Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus
The Three Rivers Foundation Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus (CSAC) is located at the heart of Big Ranch Country in north central Texas. Home to telescopes, observatories and indoor and outdoor classroom space, CSAC serves visitors from across Texas, the U.S. and from around the globe. Visitors enjoy programs covering topics ranging from astronomy to environmental and earth science. This 700-acre facility lies in a corridor of dark skies that stretches from outside the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex to Amarillo. Only three to four hours from the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and about two and a half hours from Lubbock, Amarillo or Oklahoma City, the area is serviced by major highways making the campus easily accessible from all points on the compass. For maps and driving directions click here.
Thanks to a passion for nature conservation by the late Bettie B. Gafford, an original 50 acre donation from the McAdams Ranch to Three Rivers allowed for the establishment of the 3RF Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus. Additional land acquisitions in 2009 and 2010 have expanded the campus to its current size of 700 acres. Without Mrs. Gafford’s generous passion and vision, 3RF would not have been able to realize its mission of “engaging students, teachers and the public through hands-on education outreach opportunities”.
As the name Three Rivers implies, our 700 acre campus is located in an area that enjoys a rich history as a Comanche bison hunting ground. A spring located just south of the main portion of campus dates back as far as recorded and spoken history in the area. Our campus enjoys a rich biodiversity and healthy ecosystem common in short-grass prairies. Resident species include the Texas Horned Lizard, deer, coyotes, jackrabbits and cotton tails, over 50 types of birds as well as a host of insect and plant species that are native to Texas. CSAC also hosts an Ornate Box Turtle habitat where students, teachers and the general public can get an up close look at these unique animals. Migrating species seen on campus include Monarch butterflies, hummingbirds, Mississippi kites and Sandhill cranes.
Part of the original 50 acre gift to Three Rivers was developed into several areas for astronomical observation, the most popular of these being the Star Field. This open space is used for star parties hosted for the public as well as visiting students in grades K-12 and college. Visitors are also able to enjoy nature from the Star Field, catching a glimpse of many native animals throughout the year.
Our buildings on campus include a roll-off observatory which houses a 30-inch reflecting telescope to bring the wonders of faint galaxies and nebulae to visitors of all ages. The Large Observatory houses a 15-inch refractor, the largest telescope of this type in Texas that is used on a regular basis for public events. The attached classroom serves as inside instructional space during school visits, as well as an alternate location for small programs in case of inclement weather.
Additional facilities include two outdoor classrooms, four bunkhouses capable of housing up to 65 overnight guests, 12 RV spaces, 3 outdoor pizza ovens and an adjoining pavilion and a large new shower/restroom facility.