Saguaro Astronomy Club

2013 Grand Canyon Star Party
North Rim

June 8 - 15

All volunteer slots for this year's event are filled.

GCSP Future Dates
June 21-28, 2014 June 9-16, 2018
June 13-20, 2015 June 22-29, 2019
June 4-11, 2016 June 13-20, 2020
June 17-24, 2017  

Ranger observing the Sun-Safely

Each year, for one week, the National Park Service allows a group of amateur astronomers to set up their telescopes for the enjoyment of the visitors. The astronomers stay up far into the night, as long as there are people there and objects to see, just to show the general public the splendor of the night sky. Since 1991, there has been a public star party at the South Rim, and since 1994 one at the North Rim as well. These events were coordinated to coincide with each other, the dark of the Moon and the busiest time of year for the public. Sponsored by the Tucson Amateur Astronomers Association, the South Rim has been a huge success with the public and the park personnel. The North Rim event is now sponsored by the Saguaro Astronomy Club and promises to be just as successful.

Be careful out there!

My name is Steve Dodder. My wife Rosie and I will be your hosts for a delightful time under the stars. You'll find volunteer and visitor details below, and questions can be answered by emailing me directly at

What Visitors Should Expect

This star party is for the visitors to the park and is included with the price of admission. If you happen to be at Grand Canyon while the party is in progress, you're invited to join us! We present an astronomy-related slide presentation in the auditorium, adjacent to the front desk. After that, you're free to have dinner, return to your cabin for warm clothes, or just hang out and admire the canyon, whatever you wish. As it gets dark, we will begin looking for any bright planets that may be in the sky at the time. Once it gets dark, around 9:00 pm, we'll start showing double stars, star clusters, dying stars, galaxies and maybe a supernova or two! We'll stay as long as it isn't cloudy and there are interested visitors.

SAolar viewing-eastward

There is a tool we use to locate objects in the sky. It is a green laser, and has proven invaluable for pointing out constellations and where our scope is pointed. Please, do not ask us where to get one. Due to the abuse of some, (flashing airplanes and even police helicopters), there is a movement afoot to regulate them and restrict their use. The National Park Service would rather limit their use to our volunteers to prevent friction. No offense to you, it's just safer that way.

The astronomers are volunteers and are not to be compensated by visitors. The Grand Canyon Star Party North Rim t-shirts are provided to identify our volunteers and are not for sale to the general public.

Rosie and me on the veranda

For visitors that have never been to a star party before, there are certain matters of ettiquete to be followed. In a public setting, they can be somewhat relaxed, but the closer they are followed, the better the experience for everyone.

First, the telescopes you'll see are the property of the individual astronomer. They are fairly sensitive to rough handling, so we'd appreciate it if they were treated with care. The eyepiece is not a handle or support for you. If you can't see anything through it or it appears fuzzy, ask for assistance.

Second, please do not use a white-light flashlight or your cell phone on the veranda. Bright light deprives the eye of its ability to adapt to the dark. Once you leave the lodge, just wait a few moments and you'll be able to see. If you have a red flashlight, or can cover your white one with a red cover, that should be fine.

Why Volunteer?


This star party is intended for the public. We are there to show them what it means to observe under a dark sky and hopefully inspire them to get involved in restoring or preserving our night time for future generations. If you want to observe from this site and not share with the public, you are free to do so at any time. Just don't expect to do it while this party is under way. This one's for the visitors, with the incentive being a free camp site for a week, really showing someone what a dark sky can show, or just for the "Wow's". If you enjoy volunteering at your local school or science museum or planetarium, this is a solid week with that kind of reward.


The veranda

Volunteering for this particular public star party has many rewards. First, it is held at arguably one of the most beautiful spots on the face of this Earth. Second, meeting the variety of people from all over the world is wonderful to experience. Third, showing someone the night sky for the first time is tremendously rewarding for you and enriching for them. I guarantee, if they don't remember your name, they will remember the view! Fourth if it's true what I tell people, that amateur astronomers are "paid" by the "wow", I get very rich every year. Fifth, if you enjoy making someone smile, this is your party. Even in the dark, you can see them.


The veranda


Star Party Parameters & Reservation Guidelines

There are some changes in the way admission to the park and setup permissions will happen this year. Basically, the fee waiver is eliminated and replaced by the Volunteer Agreement form. Specifics will be included when you volunteer.

