Skip to Main Content

UFOs cannot escape the watchtower's unobstructed views.
UFOs cannot escape the watchtower's unobstructed views.

The UFO Watchtower

Field review by the editors.

Hooper, Colorado

Judy Messoline moved to the San Luis Valley, high in the Rocky Mountains, to raise livestock. Five years later she knew she'd made a mistake ("Cows don't eat sand," she told us). Only then, by accident, did she tap the Valley's real natural resource: UFOs.

Look to the skies, sez Judy Messoline.
Look to the skies, sez Judy Messoline.

It began as a joke. Judy was working at a gas station in town (she'd sold her cattle), and the locals who stopped by mentioned seeing odd things in the cold night skies of the Valley. One farmer jovially suggested that Judy use her rangeland to build an observation tower.

Judy liked the idea. She knew that UFO-watchers would sometimes visit her ranch after dark, so she opened a campground, had a small stucco saucer dome built as a gift shop, and surrounded it with a ten-foot-high viewing platform.

Unapologetic, she called it "The UFO Watchtower" because, as she told us, "When you're already at 7,600 feet, you don't need to be much higher."

Colorado 17 is called The Cosmic Highway by those who've seen things.
Colorado 17 is called The Cosmic Highway by those who've seen things.

The tower opened in the summer of 2000. Judy didn't expect that anyone would see anything from it, other than the distant mountain ranges and the stars at night. What she didn't know was that the San Luis Valley is revered among flying saucer buffs as one of the best places in the world to see UFOs. Judy's watchtower was right in the middle of it.

Judy and her granddaughter.
Judy and her granddaughter.

The faithful flocked to Judy's property along Colorado 17 ("The Cosmic Highway") and made it a popular stopover. To her surprise, other Valley residents began stopping by as well, telling her their stories and using Judy as a kind of UFO counselor. "If you didn't know the people, you'd think they were crazy," she said. Judy began writing down what she'd been told, and the stories now fill several binders in the gift shop -- which also stocks a healthy selection of bug-eyed alien souvenirs.

We visited during the day, when sightings are less frequent ("The serious people camp overnight," Judy said) but we climbed the steps of the metal tower for a firsthand look. Aside from the view eastward of the giant sand dunes, most of what is visible across the billiard-table terrain is the sky. Judy was right; she didn't need to build much of a tower to get a good view.

One curious sight visible day or night is Judy's "Healing Garden," which spreads out from the dome's back door. Judy said that over 25 psychics had visited the UFO Watchtower and that "they've all said that there's two large vortexes out here."

The vortexes -- which, according to an accompanying sign, are openings to parallel universes -- have been outlined with rocks. Around them is the Garden: an ever-increasing clutter of sunglasses, hubcaps, stuffed toys, etc., which the sign warns should never be moved. Judy said that anyone who leaves something personal in the Garden is entitled to make a request, and that "there are two large beings here who protect the entrances to the vortexes, but they're also here to help." According to Judy, the success-to-request rate has been good.

Snippy the horse met a UFO; all that was left were her bones.
Snippy the horse met a UFO; all that was left were her bones.

"You just go in the Garden and ask," said Judy. "When I first opened I yelled, 'All right, you guys. I gotta have at least $100 a day to make this work.' And I'll be danged if starting the next day I did $100 a day, every day."

Perhaps the strangest sight at the Watchtower is the skeleton of "Snippy," a three-year-old filly that made headlines ("Flying Saucer Sought in Death of Horse") on September 8, 1967, when her corpse was found in a nearby meadow. "She was totally stripped from the shoulder to the tip of her nose," said Judy. "All that was left were bones. The organs were all gone. The bones were all radioactive. There was no blood."

Judy added, "You can see where they cut the skull open to get the brain" -- they being the inhabitants of a mysterious aerial craft that had been seen just before Snippy's demise. "She's a legend in the Valley," said Judy of the horse. "Everybody knows Snippy."

At the end of the rainbow you'll find the UFO Watchtower.
At the end of the rainbow you'll find the UFO Watchtower.

It took Judy eight years to corral Snippy, who'd originally been exhibited in several museums, then had spent decades gathering dust in a railroad boxcar and a storage unit. Judy finally acquired the skeleton in late 2021. She gave the bones to Jay Young, owner of a nearby alligator farm, who reassembled the skeleton into a permanent display that opened at the Watchtower in 2022. "He was thrilled," Judy said. "And she belongs here. She's UFO-related. This is her home."

As you can probably guess, hanging out at the UFO Watchtower has turned Judy from an agnostic rancher into a UFO believer.

"I know what I've seen with my own eyes," she said, recounting some of the 30 personal sightings she's had from the watchtower (Nearly 300 in all have been recorded in the Tower's log books, and Judy said that many more have gone undocumented). The watchtower draws tourists from around the world -- and beyond. Judy provides a separate sign-in sheet for visitors who claim to be extraterrestrial hybrids, of which there have been several.

"I don't discount anything that anybody says to me any more," Judy said. "If you don't have some giggles with this, you're gonna go nuts."

Also see: Another UFO Tower

The UFO Watchtower

2502 County Rd 61, Hooper, CO
On the west side of CO-17, about 2.5 miles north of Hooper and CO-112. Look for the billboards.
Summer daily 10-5; off-season Sa-Su 10-4; camping nightly year-round. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Adults $5. Overnight camping $15.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Colorado Gators Reptile ParkColorado Gators Reptile Park, Mosca, CO - 6 mi.
Statue of Old Mose the Grizzly BearStatue of Old Mose the Grizzly Bear, Alamosa, CO - 22 mi.
Shoes on Fence PostsShoes on Fence Posts, Moffat, CO - 28 mi.
In the region:
Mother Mary's Totem, San Luis, CO - 46 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Colorado

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Colorado.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

My Sights

My Sights on Roadside America

Save Cool Vacation Destinations! ...Try My Sights

Mobile Apps

Roadside America app: iPhone, iPad Roadside America app for iPhone, iPad. On-route maps, 1,000s of photos, special research targets! ...More

Roadside Presidents app: iPhone, iPad Roadside Presidents app for iPhone, iPad. POTUS landmarks, oddities. ...More

Colorado Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Great American Alligator Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana (May 13-19, 2024)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Favorite Quirky City Sights