Don’t miss one of the most star-studded shows in the Northern Hemisphere, when the annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak. From 10:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. on August 11 and 12, you can see a steady stream of shooting stars (meteors) without binoculars. This year’s show will be even more spectacular, because the meteor shower is in outburst mode. That means that instead of seeing from 50 to 80 shooting stars in an hour, you’ll see double the amount—possibly as high as 200.
To truly enjoy this beautiful spectacle, you need the darkest place you can find, but finding a front-row seat undimmed by city lights is a challenge. For one of the best unobstructed views, try the Wild Horses Monument viewpoint near the town of Vantage, Washington, just east of the Columbia River bridge on I-90.
So many stars are visible from the nearly 200-foot-high buff, it’s as if someone sprinkled a giant bag of phosphorescent salt across the sky. Spread a blanket or park a chair next to the horseshoe-shaped overlook, relax, and keep watch in two directions—directly overhead and in the northwest sky—for the most activity.
This meteor shower appears each year from August 1 through 21, when the Earth intersects a broad stream of debris left by the Comet P/Swift Tuttle 1862 III. Chinese observers first recorded the phenomenon in A.D. 36. Shooting stars are particles of debris that glow brightly upon entering the Earth’s atmosphere and generally burn up before reaching the ground.
Wild Horses Monument viewpoint is open 24 hours. The viewpoint is named after the sculpture, Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies, which daytime visitors see. From Vantage, follow I-90 East three miles, turn off at the viewpoint exit, and drive one-half mile to the parking lot. No services are available at the viewpoint, so bring food and water.
There’s no exit to the viewpoint on westbound I-90. To access it, turn around at the Vantage exit and follow the directions above.
The nearest accommodations are in Vantage. Camp at the Vantage Riverstone at 551 Main Street or Wanapum State Park at 4511 Huntzinger Road. The Vantage Riverstone also has hotel rooms. To make reservations at the Vantage Riverstone, call (509) 856-2800 Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Reserve a campsite online for Wanapum State Park. For more information about the park, call (509) 856-2700.