Dark Texas Skies

A Cosmic Adventure

Portal to the Greater Big Bend International Dark Sky Reserve
at the Marathon Motel & RV Park

Your Portal to the Stars

Pictures are short time exposures in late May at 2:00 a.m.
of the Carina-Sagittarius star bands above Dark Texas Skies, Marathon, TX

Dark Texas Skies introduces cosmic adventurers to the stars with two large observatory grade reflector telescopes. An Oberwerk BT-100XL-ED binocular is also used to view larger celestial objects. Whether you are a seasoned astronomer or a newcomer, you will enjoy using our equipment.

Dark Texas Skies is located at the Marathon Motel & RV Park in Marathon, TX. This establishment has been featured on Texas Country Reporter and in magazine & newspaper articles because of its many amenities and its stunning nighttime canopy of stars.

The adult capacity for Dark Texas Skies’ star parties is 16. We strive for everyone to have an exceptional cosmic adventure in a darkened and serene atmosphere. A smaller group also allows all attendees to have ample time at the telescope and binocular and to have their questions thoughtfully answered.

Be sure to check our Moon Phase Calendar for the best nights. Reservations are not permitted when the Moon is too bright and washes out our beautiful celestial nighttime sky.

Below is a map where Dark Texas Skies meet nightly. We gather outdoors at the Visual Observatory, about 150 feet behind Room 8 of the Marathon Motel & RV Park. Admission is $10.00 for adults and children are free younger than 18 years old. Reservations are recommended.

Dark Texas Skies Map

How Dark
Is Dark?

Dark Texas Skies boasts a very dark nighttime sky. We are located in one of the darkest areas in the lower 48 contiguous United States!

track & see the ISS

Guests are notified when the International Space Station flyover occurs. The ISS usually appears very bright as it glides across the night’s sky at 17,500 mph as it orbits every 90 minutes at an average altitude of 227 nautical miles above the Earth.

The real-time NASA tracker shows where the International Space Station is right now and its path 90 minutes ago (-1.5 h) and 90 minutes ahead (+1.5 h). The dark overlay indicates where it is nighttime in the world.

Map Source: www.esa.int (updated every 5 seconds)

The widget below indicates the next flyover of Marathon, TX. Be sure to click on “More Sightings” to see night flyovers during the next 24 hours or so.

Advantages

Exceptional quality of protected night skies ranks as Bortle Class #1

Naked-eye limiting magnitude range is 7.8-8.0. It's dark here!

10/20/24 inch telescopes are used with 2 inch high quality eyepieces.

Personal attention and informative answers to your questions.

