazing in Gros Morne National Park
- Fogo Island
Have you ever been stargazing? If so, where and when? As for me, I can’t wait to visit more Dark Sky Preserves around the world!