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Suzanne B. Jack, known as Smokey Jack, loved the Wet Mountain Valley’s dazzling night sky. To preserve it, she helped form Dark Skies of the Wet Mountain Valley, a group of concerned citizens who worked tirelessly toward Westcliffe and Silver Cliff’s 2015 International Dark Sky Community Designation.

Smokey Jack died of cancer in 2004 at age 58, but her legacy lives on at the Smokey Jack Observatory (SJO).

Constructed in 2015 on the southwest corner of Bluff Park at 100 S. Adams Blvd. in Westcliffe, Colo., the SJO boasts a retractable roof and a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with computer-guided pointing and tracking to view our majestic night sky. The SJO has become an exciting top destination for people from all around the globe when visiting Custer County. Visitors can view the heavens from the SJO with its state of the art, 14” computer-automated telescope.

In addition to free public Star Parties hosted at the SJO throughout the year celebrating various astronomical events [2021: Virtual Star Party Livestreams will take the place of public Star Parties this year: darkskiescolorado.org/events], Dark Skies also takes reservations for the public to book a free, private Star Party on their website at darkskiescolorado.org. These private Star Parties are hosted by one of their trained Star Guides and run from mid-March thru October. The success of private Star Parties has been phenomenal with dates booking out far in advance. So, don’t wait to reserve yours now!

The best—and warmest—months to visit the Smokey Jack Observatory are May through September. The observatory is outside, so you’ll want warm clothes as temperatures drop rapidly after dark.

Check out the Dark Skies events calendar for more details on the free public Star Parties at the SJO, celebrating various astronomical events and to see other special events. Whether you are a serious amateur astronomer or someone who just wants the opportunity to enjoy a night sky free of light pollution and learn more about the awe-inspiring Universe right above us, you’ll have a special and unique opportunity when you visit Custer County!

Smokey Jack Observatory