Rangeley, Maine, is one of 3,000 communities in the path of the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. You can’t afford to miss this article if you’re still listing your rental home for average rates during that week.
“People are coming.” Whether that’s a promise or a threat, Johanna Johnston, the Eclipse Coordinator for MaineEclipse.com, is getting ready and thinks you should too.
In the afternoon of April 8, 2024, the moon will slide between the Sun and Earth. In a sweeping stretch from Mexico, across the South, Heartland, Upper Midwest, and New England, and into Canada, the night will slowly fall for a few precious minutes, mimicking the movement of dusk to dark to dawn.
The “Path of Totality” means a city is in a specific spot where complete darkness will fall. Here’s how the times work out in Rangeley during the Great Solar Eclipse of 2024.
WATCH: Here’s a simulation of the time span of the Total Solar Eclipse over Rangeley, Maine, in April 2024.
While Houlton, Maine, is the town with the longest path of totality in the state, with three minutes and 18 seconds of darkness, Rangeley will get quite a show of its own.
All estimates show that the crowds for the 2024 Solar Eclipse will be larger than the 2017 Solar Eclipse. In 2017, 12 million people were in the path of totality. In 2024, there will be 32 million people already there.
Here are some statistics from the 2017 event:
“This level of public interest and information seeking about a science-oriented event is unparalleled,” Jon Miller, director of the International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy at U-M’s Institute for Social Research, said in his analysis of the 2017 event.
That was seven years ago and long before a pandemic that allowed greater latitude working from home or having flexible hours. With the 2024 Solar Eclipse happening on a Monday, it’s not a stretch to expect people to take a three-day weekend.
NOTE: Easter falls on March 31, 2024, so the eclipse won’t interfere with that holiday. Passover is from April 22 through April 30 in 2024.
We can look at two great examples from 2017 to get a rough estimate of crowd size expectations. Both Nebraska and Wyoming were in the Path of Totality that year.
“This data confirms the magnitude of the solar eclipse’s impact, and we couldn’t be more pleased,” said John Ricks, Nebraska Tourism executive director. “The amazing one-time event was big business for our industry and beyond.”
There’s the next level-up for Rangeley—none of the top 40 largest cities in the state will be in the Path of Totality. Even Acadia National Park will only get 97% totality.
Katahdin Woods & Waters is the only major park in Maine that will be in the Path of Totality.
We already know that Houlton, Presque Isle, and all of Aroostook County have a head start on planning. Given the rural nature of the Path of Totality region, there’s going to be high demand for a place to stay.
“This is going to be an event for everyone to capitalize on. We’re going to have to reach out and look at lodging in our surrounding area. This is a great opportunity for people to get into Airbnb, VRBO; if you got a second home, or you’ve got another bedroom in your house, this is a chance to capitalize on that because people are coming,” Johnston added.
Again, we can go back to 2017 to get an idea of what to expect. While that event happened in August before most schools were back in session, this one is in early April. It’s not quite apples and oranges, but it’s maybe like a Fuji apple to a Granny Smith apple.
“There were impacts in every single one of our counties (23) across the state of Wyoming,” Diane Shober, Executive Director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism, said in 2017.
Grand Teton experienced “the busiest weekend in the history of the park.” Traffic jams spanned for miles across rural Wyoming, a state that doesn’t have Mud Season and boasts and 80 miles per hour speed limit on major interstates.
Across Kentucky in 2017, traffic increases on roads were up anywhere from 37% to 123%. In fact, the biggest traffic jams came after people exited viewing events.
Looking at Yellowstone National Park, which wasn’t in the Path of Totality, but was darn close (like Acadia is going to be), the park sent out a social media warning stating, “UPDATE: As of 4:30 pm, traffic congestion is heavy throughout the park, especially at Madison Junction, Old Faithful, and West Thumb. As of 3:18 pm, traffic cannot enter Old Faithful or West Thumb Geyser Basin due to heavy congestion and a lack of parking.”
Some of you who have been around for a while might remember the 1963 solar eclipse that only hit Maine and Alaska in the United States.
“Totality! It was one of the most spectacular moments in my life.”
– Richard Mueller, upon seeing the 1963 Solar Eclipse from Mt. Katahdin
A Down East article from 1963 echoed a few statements that resonate for the upcoming eclipse.
The 2017 eclipse didn’t just fill up hotel rooms and rental homes, it opened up spare bedrooms, couches, campsites, backyards, and driveways to the millions of people who just wanted a place to stay for a few nights. The uniqueness of the event erased the need for even things like indoor plumbing at times.
On the flip side, rental homes went for up to $10,000 a night in Oregon. Keizer, Oregon, had $5000 eclipse campsites. Even an empty house in Oregon sold for $750 per night, and the guests used air mattresses and plastic silverware with paper plates.
Campsites will sell out quickly. Take it from Kathy Freeman, who owns a Benton, Illinois, campsite. “We knew it would be big, but not that big,” she said. “The few weeks before the last eclipse happened, we were overwhelmed with phone calls.” Many states reported visitors will to sleep in their cars in parking lots—anywhere just to have a place to rest before the main event.
We can also look back at 2017 and see that rental cars quickly sold out, leaving travelers in the right state but wrong place to see the path. That opens up doors for impromptu rideshare opportunities (within state and town laws, of course).
We checked and found that for April 7 – 9 of 2023, 108 homes were available for rent in Rangeley from $135 to $790. If you have a site that allows booking a year in advance, you might want to change that price because the “one year to go” date was April 8.
You’ll also need to consider if you regularly rent your home during Mud Season and what, if any, costs you’d incur to get it ready for a major event. Even if you don’t want to rent it out, do you have security cameras or groundskeepers who can keep an eye on the place to prevent people from popping into your backyard?
It’s easy to see green when it comes to capitalizing on a big event like this, but it’s also going to make some people see red with wayward tourists getting stuck in the mud, parking in illegal spots, and devouring supplies at the stores.
We still have a busy summer tourist season with more housing issues and stating challenges to overcome, but don’t wait to get ready for infrastructure, crowd control, and basic community rules to deal with the crowds. Rangeley Lake State Park isn’t accepting reservations for 2024 yet, and it’s unclear what stance the park will take on the flood of tourists itching for a spot.
We’ll update you here as we get more information about the eclipse crowds and expectations, but as a community, we can make this a boom for the economy while showing off our little slice of Vacationland heaven.
“There are a lot of people who chase eclipses. It’s a great family even because it’s something you experience maybe once in a lifetime.” – Johanna Johnston, Maine Eclipse Coordinator
If you’re fuming at the thought of those crowds. Don’t worry; the next total eclipse in New England is in 2079, and that one will ride the coastal part of the state.
This article was written by Jennifer Hardy
With more than 25 years of experience in journalism and newsrooms across the country, Jennifer pairs investigative skills, research, and storytelling into articles that help cut through the clickbait and have vetted information that's engaging and important to readers. She also wants to see pictures of your dogs. "Changing the world, one story at a time."