We Saw the Marfa Lights (And You Can Too)

Last Updated on March 30, 2023 by Jess

Have you seen the mysterious Marfa lights? You’ve probably heard of the synchronous fireflies that live in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

They attract so many visitors to the park that the National Park Service is holding a contest to see the spectacular synchronized light show.

Although the fireflies seem miraculous, science can explain the flashing light patterns. For the lights of Marfa in southwest Texas, however, there seems to be no explanation and no reason. This light show occurs at all times of the year and at all hours of the day.

Learn more about the lights of Marfa and how you can see them like we do!

Where is Marfa, Texas located?

Located in Big Bend Country, Marfa is the county seat of Presidio County. It is located at the intersection of US Highways 90 and 67, south of Fort Davis in southwest Texas.

There are also three mountain ranges in the region. The Davis Mountains are to the north, the Chisos Mountains are to the southeast, and the Chinati Mountains are to the southwest.

It is a beautiful area in what is left of the frontier.

What are the Marfa lights?

Marfa, Texas, is best known for the Marfa Lights, which can be seen on the shoulder of Highway 90, about 9 miles east of Marfa.

These ghost lights are mysterious balls of light that appear suddenly and go up and down in a pulsating fashion. Sometimes they dart across the desert vegetation instead of stopping.

The unexplained phenomenon attracts people from all over the world. Reports began in the 19th century and continue to this day as visitors and residents have observed different colors and random appearances.

What are possible explanations for the lights of Marfa?

Not everyone believes that the Marfa lights are mysterious, unexplained events. Many scientists believe the lights come from the headlights of vehicles on nearby US Highway 67.

Others explain that the Marfa lights are just an optical illusion caused by refraction of light due to layers of air at different temperatures.

Retired aerospace engineer James Bunnell has a different theory. He states that “the Marfa lights are the result of igneous rock under Mitchell Flat producing a piezoelectric charge.”

This means that the intense pressure of solid matter can generate electricity that creates these sparks of light.

Anyway, there is no clear answer to the question of what the lights of Marfa are.

When was the first recorded sighting?

In 1883, Robert Ellison, a cowherd, was driving his cattle over Paisana Pass and noticed a strange flicker. He thought it might be a campfire, but upon investigation found no evidence of ash or a campfire.

Two years later, in 1885, Joe and Anne Humphreys reported seeing the lights of Marfa. Their report is found in Cecilia Thompson’s book, History of Marfa and Presidio County, Texas 1535-1946.

In 1957, the first published account of the Marfa light appeared in Coronet magazine.

The Marfa Lights have been shown in numerous television programs, and this phenomenon has also inspired songwriters.

“Unsolved Mysteries,” “King of the Hill,” and Disney’s “So Weird” have all mentioned the lights. In a 2019 Simpsons episode, a family visited Marfa, and Lisa tried to explain the phenomenon.

In addition, the Rolling Stones mention the “Lights of Marfa” in “No Spare Parts”, and country musician Paul Cauthen wrote “Marfa Lights” for his 2016 album.

Tips for seeing the Marfa Lights

We have a few tips for you if you want to see the lights of Marfa.

However, it is important to know that the lights of Marfa are inexplicable and irregular. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is or what temperature it is. You never know when a sighting will occur.

Walking at sunset

Locals advise going during sunset. Other people have reported sightings during the day and night, but if you stay about an hour after sunset, you can see the flicker.

Get to the viewing area early to get a good spot

As with many popular attractions, the viewing area is crowded. If you want to find a place to set up a camp chair or blanket, go early.

You’ll be disappointed when the lights come up and you were too late to get a good vantage point.

You can even stay overnight at the observation deck, as we did. It’s a great stop when passing through this small town.

Our motorhome to see the lights of Marfa.

Pro Tip: Love grabbing free campsites? Check out these 7 free camping apps that everyone loves to use!

Search near and far for red, blue or white lights

Remember that the lights can be stationary, pulsating, or darting across the desert. Keep your eyes open and take binoculars.

According to eyewitness reports, look for red, blue, or white lights.

We personally saw flickering white and light blue lights in the mountain range far in the distance.

Keep an open mind & have fun

Are the lights of Marfa real? Something is happening to create these lights. Is it an unexplained natural phenomenon? Maybe, maybe not.

Even though no one knows exactly what the lights are, it’s fun to share the experience with family and friends.

We like to tell people that we have had the pleasure of seeing the lights of Marfa, even if we don’t know exactly what they are.

View of the Marfa lights
Enlarged photo of the lights of Marfa that we took

Other activities in Marfa, Texas

When visiting Marfa, Texas, it’s not just the lights that are a great experience. They certainly draw the crowds, but you can also enjoy other activities in this southwest Texas city.

Visit the Marfa Lights Festival

The annual Marfa Lights Festival is held each September at the historic Presidio County Courthouse. It is free and open to the public.

The festival features a parade on Saturday, live music and entertainment, Zumba on Sunday morning, and various retail and food vendors. It’s fun for the whole family!

A ride on the Marfa Glider

Did you know that Marfa is famous for the gliding competitions that have taken place here over the decades?

If you want to take a glider ride, Marfa Gliders offers rides and lessons for guests to experience the beauty over the Davis Mountains and Big Bend Country.

These flights are by appointment only. Inquire by emailing [email protected] for pricing and availability.

Enjoy a wine tasting at Alta Marfa Winery.

This small winery in Marfa makes unique wines from grapes grown by farmers in Texas and New Mexico. The winery is open only on Fridays from 3 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 7 p.m.

Enjoy a wine tasting, single glass or bottle and snacks during your visit.

Please note: This Wine glasses are perfect for your next camping trip!

A photo in front of the Prada Marfa

The Prada Marfa is a sculptural art installation by artists Elmgreen & Dragset. It is located on US Highway 90, about 26 miles northwest of Marfa.

Inaugurated on October 1, 2005, the sculpture resembles a Prada storefront and even features two large windows displaying real Prada merchandise, shoes and handbags.

Rae stands in front of the Prada Marfa

Visit the buildings of the minimalist Donald Judd

As an art lover, you’ll appreciate the artwork of renowned minimalist Donald Judd. He moved to Marfa in the 1970s and acquired several buildings for art installations.

You can visit the Chinati Foundation and the Judd Foundation to see his large-scale architectural projects and other exhibitions.

Will you see the lights of Marfa the next time you drive through Texas?

There is no conclusive explanation for the phenomenon of the Marfa lights, but they are worth seeing if you are driving through southwest Texas.

It’s a cool experience if you do experience a sighting, but even if you don’t, you can share the anticipation and excitement with your family and friends.

Plus, the town of Marfa is a nice place to spend a day. What will you say if you are lucky and see the lights of Marfa?

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