This star party is organized with the satisfaction of the general public foremost in mind. Second in mind is the National Park Service and the North Rim Lodge. Last is the volunteer. We are here for the visitors, not for ourselves.

The largest limiting factor of this event is the amount of space on the veranda that is available for telescopes. We want as many as we can get, without overcrowding the visitors or restricting the movement of the scopes. The number of scopes I came up with is about 12, depending on the sizes of scopes supplied. Any more than this can create friction between astronomers, lodge personnel, rangers, volunteers and right on up to the visitors themselves. We could fit a couple smaller scopes, like a refractor or two, but big Dobs are generally at a limit. (I hate to call it a "limit", but in reality, that's what it has to be, not by my choice, but by the space available on the veranda.) There is a site under study for limited expansion if needed, (see below), but any expansion must take place through the coordinator and not any other individual, club or group. The minimum number of scopes needed for this event appears to be about 6. There will be lines, but it's still manageable.

The next factor is lodging. There are a limited number of campsites available-83 total at the North Rim as compared to over 320 at the South Rim. Cabins are available when you make your own arrangements. To keep things balanced, I need your help.

If you plan to make your own lodging arrangements, I need to know as soon as possible so I can schedule you to make sure we have the entire week covered. In 2008, we came up a bit short on the final night-we only had 3 scopes and a couple pairs of binoculars. If you'd like to volunteer for only 2 or 3 days, you must contact me before you make reservations. I can then balance the schedule to cover the week. If you're making your own arrangements and wish to attend for the entire week, (or at least 6 of the 8 nights), I need to know that, too. Volunteers staying in the campground have priority regarding setup because it's easier to communicate with them. Once you're approved, please inform me of your cabin number so I can get in touch with you if I need to.

To be eligible for this event as a volunteer, you must agree to set up at least 6 of 8 nights we are there, (if staying the week, regardless of lodging). If you arrange your own lodging, I ask that you contact me before doing so, so I can assure we have enough volunteers for each night, and an even mix between week-longers and short stayers.  Or, campers and self-lodgers if you like.  If you reserve a camp site or cabin for the week, and have to cancel after May, you'll have to wait a year to be considered again. It just leaves us in a bind for volunteers, and when there's a limited amount of space available, one absence can have a big impact.

So, here's what I'd like to happen. Volunteers making their own lodging arrangements will contact me first, between August 1, 2012 and December 31st, 2012. I'll accept as many as I can schedule to provide 6 telescopes on the veranda for each night of the week, regardless of length of stay. I really need to hear from you before you make reservations. I can't stress that enough. People with presentations for the evening program may take precedence.

Beginning January 1st, I'll take reservations for the free camping sites, again, until I have another maximum of 6 telescopes on the veranda for the entire week. The number of campsites reserved will depend on the number of scopes available, not number of volunteers. (Say you have 3 people in your party-yourself, your spouse and one child. You operate a scope and so does your spouse, but the child does not.  That's one camp site and two scopes. See?)

In 2012, we held an experiment that placed telescopes on the trailhead of Bright Angel Point, also very close to the rim. I'd like to do that again for 2013 with a couple of changes. Security will be increased, allowing telescopes to remain set up for the duration. Some of the lighting issues will be addressed, too. The main difference will be, I'd like to get some volunteers specifically for this location. Two or three telescopes per night seems to work well. The reservation rules still apply as above. Self-lodgers interlaced with free campers.

This arrangement gives me some flexibility in reserving campsites from the Park Service, and lets them get back some of the spots later on. (They seem to like this arrangement.) And the sooner I have filled the veranda, the sooner and more useful are the returned camp sites.

As a hedge against cancellations, I'd like to accept commitments from volunteers willing to reserve the week of the party for possible attendance on an "Alternate Volunteer" status. If someone has to cancel late just before the event, you could step in and fill their spot. If you're not called on to fill in, you'll get a complimentary Grand Canyon Star Party North Rim t-shirt, and priority on a reservation for next year.