Testimonials

This was my third star party with Bill Ramey, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Bill has expanded his event with a tour of MaRIO (Marathon Remote Imaging Observatories), which professional astronomers use to make amazing photographs of celestial objects. His knowledge of the night sky is unsurpassed by anyone that I have ever met, and his enthusiasm for his profession is contagious. Earlier that week, I attended the star party at McDonald Observatory, which was also good. However, I greatly prefer Bill's star party, because it is interactive and tailored to your interests. And the telescope views are just as good without the long lines.
Omega or Swan Nebula
Roger Holland
The place is amazing. The sky is magical and Bill Ramey absolutely made my stay to be even better. Actually, I was supposed to stay one night but after meeting him, I ended up staying 4 days and still felt it wasn't enough. He is an astrophotographer and amazing person!
Julia Mello
John Bohannon
John Bohannon
Google Review
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Canceled due to cloudy skies. However upon our arrival Bill was already waiting for us. Along with refunding our money Bill showed us the entire property. They are truly blessed to have such a knowledgeable individual heading this up for them. Bill and I had a wonderful conversation for about the space of an hour in which he expounded his knowledge of astronomy to me. Thanks Bill we will be back!
Melinda Bacon
Melinda Bacon
DTS Review
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We really enjoyed our Dark Skies Texas visit. Loved that it was a small group so we could look through the telescope to our hearts’ content. Bill made it interesting and fun to learn. And at the end, we could just walk back to our camper. Perfect evening.
Terry Bacon
Terry Bacon
DTS Review
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We really enjoyed the knowledge we received during this sky viewing event. I was really impressed how Bill could explain things at the level that each person is. I really know very little about the constellations and different things in the sky but he took the time to make sure that you knew what you was looking at. I would highly recommend taking the time to book an evening to learn about the dark skies. It was so worth it. We will do it again!
Marti
Marti
Google Review
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I got lucky and found this cute place to camp at when I went to Big Bend Nat. Park. It’s well maintained and has WI-FI. The laundry facilities were inexpensive and had a big screen TV to make the time pass quickly. The biggest thrill for me was the Dark Skies program. For $10 You get to learn about constellations, and look through a giant Newtonian reflector telescope while Bill Ramey explains and shows you the Class 1 dark sky experience. I’ve never seen the stars shine so bright nor have I ever seen so many!. Bill will stay and let you look through the telescope as long as you like, while educating you.
Paula S.
Paula S.
Trip Advisor
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Bill provides an excellent program! Before it hit dark he showed us how the telescope works and the set up. We got to see the moon before it got dark and it was too bright. Bill has such a passion for astronomy and takes time to explain and answer questions. We saw Jupiter and its four major moons as well as Saturn. If we lived closer we would definitely go again. Such a reasonable fee for a great experience!
Nancy & Jim Daniel
Nancy & Jim Daniel
DTS Review
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We had an amazing experience at the Dark Skies Star Party on January 14th! Bill Ramey is a WEALTH of knowledge and made the night fun and fabulous for everyone there! My head felt like it would explode from all of the interesting facts he shared throughout the 2-hour session. He made sure everyone got to see every item he lined up in the telescope. He answered questions thoroughly. Our favorite part was watching his enthusiasm over an 11-year-old participant who was clearly interested in studying astronomy. He engaged her, got her excited, answered her great questions and made sure she had the time of her life. We highly recommend the Star Party at Marathon Motel. Thanks Bill!
Robert Arevalo
Robert Arevalo
DTS Review
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Bill did a great job in explaining everything we were going to see. The telescope and binoculars worked very well and seeing Jupiter and Saturn plus many other objects in the night sky was excellent.
Cindy Svec
Cindy Svec
Google Review
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We attended a star party one night at Dark Texas Skies. It was fabulously educational and Bill the onsite astronomer/program manager is a good speaker, friendly and has just enough sense of humor to lighten the tech.
William Barbee
William Barbee
DTS Review
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Excellent…Knowledgeable … Informative…Enjoyable!
John Lock
John Lock
DTS Review
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The star party offered at Marathon Motel is a great one for visitors to the dark skies of the Big Bend area. The informal, hands-on approach and limited group size make it ideal for visitors of all ages. First-class equipment and a skilled presenter make it a delightful evening that does not run into the wee hours. Highly recommend that you schedule a night at this local treasure while you're in the area.
Jamie S.
Jamie S.
DTS Review
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We spent the evening with William Ramey, astronomer and photographer. What an enthusiastic teacher of astronomy. He taught us many things about our night skies. What a great experience we had. He had two large observatory grade reflector telescopes. We also used the Oberwerk BT-100XL-binocular to view larger celestial objects. He taught us how to use the telescopes and binoculars. We would pinpoint star clusters, planets, the moon and much more. We learned about the rotation of the earth, moon, planets and stars. He talked about constellations and the Milky Way. We learned how to measure time in hours and months from the position of the stars. Fun!!!!
