With thousands of visitors converging for the total solar eclipse—and temporarily boosting the population by 120% to 2000%—this little river town is ready for the big show. A weekend of events highlights the area’s culture, history, and natural beauty.

Built in 1899, the Ripley County Courthouse is the hub of downtown Doniphan. These quiet streets will be filled with food trucks, vendors, and performers in celebration of the solar eclipse over an extended weekend, April 5–8, 2024.
Photo courtesy of Julie Braschler

By Caroline Dohack

For many, a total solar eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. If you missed 2017’s celestial phenomenon, which was visible in parts of northern and central Missouri, you have another chance to take it in. But don’t sleep on this one. Our hemisphere won’t see another until 2044. 

Here’s what you need to know: On April 8, the moon will begin to pass between Earth and the sun, eventually obscuring the view of our closest star for those who happen to be situated within the path of totality, or the track of the moon’s shadow on Earth’s surface. 

For just a few minutes, it will feel like nighttime. The light will disappear. The temperature will dip. The birds will fall silent. 

This path of totality for this spring’s event falls upon a swath of southeast Missouri, and for many towns this means huge increases in tourism. 

Julie Braschler, curator of the Current River Heritage Museum in Doniphan, Missouri, and tourism director for Ripley County says the locals in her area have been advised to stock up on groceries, medication, and even water in anticipation of huge swarms of visitors. “They tell us to expect between 7,000 and 36,000, but I’ll be happy with 2,000,” Brascher says, noting that the population of Doniphan hovers at around 1,700. Hotels have been fully booked for months, and Braschler has been fielding calls from as far away as Portland, Maine, and even Ireland. 

But regardless of how many thousands ultimately show up to view the show—which will last 4 minutes and 11.5 seconds in Doniphan—Braschler hopes folks will stick around and make a weekend of it. 

“Hang around, get a lemonade, talk to your friends, and make new friends,” Brascher says. “Don’t be in a hurry to leave.” 

Accordingly, the town has an extended weekend’s worth of events planned, including a classic car show, a city-wide yard sale, a street dance—“This is all G-rated, so bring the family, bring the kids,” Braschler says—live music, a collaborative art installation, trapeze acts, blacksmith demonstrations, and checkers tournaments. In addition to the restaurants and vendors open year-round, a fleet of food trucks and pop-up vendors will converge upon the town square. As always, visitors to the area can take in the beauty of the Mark Twain National Forest or rent a canoe or kayak for an excursion on the Current River.    

Featured image: In Doniphan, Missouri, the solar eclipse will begin at 12:39 p.m. on Monday, April 8, 2024. The town will be in total darkness for 4 minutes and 11.5 seconds. 
Photo courtesy of NASA.

For hundreds more events, visit Missouri Life’s Event Calendar.