Nevada April 17, 2017
The Darkest Town In The Country Is Right Here In Nevada
Part of the Reno-Sparks Metropolitan Statistical Area, the tiny town of Gerlach is located approximately 100 miles north of Reno. With a total area of 3.1 square miles and a population of just over 200, Gerlach seems like little more than a stop along the way to somewhere more exciting. However, Gerlach has its own claim to fame. This tiny town is known as the “Darkest Town in America.”
For darkness lovers, budding astronomers, and stargazers, the small town of Gerlach is five hours from Redding, California and Medford, Oregon; seven-and-a-half from Twin Falls, Idaho; and eight hours from both Boise, Idaho and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Gerlach, Nevada, was settled in 1906 and named for the Gerlach Land and Cattle Company, one of the largest businesses in the area. Its founder, Louis Gerlach, was among the richest cattlemen in the entire West.
Gerlach’s welcome sign says "Center of the Known Universe" and "Population Wanted."
Gerlach's uniqueness among other dark sky cities is that there are very few streetlights, thus resulting in very few lights shining upward.
Bruno's is practically everything in Gerlach. It is the town's only motel, cafe, casino, gas station, and community center, as well as the place where locals meet visitors and talk about Gerlach's distinction as America's darkest town.
Gerlach gets many visitors just passing through. The incredible Fly Geyser is located approximately 20 miles north of Gerlach.
Similarly, many visitors en route to the annual Burning Man Festival in Black Rock City travel through Gerlach on their way.
Gerlach's greatest claim to fame, however, is its distinction as "The Darkest Town in America." This distinction is important because of ongoing concern regarding light pollution, defined as the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light. Light pollution can have serious environmental consequences for humans, wildlife, and the climate.
Whereas visitors typically travel through Gerlach en route to somewhere else, dark sky aficiados and stargazers recognize Gerlach's importance to astonomers.
Many recognize the importance of looking into the night sky. Every culture throughout history has read and worshipped the sky and stars and created constellations as a way to answer questions about spirituality and the mystical.
According to Oliver Roeder, who wrote "The Darkest Town in America" for Five Thirty Eight, on his final night, the sky meter read 22.2 mag/arcsec²—the highest he had ever seen. In fact, this number was so high that it didn’t even show up on the legend on the front of the meter. This meant that the view of the night sky was tempered only by natural airglow and zodiacal light. This reading was well into Class 1 on the Bortle Scale—the dark-sky bigtime. this level of darkness, not only is the Milky Way visible in great detail, but you can also see the Andromeda Galaxy (2.5 million light-years away) and the Pinwheel Galaxy (25 million light-years) with the naked human eye.
At this level of darkness, one can see the Milky Way in great detail, as well as the Andromeda Galaxy at 2.5 million light-years away and the Pinwheel Galaxy at a whopping 25 million light-years away: both with the naked human eye.
So, if you are just passing through Gerlach en route to somewhere else—or just want a change from the bright lights of the big city—take a moment, wait until dark, look upward, and enjoy the beautiful expanse of the night sky in the darkest town in the U.S. You won’t be sorry!