If you’re calling accommodations providers in La Grande trying to make a reservation for this weekend, you may be pleasantly surprised to find a few options available. Few is the operative word, however.
Crowds of visitors traveling to the region are projected to be hundreds of thousands.
Eastern Oregon University, which is renting out campus dorms during the eclipse weekend, has reported that only five to eight suites of the original 60 are still available. Each suite contains two or three rooms.
“We do have a handful still open, but we’re still trying to catch up,” said EOU Director of Residence Life Jeremy Jones. “We don’t do this very often.”
Jones said EOU uses the dorms for conferences and teams during the summer, but nothing like this. Jones is confident the EOU rooms will be full by Friday.
He estimated that nearly 200 people will stay in the dorms for three nights.
“We hope we’re adding value to the community and help get people here to utilize the restaurants,” Jones said. “I think the extra work (it took to organize the individual rentals) will pay off in the long run.”
Local residents have also decided to go the individual rental route, listing apartments and RVs on Craigslist for the eclipse weekend. One La Grande apartment on Craigslist is partially furnished, while another has no furnishings but renters are encouraged to bring air mattresses. A RV listing includes free dinner each night.
At Grande Hot Springs Resort, an RV resort between La Grande and Union off Highway 203, owner Tamarah Rysavy said there are sites available, but not many.
“There’s a good chance it is going to fill up,” Rysavy said.
The RV resort’s website states there are no spots available on Saturday and Sunday. Rysavy said that’s because the reservation system is not easy to update, and marking the resort as full is a precautionary measure to ensure there’s no overbooking.
Rysavy said the resort has 100 RV sites and 12 standard tent sites. She said they added 13 tent sites with fewer accommodations in their field to optimize the number of places for people to stay. The resort’s yurt and Airstream are booked for the weekend, she said.
Although the resort does not have a cancellation policy, the employees at Grande Hot Springs called customers to confirm the reservations this week.
“We (had) 10 cancellations, but we have a waiting list,” Rysavy said. “We still have several people on the waiting list, too, if we have more cancellations.”
Those who are staying at the RV resort are nearly all there for the eclipse. However, Rysavy said there are some who are fortunate to be just traveling through at the same time as the eclipse.
For hotels and motels in town, rooms are especially scarce. A front-desk employee at La Grande’s Super 8 Motel said there are just a few rooms available, but all other rooms have been booked for months or even a year, according to their front-desk employees.
While most hotels do have cancellation policies, few have a waiting list if someone cancels.
The Orchard Motel has also been long-booked, but owner Debbie Straight said the 10 rooms will be filled with people who aren’t here for the eclipse.
“They didn’t even know about the eclipse when they made their reservations,” Straight said.
She said the customers were in town for athletic events and will likely not cancel.
Union County’s Roger Barnes, who is leasing campsites in Unity during eclipse weekend, said it’s no surprise accommodations across the region are spoken for.
“There are millions across the country who are very interested in seeing this,” Barnes said. “We won’t know (for a while) how accurate the crowd estimates are going to be, but I think they’re going to be close.”
Barnes, who is leasing the property with two friends, said the space was large enough for 300-400 camp sites. He said about 90 percent of the sites have been reserved since June, and he expects the sites to be completely full by Friday.
Among the renters at their Oregon Eclipse Camp are travelers from Seattle, Southern California and Vancouver, BC.
“We have one coming from Europe, renting an RV in San Francisco and renting a site here,” he said. “They’re going to road trip after that.”