Road travel tips (work arounds) for the 2024 eclipse

I’ve just recently read this post including the last paragraph from Marvin regarding how bad traffic will be along the path of totality.

This will be my first time to try to get into the path of totality. For those with more experience with what car travel may be like on the “day of,” I welcome your experience and advice.

My goal is to view from the path of totality (in Arkansas in the Petit Jean State Park (between Russelville and Morrilton).

I have 3 other adult family members relying on me.

I have one night of hotel reservations for Sunday night in Ft Smith AR (just outside the “path”.)

I had assumed that I would be able to use I-40, early Monday morning to travel from Ft Smith to Russellville — then south into Petit Jean State Park. (My backup travel route was to use rural highways between Ft Smith and Petit Jean if I-40 was gridlocked.

Seeing Marvin mention gridlock morning of and evening after, do we have to be in the “path” the day before and until the day after?

What other road travel tips and work-arounds can you offer me for my travel plan to/from Petit Jean State Park?

p.s., My wife will be unwilling to tent camp or car camp. Hotel/AirBnB - or else she’ll bailout on me.

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I’m not sure anyone can predict what the traffic will be like the morning of the eclipse. When we did our Bus trip to the 2017 eclipse in the morning the traffic wasn’t bad at all. On the drive back it was very heavy but I’m not sure if that had anything to do with the eclipse or more that the freeway was closed to one line for construction.

The main factors will be regular work traffic, any road construction and if there is any accidents. Everyone is not crazy about seeing the eclipse and the ones who are will get there early. We are heading to our location on Saturday.

In 2017 we went up to Kearney, MO, NE of Kansas City, the morning of the eclipse. Traffic was not bad and we found a motel room for the night of the eclipse. Everyone was traveling home after the eclipse. We stayed just off I35 and it was bumper to bumper at Kearney southbound. Since we did not have to travel after the eclipse I cannot say anything about travel times. I imagine Texas traffic will be a lot worse than normal if anyone is travelling that direction the day of the eclipse. I don’t know about Arkansas traffic. Good luck and let’s hear about it afterward.

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Hi Tom! I have similar eclipse plans. I’m going to stay with my family in Sallisaw the night before (20 minutes from Ft Smith). The morning of, I intend on checking the weather and traffic and either going into Arkansas or down to the Idabel area.

I expect there to be a little more traffic, but I think being mobile is the way to go. I expect many people will just be staying the night right next to where they are going to observe. I think the worst traffic will be AFTER the eclipse as people leave, not before.

I think you have a good plan there, Tom. I think just be aware of what’s going on around you the morning of and adjust accordingly and you’ll be just fine.

I also went to Kearny, MO, in 2017. I got a room on the south side of KC. Worried about the traffic that morning, I left about 0600 anticipating heavy traffic. I got there in about 15 min.

Afterward, it took me over 4 hours to get back to the area of my hotel. Stop and go traffic the whole way. Didn’t ease up until south of KC going into Arkansas. I tried both the Interstate and the back roads. The backroads were worse. Every stop sign or light was backed up for over 2 miles. Usually more. Finally managed to get back on the interstate. Was still stop and go, but not as bad.

That was partly because everyone left at once, right after totality, as the clouds moved in and the partial was obscured.

But I suspect this year, if you leave early in the morning, you won’t have much traffic. It will increase until totality. After totality I’m sure the roads will be jammed. I’d take a book and wait until evening before attempting to get back to Ft. Smith. Unless you like creeping down I-40 at 5 mph. Or less.

Following totality, I don’t mind staying in place for a while, but I don’t have reservations for Monday night. I had planned to drive back to OKC on Monday night. (We have an unrelated trip leaving OKC early on Wednesday morning.)

Terri and I made an overnight trip (on Friday and Saturday) to Russellville AR to scope out the primary and alternate travel routes from Ft Smith to Petit Jean State Park for the eclipse on Monday (April 8)

I asked several park staff and local residents of Russellville what they were expecting. They rolled their eyes and said we don’t know. “To be overrun? We’ve been told to expect 100k visitors.”

In Mt Magazine State Park (Lodge) — not on centerline — they’ve already asked 30+ staff to stay onsite for a couple of days before and after — and to plan as if they are “snowed in.”

The park managers are meeting regularly and more frequently as the date draws nearer.