Massacre Rim Dark Sky Sanctuary
BLM-California Applegate Field Office
The Bureau of Land Management has a hidden gem on your public lands that provides visitors with a celestial experience that can be experienced in only a handful of places on earth.
On the darkest and clearest nights at the Massacre Rim Dark Sky Sanctuary, starlight from the Milky Way Galaxy is so bright that it casts shadows on the ground. Here, on public lands managed by BLM California’s Applegate Field Office in far northern Washoe County, Nevada, it is so dark that stargazers can see right through the Milky Way to the next galaxy without using a telescope.
With support from the BLM, Friends of Nevada Wilderness in 2016 nominated the 102,000-acre Massacre Rim Wilderness Study Area for designation by the International Dark Skies Association as a Dark Skies Sanctuary. On March 19, 2019, the area became only the seventh Dark Sky Sanctuary on earth.
While the Sanctuary is about 230 road miles north of Reno, Nevada, the small community of Cedarville, California, about 40 miles from Massacre Rim, is really the “gateway” to the area and an ideal base camp for exploring this vast high desert region.
Massacre Rim is accessible by car or truck on maintained gravel roads. Dispersed camping is allowed on public lands throughout the area and several primitive campgrounds are available as well.
Visitors who prefer not to “rough it” can take night trips for sky watching and then return to the comfort of a bed and breakfast inn, hot springs resort or RV park in Cedarville. Even the trip out and back will be worthwhile because night sky views are stunning throughout the region.
The best stargazing happens in July when the Sagittarius and Scorpio constellations are at their highest point in the sky. The Perseids meteor shower is visible from mid-July to a peak in mid-August when dozens of shooting stars are seen each hour.
The Massacre Rim Dark Sky Sanctuary is within the traditional territory of the Northern Paiute people. The name origin is unknown. Most likely it refers to emigrant-created caches, marked by stones that were interpreted as graves by people passing through the area later.
- Be aware that roads can be impassable due to winter snows or muddy conditions,
- The BLM Surprise Field Station in Cedarville, 530–279–610, can provide detailed travel directions and condition information.
- Friends of Nevada Wilderness has good information and lodging information on its website: nevadawilderness.org/massacre_rim_wsa_dark_sky_sanctuary.