Kenny and Kat Kyles
Kenny and Kat Kyles
DTS Review
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Marathon was our second stop of our trip after seeing it on Texas Country Reporter. We timed it perfect with a new moon day, which was the day after we watched the Dark Texas Skies. Bill’s knowledge of the constellations and our own earth‘s solar system is outstanding. Being able to see Saturn’s rings, Jupiter, Polaris, nebulas, and many other lights in the skies was overwhelming. We appreciate you Bill and Danny for this experience. To top off the trip we got to see the Solar Eclipse and meet some new friends. Great people and great night, we will be back.
Gary Johnson
Gary Johnson
DTS Review
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Spectacular views and Bill's knowledge and willingness to share it is way beyond expectations. It was a fantastic learning experience, but if I don't retain a single piece of knowledge, at least I have seen Saturn and its rings clearly through a telescope. That alone was worth the price of admission.
Jayne Gallo
Jayne Gallo
DTS Review
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I've had the pleasure of attending several Star Parties with Bill Ramey, and I'm looking forward to the next one - 10/14/2023. Perfect timing for friends to be here from out of state, since it's a New Moon with no moonlight dimming our viewing of the sky. Bill is enthusiastic and easy to understand as he imparts his immense knowledge, points out countless things to see, and answers questions. If you're looking for a unique experience contemplating our Class 1 Dark Skies of Marathon Texas, without breaking the bank, make a reservation and come to our lovely little town. You'll be glad you did!
Brian Taylor
Brian Taylor
DTS Review
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This is one of my favorite things to do in West Texas. The stars will blow your mind away you look through their awesome giant telescopes. We love taking family and friends out there. I’ve stayed at the Gage hotel and walked over to the sky park many times. We also enjoyed renting the VRBO “Snakebite Saloon” with family one night for a different sort of experience. We’ve enjoyed the RV park’s primitive campsites where we’ve stayed with church groups. It’s a nice clean park and we felt safe there. This should be on everybody’s top 5 things to do in West Texas. Check the moon phase calendar before you plan your trip to make sure the moon is small so you can see more stars. I typically call the park the day of or before to ask what time viewing starts.
DeLeine
DeLeine
DTS Review
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It was a great experience. Bill was very knowledgeable and provided details regarding planets, stars, constellations and how the rotation of earth plays in to movement of stars. Thanks again
John & Linda
John & Linda
DTS Review
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We decided to stay In Marathon, a tiny little town in west Texas on Hwy 90 outside of Big Bend National Park at the Marathon Motel and RV Park and Sky Park. They happened to have star parties almost every night by Bill who is an astronomy enthusiast. He was so informative, and his enthusiasm was contagious. If you are in the area, I highly recommend experiencing the beautiful night skies at Dark Texas Skies.
John Rogalski
John Rogalski
DTS Review
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The Dark Texas Skies Star Party was incredible. Bill was tremendous as a host and teacher. My wife and I learned so much in such a little time and it was very interesting to see their setup for astronomers that lived thousands of miles away! I was geeking out the whole time. I could listen to Bill talk forever. 🙂 AND this was our experience on a night where the clouds rolled in so we could only see Jupiter for a minute and that's it. I can only imagine a clear night!! If you are in the area, you MUST make this part of your trip!
Camila and Mike
Camila and Mike
DTS Review
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Bill did an amazing job last night. He has GREAT passion sharing his experience and knowledge with us. He kept us captivated and interested the whole time. We had unlimited time viewing through the telescopes. I learned so much about the stars, moon, and constellations. Definitely worth the drive and small fee. 👌
Sam Litchfield
Sam Litchfield
DTS Form
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Bill Ramey gave an amazing show to me and my family last night. He taught us more about the stars, rotation of the earth and our orbits, and how to predict where objects in the night sky would be months and even years from now better than a semester long class could. The stories he’d tell about the stars and showing them in all their glory rather than just showing us for the shit of it made the experience so much fun!
Kate Lange
Kate Lange
DTS Review
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We only had one night here and what a night it was!! Marathon is a Dark Skies area, so they ask that you keep your curtains drawn and exterior lights off at night. Which seems a little inconvenient until you realize just how much of the night sky you can see with so little light pollution. Bill pulls out the telescope and binoculars! The park houses two large telescopes. The night we stayed, we were able to see the moon, Jupiter, Orion Nebula, a comet, Starlink satellites, the twin stars of Gemini and so much more! Bill shared so much of his knowledge about astronomy and it’s such a cool experience! The park and facilities were clean and quiet. Everyone there was very friendly and we were able to use our Passport America discount! It’s also a short drive to downtown Marathon. We are already planning to stop here again!

