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Posted on: March 26, 2018

18-018 State Parks begins work soon on Goldendale Observatory upgrades



Media contact:
Chris Carlson, (509) 665-4331
Toni Droscher, (360) 902-8605

Interpretive programs at Stonehenge start April 5

OLYMPIA – March 26, 2018 – Goldendale Observatory State Park Heritage Site is closed until fall of 2019, while Washington State Parks undertakes a comprehensive reconstruction project that will allow more access and enhance visitors’ experience of the iconic site.

Starting April 5, State Parks staff will offer solar and dark-sky programs at the nearby Stonehenge and Klickitat County Veterans’ memorials, 87 Stonehenge Drive, Goldendale. (Driving directions.) Through September, observatory staff and volunteers will be present at Stonehenge from 1 to 11:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays with two programs per day at 4 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Weekend programs will be offered through the winter. Check for times and dates on the park’s web page at:

Observatory programming will continue at Stonehenge until Goldendale Observatory reopens in 2019.

Goldendale Observatory houses one of the nation’s largest public telescopes. The observatory is situated on 5 hilltop acres 2,100 feet above sea level, 2 miles north of downtown Goldendale. The site is well-known for its vivid sunsets, stunning daytime views of the countryside and magnificent views of the universe at night. The park has attracted hundreds of thousands of sky-watchers since its dedication in 1973.

The $5.8 million project includes:

  • Construction of a new building with a 140-person capacity auditorium, an expanded lobby, offices and exhibit gallery focused on space science.
  • Three times more parking spaces than are currently available, with drop-off area and room for school and tour buses.
  • New restrooms with larger septic and water system capacity.
  • Expanded outdoor viewing facilities, including ramp access to a rooftop observation and presentation area.
  • The 10-foot solar dome will be relocated to the roof for better thermal performance.
  • Special building and outdoor landscape lighting to preserve night-time dark-sky viewing.
  • New internet infrastructure to provide greater capacity for real-time streaming in and out of the facility.

Funding for this six-year capital project also includes a complete renovation of the original telescope and assemblies, conversion of the telescope from Cassegrain to Newtonian and replacement of the original mirror with a new, state-of-the art mirror.

“Washington State Parks is so fortunate to have this observatory in its system,” said Lem Pratt, Goldendale Area Manager. “The parks’ solar telescope is considered one of the best publicly accessible solar telescopes in the western United States.”

A brief history of the observatory
The observatory’s development began in the 1960s, when four amateur astronomers, Mack McConnell, John Marshall, Don Conner and Omer VanderVelden, built the original 24-inch Cassegrain reflecting telescope currently housed at the 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 its mirror, the glass for which was furnished by the college. Their project cost $3,000.

Because of light pollution and persistent cloud cover in Vancouver, the men looked for another site for the telescope. At a lunch stop, a Goldendale café owner introduced them and their idea to the town’s mayor, which led to eventual development of the observatory and science center, through donations, a federal grant and a bank loan. The observatory was dedicated as a public education center in 1973. It was operated by a non-profit volunteer organization until 1980, when it was acquired by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

More information about Goldendale Observatory State Park Heritage Site is here:


About Washington State Parks

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission manages more than 100 state parks and properties totaling approximately 120,000 acres. The Commission provides a variety of recreation opportunities for citizens and provides stewardship protection for a diverse array of natural, cultural and historic resources. State Parks’ statewide programs include long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation.

Follow Washington State Parks:

Share your favorite state park adventure on the State Parks’ blog site at

Support state parks by purchasing your annual Discover Pass today, and enjoy a whole year of outdoor fun on Washington’s beautiful state-managed recreation lands. For more information, visit

Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission

1111 Israel Road S.W.
P.O. Box 42650
Olympia, WA 98504-2650

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