Goldendale Observatory State Park Heritage Site
Set in the hills above the Columbia River, Goldendale Observatory State Park houses one of the nation’s largest public telescopes. The newly-renovated facility is known for informative science programs and vivid starry skies.
By day, enjoy panoramic views of stunning scenery from all corners of the park. Within the historic observatory domes and expansive new classroom, afternoon and evening visitors can explore our sun, other stars, planets, and all the deep sky has to offer. Live telescope views are offered during all programs (weather permitting).
The Observatory is conveniently located near popular camping State Parks like Brooks Memorial, Maryhill, and Columbia Hills. Other area attractions include the Maryhill Museum of Art and WWI Stonehenge Memorial.
Goldendale Observatory is a 5-acre facility on a hilltop 2,100 feet above sea level and 2 miles north of downtown Goldendale. The park, with its large public telescope, has attracted hundreds of thousands of sky-watchers since its dedication in 1973.
PARK WI-FI SERVICE
The afternoon program provides an opportunity for visitors to explore the new Goldendale Observatory campus and take in a solar show featuring live telescope views of the Sun. The evening program involves a variety of outer space objects and includes classroom time, live telescope views, and outdoor stargazing,
NOTICE: Goldendale Observatory is open. Please note the new, permanent visiting policy:
New permanent visiting policy:
- Visiting groups of 5 or fewer may drop-in and should not make an appointment.
- Groups of 6 or larger must make an appointment via the Microsoft Bookings calendar before visiting. Unscheduled large groups will be turned away.
- On days of normal operations, park grounds close when visiting center closes. On all other days, grounds close at Sunset. Overnight parking or camping is never permitted.
- Our Microsoft Bookings calendar can be used to schedule your visit. Available dates and times are automatically removed from the calendar as they become full.
Pet policy based on 2019 revision of WAC pertaining to service animals:
- Animals, including pets and emotional support companions, are not permitted to enter the building. Trained service animals are permitted upon satisfactory clarification of training as per State and Federal regulations.
The park has no camping. Camping facilities are nearby at Brooks Memorial or Maryhill state parks. Check into your campsite at these parks before coming to evening programs at the observatory, as the programs run late.
Reservations & fees
Working in the 1960s, four amateur astronomers—Mack McConnell, John Marshall, Don Conner and Omer VanderVelden—built the 24-inch Cassegrain reflecting telescope that is housed at Goldendale Observatory. The men, only one of whom had a college degree, began their project in an astronomy club at Vancouver's Clark College. They spent more than six years designing and assembling the telescope and grinding the glass for its mirror, spending only $3,000 on materials.
Due to light pollution and persistent cloud cover, Vancouver was not an ideal location for astronomical observation. The group set out to find a more suitable location for their telescope. As part of their search, Marshall and his wife made a trip to eastern Washington with Don Conner and stopped to east lunch at a café in Goldendale. They mentioned their project to the café's owner who arranged for them to meet with the town's mayor, George Nesbitt. Eventually, a proposal was developed to create an observatory and science center with a mission of furthering public astronomy education. Funding for construction of the observatory was provided by donations, a federal grant and a bank loan. The observatory was dedicated as a public education center on October 13, 1973.
On February 26, 1979, Goldendale Observatory served as the National Astronomical League's headquarters during a solar eclipse. An estimated 15,000 people showed up to watch the event.
The Goldendale Observatory Corporation, a non-profit, volunteer organization, operated the facility through 1980, when the observatory was acquired by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. The park is one of the largest public observatories in the nation.