Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation area (Photo by Alan Dyer)

Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation area (Photo by Alan Dyer)

Take a trip to the stars this summer

Stargazing at OMB, SK (Photo by NCC)

Stargazing at OMB, SK (Photo by NCC)

During the height of the summer, the sun lights up our skies, creating longer days and warmer temperatures. In most parts of Canada, the sun shines for 14 to 15 hours of the day. As the sun dances on landscapes across the country, Canadians will be making the most out of the warm weather by exploring the great outdoors.

But at the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Old Man on His Back (OMB) Prairie Heritage and Conservation Area, the real fun happens when the sun goes down.

Nestled in relative natural darkness from sunset to sunrise, OMB ranch was designated a Nocturnal Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC). This designation highlights NCC's commitment to protect the dark night environment for wildlife and guard against future light pollution in the area. It also features OMB as a rare place for visitors to enjoy dark night skies and study astronomy. NCC is committed to maintaining minimal use of artificial light and to monitoring light pollution at OMB.

OMB is a sprawling 13,000-acre (5,261-hectare) ranch comprised of grasslands and native prairie in southwestern Saskatchewan. The ranch has very little intrusion from artificial lighting or any glow from nearby communities and urban centres.

The RASC created its Nocturnal Preserve designation to raise awareness about the health and environmental value of dark nights, for both wildlife and humans. A Nocturnal Preserve has minimal artificial light, non-lighted signage and structures that confine external illumination. As a Nocturnal Preserve, OMB offers visitors the opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of a natural night.

"The importance of protecting dark night skies against light pollution is just beginning to be understood,” said Mark Wartman, regional vice-president for NCC, Saskatchewan region. “In addition to land conservation, NCC accommodates another aspect of our natural environment, that of dark night skies!"

The RASC's Nocturnal Preserve designation, part of the Dark Sky Preserve Program, aims to promote the protection of quality night sky and minimize light pollution. The RASC also awards the Dark Sky Preserve and the Urban Star Park designations. NCC's OMB is among the first in Canada to be designated a Nocturnal Preserve.

OMB is also one NCC’s Nature Destinations. Through the Nature Destination program, NCC invites you to take a journey through some of the greatest examples of our country’s natural areas and to connect with nature.

By day, the OMB ranch provides a rare opportunity to experience the ageless beauty of the natural Saskatchewan prairie, or perhaps view a herd of roaming plains bison that occupy the ranch, all of which is managed by NCC in Saskatchewan. By night, visitors can experience camping and quiet chats, gentle breezes and silence, all bathed in darkness and on clear nights, illuminated by the moon and thousands of stars.

Come enjoy an out-of-this world experience this summer at an iconic prairie landscape.

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