Lisa Peyton Fielder
Lisa Peyton Fielder
Big Bend Texas Facebook
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I did both the McDonald Observatory and Marathon Motel & RV Park star parties in the same month last fall. Trust me, the Marathon party was far better - certainly more informal and therefore more fun, but the guys running the telescopes were much more informative about what we were looking at than the grad students at McDonald ("uh, I don't know which of Jupiter's moons those are.") Their enthusiasm for the stars is infectious, they KNOW what they're showing you, and they'll keep showing you more fantastic things as long as you're willing to stay out and look at them (unlike McDonald).
Rebecca Rutledge
Rebecca Rutledge
Google Review
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Bill is INCREDIBLY informative and enthusiastic about the night sky offerings in the Big Bend Sky. I learned so much in just over two hours. We had tickets for the McDonald Observatory and gave those up for the opportunity to hang out for individual attention and expertise about our night sky. I look forward to the opportunity to come back on a non-moon night so I can SEE MORE! My family and I saw planets, moons, stars, constellations, nebulas, and OTHER GALAXIES! Come to Marathon to see the local mountains on earth AND parts of our universe. Giddy amazing-ness (if you geek out over this stuff like I do) is in your future if you check out this gem of an experience. 🤗 Again, THANK YOU Bill!

Stacy R
Stacy R
Trip Advisor Review
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We came to the star party tonight and it was super cool! We chose a night when the moon was really bright, so Bill said that this isn't the best time to view the night sky, but we still enjoyed it immensely! He makes you very comfortable using the equipment, he answers all your questions and educates along the way. His knowledge just blows my mind! I would recommend this to anyone and everyone! Best money I've spent in a very long time!
Albert
Albert
DTS Review
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I had a great experience with the star party! Bill is very knowledgeable and eager to answer any questions regarding Astronomy (or have a casual conversation with). This is a must-see experience for anyone who loves the sky, stars, or space! This was my first time seeing a dark sky, and I wouldn’t want it in any other place!
Chris E
Chris E
Trip Advisor Review
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A great highlight of Marathon, TX. Very informative for all ages. Spectacular views of the prettiest night skies I have ever seen. Telescopes were great for viewing planets and stars.
Julie B
Julie B
Trip Advisor Review
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This may have been the highlight of our trip to Big Bend National Park. We are so grateful to have experienced what turned out to be a spectacular display of stars. Looking through the telescope and binoculars on a peaceful night, we enjoyed the friendly and enthusiastic information provided by Bill. It was a thrill and considering the price, an unbeatable experience. Anyone who visits the Big Bend area needs to put this on their agenda!
Regina & Shawn Compton
Regina & Shawn Compton
Google Review
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Truly enjoyed the astronomy lesson and views of the stars, moon, Jupiter and so much more were amazing. Everyone should come & experience it!! Definitely should be a bucket list to do. Everyone is extremely nice and on the route to Big Bend. Blessed to have experienced it!!!
Cara Hines
Cara Hines
Google Review
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Bill, you are amazing! I had a stellar time at the stargazing party last night. I learned so much. If this were what school was like, I’d have loved it so much more. The tent camping was perfect. Beautiful sunset and sunrise. But the star party was the highlight. You are equal parts edifying and entertainment. Thank you for sharing your passion with the rest of us!
Studio Comfort Texas
Studio Comfort Texas
Google Review
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Everything and everyone here is a amazing! I had the entire tent camping area to myself, complete with a pond with lily pads and frogs quietly croaking through the evening and night. Would be great for a group with its outdoor kitchen area. I took a sunrise stroll and checked out the grounds—beautiful central courtyard with a fireplace and fountain . . . And the stargazing party!!! Bill was incredibly knowledgeable AND entertaining. He could host his own astronomy tv show. I’d watch. And I don’t watch TV. Such a unique and unforgettable experience.
Big Tex
Big Tex
Google Review
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We stayed for the star park show. Bill was amazing with our kids. Such an awesome experience we had. We will definitely be going back in the future. He is just amazing
Canyon Schultz
Canyon Schultz
Google Review
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Always the best place to stop on the way to Big Bend. The kindest staff, great atmosphere, and a stellar nightly viewing of the beautiful Texas sky with two dedicated astrophotographers! The place has so much personality!
Lora Cummins
Lora Cummins
Google Review
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Beautiful place. Quaint little town. Star gazing is excellent. The man at the rv park has a set up that is absolutely amazing for looking at the planets and he sets it up for the campers to learn and enjoy.
Chris Fellows
Chris Fellows
Serenity Mobile Observatory
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A fulltime resident astrophotographer, name of Bill Ramey, rolls out a 20” Obsession and a 13” homemade Dobsonian telescope for park visitors to gaze through almost every clear night. Bill was very accommodating, knowledgeable and friendly, and I highly encourage you to go to one of his talks if you stay at the park. The night I took the short walk over to the big scope he treated us to wonderful views of M13, the great globular cluster in Hercules, M51, a pair of interacting galaxies in Canes Venatici, and a spectacular view of M81 and M82, a galaxy pair in Ursa Major.
Randy Neilson
Randy Neilson
Google Review
