header graphic

Kisatchie Star Party

Kisatchie National Forest sign photo

Location - 25 miles south of Natchitoches, Louisiana
Time - March
Length - Five days (Wednesday through Sunday)
Size - Up to 100, often less
Website - http://www.bro.lsu.edu/bras/kisatchie.html
My Kisatchie Star Party images

Probably the darkest skies in Lousiana, at least the darkest skies of any organized star party in Louisiana. Need I say more?

Although Louisiana weather in March can be volatile and mighty unpredictable, it can also be very good when it's good. Combine that with a dark site and the onset of spring fever and you have a good reason to spend a long weekend in a hole in the woods with your telescope and a few dozen of your best friends (whether you actually know them yet or not!). Leaving my home in Pineville, Louisiana, I zip up I-49 and through the Red Dirt National Wildlife Management Preserve for little more than an hour and I'm there.

Headed up each year by Don Weinell (of the Baton Rouge Astronomical Society), the KSP is a primitive-style star party. There are no luxury accomodations, aside from the half-dozen porta-potties that spring from the treeline each year... That's it. However, there is a large clearing the Kisatchie National Forest that is ideal for visual astronomy. There are good roads in and out, no traffic, no lights, low horizons and lots of dark sky.

Despite being located halfway between Natchitoches and Leesville, Louisiana (about 20+ miles northeast and southwest of the star party site), there's little if any objectionable skyglow. In fact, their relative proximity is a plus, given the lack of typical room and board amenities onsite (i.e., it's a half-hour ride to breakfast at Shoney's... remember that).

The decision has been made (wisely, IMO) to keep things at the KSP simple. There are no big-name speakers, you won't win a 25" Obsession here (unless Walt wants to give his away :-) and recently, there's not even any pre-registration required. A very reasonable registration is required, but it's not required in advance. You can "pay at the gate". A tradition has developed for a Saturday evening group potluck dinner, mostly cooked onsite by the attendees. As the day cools off and heads into a crisp spring evening, there's nothing quite like a nice warm home cooked meal to kick off the night.