Crowd Overshadows Eclipse

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A record crowd gathered at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) visitor center at King Gillette Ranch to watch the solar eclipse on August 21. Zach Behrens, senior communications fellow for the Santa Monica Mountains National Park Service (NPS), confirmed that the viewing party attracted 1,352 participants.

Although the nearest location to experience a total eclipse was in Oregon, and only around 65-percent of the sun appeared occluded in the Santa Monica Mountains, skywatchers from as far away as Venice Beach and Carson travelled to the park.

NPS rangers and volunteers from the SMMNRA mountain bike patrol were pressed into service as traffic cops as vehicles poured into the park, backing up traffic in Malibu Canyon. The intersection of Las Virgenes Canyon and Mulholland Highway was swamped with pedestrians hurrying to King Gillette from Malibu Creek State Park, or from the trailhead parking areas along the highway, and visitors kept coming.

The NPS, which anticipated a crowd of around 300, quickly ran out of solar glasses, but event participants were happy to share. Many brought their own eclipse specs, some had homemade viewing devices created from cereal boxes or sheets of cardboard and aluminum foil, others brought welding goggles and or even colanders, which projected multiple crescent moon-shaped eclipse shadows on the pavement. There was a long line to look through an NPS volunteer’s solar telescope, but just watching the light filtering onto the ground through the leaves of the trees provided a way to watch the phenomenon.

Would-be skywatchers who missed the event will have another opportunity in seven years. On April 8, 2024, parts of Mexico, Texas, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Vermont, Maine and Montreal will be in the path of totality, with the rest of North America, including Southern California, experiencing partial eclipse.

In our next issue, the Messenger Mountain News will have an exclusive report on the total eclipse from a local team of astronomers who traveled to Oregon to witness the phenomenon.


Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at

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