When it comes to spotting UFOs, most people usually think of New Mexico, not Colorado. Yet a small watchtower in the middle of the San Luis Valley is one of the top spots on the planet to view these unidentified objects, according to Judy Messoline, a cattle rancher-turned-UFOlogist who owns and operates it.

After Messoline moved to the valley to raise cattle, she often heard UFO stories. It got to the point, she says, that she’d giggle and say, “We need a UFO watchtower,” never dreaming that she would one day be the one to build it. But after four and a half years of being a rancher, Messoline could no longer afford to feed her cows and was forced to sell the herd. A short time later, while working at the gas station in Hooper, she was telling one of the local farmers that she didn’t want to be forced to sell her land, too. He said to her, “you need to put up that UFO Watchtower you’ve laughed about.”

Sensing that he was right, Messoline erected the UFO Watchtower in 2000. Since then there have been 96 sightings from the structure, 26 of which Messoline herself has witnessed (as of August 2015). “Keep in mind I had never seen anything prior to starting this little venture,” she says. “It’s been a real eye opener!”

The sightings can occur any time of day, explains Messoline, but they’re easiest to spot at night, when the dancing lights and erratic green streaks stand out in the valley’s clear, high air and dark skies. “We’ve also seen actual crafts, cigar shapes, saucers, and a couple we thought at first were birds,” she says.

To take advantage of the prime middle-of-the-night viewing hours, visitors often camp on the property. Many sleep out under the stars on the tower, which is really more of a platform. The flat, white metal structure is perched directly above what Messoline calls the Healing Garden, where two large energy vortices are located—according to the more than 25 psychics who have visited the site.

The psychics marked the vortices’ centers with large stones and told Messoline that anyone who needs help in his or her life should go to the Garden and ask for it. To harness this force, Messoline encourages visitors to leave behind a trinket. “I’ve told folks to leave something in the Garden to get their energy there,” she says.

The scope and creativity of the Garden offerings are impressive, ranging from (hopefully expired) credit cards and half bottles of wine to alien paraphernalia and hundreds of pens sticking out of the ground in a fanciful, flower-like bed. Collectively these votives pay homage not only to the extraterrestrials that people hope to spot at the UFO Watchtower, but also to the 30,000 visitors from around the world—and possibly farther—who have landed here.

Visit: The UFO Watchtower is located just west of Highway 17 in the San Luis Valley, a few miles north of Hooper. The tower is open 24/7 year-round for viewing. There is a $2 per person (or $5 per car) admission fee. Primitive camping (with no water) costs $10 per tent, per night.

Terri Cook
Terri Cook
Terri Cook is an award-winning freelance writer based in Boulder. More of her work can be found at down2earthscience.com.