A group of Custer County citizens formed Dark Skies of the Wet Mountain Valley in 1998, seeking to protect their and future generations’ view of our pristine night sky. With little development and miles of open space, the Wet Mountain Valley seemed a perfect location to celebrate cosmic views far from city lights.
The organization pointed out the economic, physical and psychological benefits of dark night skies. Members worked with ranchers, business owners and government agencies to retrofit or replace outdoor lighting. They encouraged Silver Cliff and Westcliffe to adopt outdoor-lighting ordinances.
Custer County and the Wet Mountain Valley have long been known for their beautiful mountain vistas and big open skies, but now word is getting out about our world-class dark night skies. In 2015, Silver Cliff and Westcliffe were recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association as the ninth International Dark Sky Community in the world; the first in Colorado, and with an elevation of almost 7,900 feet, the nearest to the heavens! Media coverage from USA Today and the New York Times to CNN, NBC Today and even national Japanese TV, has helped draw those excited about viewing a pure night sky to Custer County.
Photographers and stargazers now come from across America and around the world to view our Valley’s phenomenal night sky. Dark Skies of the Wet Mountain Valley provides them with the magical experience of a night sky much like the earliest pioneers saw.
Visit www.darkskiescolorado.org for upcoming events and free public Star Parties or to book a free private Star Party at the Smokey Jack Observatory.
For more about our Dark Sky Community:
More history of how Westcliffe and Silver Cliff became a Dark Sky Community:
[Photographs by Scott Dankof]
July 2019 video by the Denver Post: