NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Thousands of people from across the United States gathered for “Eclipse Mania 2017” on Aug. 21, to catch a glimpse of the total solar eclipse from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mid-state area lakes and rivers. Visitors from around the country viewed the eclipse at campgrounds, day use areas, along lake shorelines and watched from boats.
The Corps welcome mat was offered, the campgrounds were opened, and there was plenty of space at viewing areas designated at Lake Barkley in Kentucky, and Cheatham Lake, Old Hickory Lake, J. Percy Priest Lake, Cordell Hull Lake, Dale Hollow Lake and Center Hill Lake in Tennessee.
Each area was well within the path of totality as the moon passed in front of the sun as it swept across Kentucky and Tennessee between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Clarksville, Tennessee, and Hopkinsville, Kentucky, lie along the direct path of totality for the rare, total solar eclipse.
Tammy Barham and Perry Rautmann from Dyersburg, Tenn., planned a short vacation, goggled the best location and they landed at Lake Barkley Dam.
“This is a perfect place for us to photograph and see the eclipse,” said Barham. “It’s not too crowded, the viewing area is wide open and the backdrop of the dam is beautiful.”
Vlad Kovalevsky and three friends from Canada arrived Sunday night, picked a prime spot at the Tailwater Right Bank Day Use Area and returned early Monday morning to view, photograph and video the eclipse.
“This is great, just great,” said Kovalevsky. “We have planned this trip for months and are happy to be here for this historic event.”
Kovalevsky said his group consisting of his wife, and two friends had initially planned to make the trip to Hopkinsville, Kentucky but realized the hotels were sold out. He searched the internet for best free viewing area and found the Barkley location.
Mike Looney, Lake Barkley’s resource manager said park rangers were set up along viewing routes to assist motorists with directions and parking.
Looney said they counted cars, pickup trucks, minivans, motorcycles and RV’s with license plates from Canada to California and Pennsylvania to Washington State, all loaded with families and friends hoping to catch a glimpse of a once in a lifetime event.
“It’s always great to see visitors from far-away places and it’s exciting to have them come visit during the eclipse,” said Looney.
“We just headed this way, kept watching the weather and we ended up here,” said Darlene Burnett who drove in from Pennsylvania with her husband, son, daughter and mother. Their trip initially called for a visit to grandma’s house in Ohio but thought it would be cool to make a detour, and make the trip to Kentucky.
As the moment of totality arrived, the sky began to dim. “I don’t want to open my eyes, I’m scared,” said Mary Smith from nearby Grand Rivers, Kentucky. Her, her husband Kim, and son Jeffrey walked on the sidewalk along the Cumberland River near the dam bursting with excitement.
“This almost kind of scary! It’s beginning, now it’s happening!” she said as the sun began to disappear behind the moon.
“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced with my parents,” Jeffrey said.
All around the tailwater area, cheers erupted as hundreds of eclipse watchers sat, stunned by the complete darkness that suddenly surrounded them.
Somewhere in the distance fireworks sounded. Shots of celebration as the solar eclipse reached totality.
Tommy Mason, resource manager at the Old Hickory Lake said thousands gathered at recreation areas, campgrounds and day use areas to witness the historical eclipse.
“Our campgrounds were full and the people kept coming,” said Mason. “This was a great event for all of us to see.”
Mason said although the day was busy with planning, looking out for public safety, there were no incidents reported and everyone seemed excited to be in a safe place and actually see what an eclipse looked like.
“This was so cool, that so many people from so many places, all came and experienced the same thing together,” said Sherman Taylor from Tyler, Texas. “I’ve now experienced an eclipse. I expected it to be kind of like what I saw in pictures, but it was more incredible to see it in person.”
If you weren't able to see the eclipse of 2017, don't worry. You won't have to wait an entire century until the next one -- just seven years. Another total solar eclipse will be visible and viewable in the United States on April 8, 2024.
Traveling a different path from the 2017 eclipse, the total eclipse will be visible in Mexico, the central US and east Canada, with a partial eclipse visible across North and Central America.
“I’m glad we had the opportunity to see this eclipse,” said Vernon Moore from Portland, Tenn. He and his wife Cindy rode their motorcycle to the Old Hickory Lake to watch with friends.
Although Monday's eclipse was peaking over two minutes in the path of totality, the 2024 eclipse will have peaks of 4½ minutes. In the United States, it will be visible in a diagonal path crossing from Texas to Maine, according to NASA.
In 2024, cities like Austin, Texas; Dallas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Indianapolis; Toledo, Cleveland and Akron, Ohio; Buffalo and Rochester, New York; Montpelier, Vermont; and Montreal will all be directly in the path of totality.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at
http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.) or www.lrn.usace.army.mil/eclipse.