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Beautiful common area with fire place and seating for hanging out. Best thing though is the star shows. Various optical instruments including 20" telescope and people who know how to use them. Highly recommended.
Connie Forstrom
Connie Forstrom
Google Review
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This area is a dark skies area and the residents take that seriously in Brewster County. The owners of the RV park/motel are into telescopes and astronomy. There were telescopes and people to explain what you were seeing during all the clear sky night. That was one of my favorite parts of this experience.
Luke Hunter
Luke Hunter
Google Review
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Friendly staff and beautiful views of the mountains on the horizon. This RV park has a special on-site astronomer and large telescope for star viewing. This isn't amateur hour. We saw Jupiter, Venus and Saturn even had its rings visible. Absolutely amazing experience in the "Dark Sky" park area where the night sky comes to life!
Rachel Ross
Rachel Ross
Google Review
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We stayed at the Marathon Motel to see the stars. The room was clean and comfortable, no frills but had everything needed. Staff was very nice. Had a concrete pad for the telescope gear and enjoyed the star parties through the big scopes. Can't wait to come back out.
Zoraya Correa
Zoraya Correa
Google Review
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We usually stay at hotels with pools but this time everything was booked fortunately for us! It was a different experience for our kids, the cottage was cleaned and cozy, they have a restaurant outdoor with a very inviting atmosphere, distance between tables and great service! At night they showed us the stars and the planets! Our kids were thrilled when they saw Saturn, Jupiter and Mars! They also lit up the fireplace for us to enjoy the night! We highly recommend this motel!
Bill
Bill
Google Review
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This place is incredible. It is an experience beyond what you'd expect from the name. The owner, Danny Self, is wonderful and provides more than a place to stay. Did you know they have a legit, professional observatory? Well, they do!! Spent the night looking at Jupiter and Saturn plus learning about astronomy from their resident astronomer, Bill. Honestly, how many motels actually have their own astronomer?!
Gustav Erlank
Gustav Erlank
Google Review
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This is where Wim Wenders shot the famous Paris Texas. A superb setting surrounded by the rugged semi-desert of South West Texas. The park is one of the nicest we've come across on our 3000 mile cycle journey. Loved the camp site, the amenities are great and the camp managers friendly, welcoming and helpful. We were luck enough to be there in mid April on a moonless night, and Stargazing is a must. It's a class 1A night sky and if you are lucky because of the weather, the local astronomer will be out for a talk and telescope viewing. Great stay, highly recommended!
LauraE
LauraE
Google Review
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We just stayed one night here and were impressed by the cute features of the Marathon Motel and RV Park. The camping spot itself is just an open gravel parking lot with hookups but they have very nice grounds that include a beautiful grassy courtyard, outdoor restaurant, pond, chicken coop, and the best part: a telescope and a really knowledgeable astronomer who is there to point things out!
Turtle Guys
Turtle Guys
Google Review
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Marathon was beautiful. The sites are pretty level, almost all of them have 30/50 service now. The work they have done to the courtyard, motel, and sitting areas make this a very comfortable place to relax. The staff is extremely friendly, and at night they have star watching sessions through some of the large telescopes they have on-site. Marathon is a designated dark-sky city so the views are not obstructed by the glow of lights.
Doll and Rich P
Doll and Rich P
Google Review
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The RV spots are maintained well, and the motel rooms are impeccably clean. Danny, who owns the place, is a blast and he obviously takes great pride in the Park. Each evening there are "Star Parties" hosted by Bill who is the resident expert on all things Astronomy. There are high powered telescopes onsite that Bill will help you use.
Melinda H.
Melinda H.
Google Review
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Intending on a short overnight stop over on our way to Marfa, we decided to extend our stay by two days. The grounds are lovely with a beautiful courtyard that is perfect for an evening drink and conversation. The RV Park has everything a traveler needs, plus super accommodating and friendly staff. We also, had the neat surprise of being invited over to the Marathon Sky Park for a breathtaking view of the sky through a powerful telescope and a knowledgeable guide, Bill. It was definitely a serendipitous experience.
John Roberson
John Roberson
Google Review
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Bill was an amazing star party host. We used the provided 10" and 20" Dobsonian telescopes with premium lenses to view several planets and much more.
Kristi Perryman
Kristi Perryman
DTS Review
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Had we not been so tired from our Big Bend hikes, we would've stayed up all night with Bill. His knowledge was amazing, he allowed us to ask all of the questions and he did a great job of answering them in a way we could understand. The sky was magical. We were so glad we made the walk down the road to spend the evening looking at the Dark Texas Skies. If I had a suggestion it would be for the owner of the motel, it sure would be nice if you would turn the lights off of the trees at night or at a minimum, put up down facing lights. Thank you Bill for a great evening.
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THE Place to be After Dark

The Marathon Motel & RV Park is a safe place to be after dark. The facilities accommodate those who desire motel lodging, arrive in a RV or prefer to bring their own tent. And you are only a few steps away from Dark Texas Skies to discover a world of nocturnal starry wonder!