Camping at the north rim is different than the south rim. There are no hookups at all at north rim. There is no separate Trailer Village. There are showers available for a fee, a small general store and fresh water available, as well as a dump site and trash pickup. Gas generators are allowed, but only between the hours of 7 - 9 am and 6 - 8 pm, strictly enforced. WiFi hotspots are located at the general store and the saloon. Cell phone coverage is spotty, at best. I strongly urge you to assess your camping skills and preparedness before committing to a camp site, and be sure to ask me before reserving a cabin or room on your own. Once you arrive, I normally have everyone checked in already, but you should check in at the campsite kiosk to verify your campsite.


Our camsite at GCSPNR

The Kaibab Lodge Event is ON!

The management of the Kaibab Lodge has agreed to supply a cabin for astronomers for 2013. It's a cabin with two separate rooms, so privacy is enhanced from last year. Please contact me if you’d like to volunteer, for one night, two nights, or even the week. If you happen to know someone you'd like to share the cabin with, that can contribute too, do invite them. So far, it looks like two to four astronomers will be plenty until the word gets around. I expect you to show the night sky to visitors, using a telescope and viewing through your eyepiece. Use of a green laser to point out objects or constellations would be nice if you have one.

There’s a nice, flat area to set up, and I’m assured it is secure, (with a little improvisation on my part), so you won’t have to break down each night. I don’t expect you’ll have visitors very late, so you’ll be free to stay up observing as long as you want. There may be some lights from the lodge,and perhaps the gas station across the highway, (I'm working on that, too), but it wasn’t too objectionable last year, so you should be fine. I’ll most likely join you for one night, as I did last year. If you could keep a rough tally of the number of visitors, (or an exact count if you like), it will really help promotion and possible expansion for the future. You can drop me an email, or give my cell a try during or after. Contact info is below.

Daytime activities are as they are at the rim-do what you want, hike, sightsee, show the Sun or nothing at all. (Of course, telling everyone you meet about the party is a good thing, too.) The more you promote during the day, the more visitors you'll have at night, and the better the chances for an expanded event next year.

I'd appreciate it if you'd keep in contact with me about how the party goes from night to night. There's wifi at the lodge, (slow), so an email would work. If you have any suggestions, I’d welcome the input. If you have any problems with management, please let me know sooner rather than later.


Who to contact?

For either of these events, you can contact me directly at my email address,, or call my cell phone at 602-390-0118. For more information about the South Rim event, visit the official site of The Grand Canyon Star Party by clicking the "Official GCSP Page" link above.

Steve Dodder

Coordinator, North Rim Grand Canyon Star Party


Grand Canyon's North Rim Lodging

The North Rim park has a lodge, motel rooms, cabins, and camping facilites. Outside the entrance to the North Rim park is the Kaibab Lodge.

* North Rim Lodge, Motel Rooms, and Cabins:
Forever Resorts now manages the Grand Canyon North Rim lodging (cabins, hotel and motel rooms).
The main web page is now:
Rates and lodging information:
Reservations: 877-386-4383 (877-Fun-4-Ever)
Their web site says they offer hotel and motel rooms and cabins inside the North Rim park from $107 to $146 per night.

* North Rim Camping - National Park Service:

These sites are managed by the National Park Service. From their web site:
Sites are shaded by large ponderosa pine and quaking aspen trees. Campground is at 8,200 feet elevation. Ranger programs and visitor center nearby. Bathrooms and water located throughout campground. Laundry and showers near the campground for a fee. Wood and charcoal fires only in grills provided at each site, dependent on fire restrictions. Sites are restricted to 6 people, 2 vehicles, and 3 tents (or an RV). NO HOOKUPS AVAILABLE. A vehicle which is towing a trailer, pop-up, tent trailer, a fifth wheel, or a motorhome pulling a vehicle is considered 2 vehicles at your site. Check in at the Campground Kiosk upon arrival. If arriving late, reserved sites will be posted after closing. Check in 11am, check out 10am MST. Off road camping or parking not allowed. Sites 11, 14, 15, 16 and 18 provide a great view of the canyon and are $25 premium sites. Note that the North Rim is ONLY accessible by vehicle from May 15 to October 15.
Use the online National Park Service Reservation Center
U.S. callers: 800-365-2267
U.S. and international callers: 301-722-1257)

* Kaibab Lodge:
This is a private lodge outside the gate to the North Rim.

Stay tuned for details on this addition to the Grand Canyon Star Party!

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