Dark Skies, Inc. of the Wet Mountain Valley

P.O. Box 634
Westcliffe, CO 81252

Smokey Jack Observatory Directions


About Us

Dark Skies, Inc. of the Wet Mountain Valley led the effort for the towns of Silver Cliff and Westcliffe to be certified as an IDA International Dark Sky Community in March 2015! We are the 1st in Colorado, 9th in the world, and the highest anywhere. 

Interested in helping us and our efforts to preserve the night sky? Come join us at our next monthly meeting or Star Party!


Mission Statement

Dark Skies is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the exceptional quality of the natural dark skies of the Wet Mountain Valley in Custer County, Colorado, by assisting the community with individual preservation efforts and by educational programs supporting observation, appreciation, and preservation of the natural dark skies.


International Dark Sky Association (IDA) Certification

Our page on the IDA Places section.

Our original Dark Skies certification application, Nomination Package for the IDA Dark Sky Community Designation

2016 Annual Report, Recertification for the IDA Dark Sky Community Designation. Read about our incredible year following the certification!


Custer County Chamber of Commerce

Custer County Tourism Board

Towns of Westcliffe & Silver  Cliff, CO

Custer County Economic Development Corporation

Sangres Art Guild

3 Peaks Photography & Design




Shortly after the inception of Dark Skies, Inc. of the Wet Mountain Valley on March 5, 1999, Smokey Jack, President, negotiated an agreement with the West Custer County Hospital District to use dark sky friendly lighting fixtures. She realized that awaking growth in the towns and the surrounding Wet Mountain Valley would soon get the attention of nationally operated chain and franchised businesses that typically follow the corporate building style that rarely specifies dark sky friendly lighting fixtures. But she also knew that the biggest area of resistance would be the mindset of the local population.

Thus began a nearly two decades long process to change the mindsets of these old western communities from one of “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do.” to “How can we protect our beautiful Wet Mountain Valley’s rural charm from being lost to big-city problems like light pollution?” She and the founding members of Dark Skies decided to approach this process with education of the problem and of its solutions until the mindset had changed sufficiently to campaign for lighting ordinances. Our many successful projects in light pollution control, education, and awareness are samples of how the education process has and is still being conducted with year-round newspaper advertising, an art contest at the Custer County School District, the Dark Skies website, a publication included with the town/county building permit packets, presentations at local organizations, and star parties (usually with a lecture presentation where dark sky issues are included).

The effectiveness of this education effort is reflected in the Town of Westcliffe trustees’ decision to install a test LED street light without prompting from Dark Skies, the school district’s decision to change shielded parking lot lights to LED fixtures, and, on a much larger scale, with continuing public financial support of Dark Skies objectives without there being a large goal set for a specific project. Since 2015, we have received over $11,000 annually. Over 10% of the campaign’s contributors give to Dark Skies. Most contributions come from within Colorado, but we also have received contributions from seasonal residents from whom we have often heard that they plan on retiring here in the future and want the nightscape preserved for when they can enjoy it full-time. And from out-of-state visitors that found that their visit here inspired them to want to keep it a special place to which to return.



Dark skies become important asset for Westcliffe and Silver CliffKOAA News5 Colorado Springs, May 5, 2015

The towns that embraced darkness to see the starlight,  CNN "Great Big Story", September 15, 2016

The Colorado towns that turned up the stars,  CityLab, The Atlantic , September 30, 2016

More Press