Sunday, August 24, 2008


Last month, we met Gary Greff, whose giant metal sculptures have been installed on farm land along the "Enchanted Highway" in North Dakota to attract tourists to his tiny hometown of Regent. His story is that of a man obsessed with his project, a man completely devoted to his vision.

Yesterday we visited the project of another obsessed individual, and equally fascinating: Bishop's Castle in the Wet Mountains in Colorado. In this case, the artist/builder is Jim Bishop, and this has been his project since 1969.

Researching the area around Westcliffe, I had seen Bishop's Castle mentioned a few times. Located in a national forest area around 20 miles from our current "home", a visit to the castle was a convenient stop on yesterday's planned sightseeing drive.

If not for the 20 or so cars parked haphazardly along the road through the heavily forested mountains, we could have zoomed right past the mostly hidden castle - and look what we would have missed!!

What now appears to be a medieval fantasy castle began as a simple, handbuilt stone house on a small piece of private property. When the U.S. government objected to the builder's use of rock from the surrounding national forest, Jim Bishop objected - and became obsessed both with his building and with the government's interference.

The Forest Service eventually worked out a permit agreement, but Jim Bishop's obsessions continuted to grow. A multitude of anti-government signs adorn the property, almost as fascinating as the castle.

As you view these photos, keep in mind that ALL the work has been done by one man, alone. Certainly a man with far more imagination and drive than I!

Here I am (above), standing on a concrete stairway leading up the outside of the castle. This is the prime "posing" spot for us tourists, but the steps are only about 6 inches wide.

This photo (above) shows Odel in one of the main rooms. On the inside, the castle feels as "hand-built" as it looks on the outside - the floors aren't quite flat, lots of odd angles... circular staircases creep up through turrets, openings going nowhere draw you to explore.

This is the largest of the rooms, quite beautiful, with a vaulted, cathedral-type ceiling and leaded glass windows. Many doorways lead out to the wrought iron balcony and walkways that surround the outside of the castle. Walking out, you stand on a stiff metal grating, through which you can see to the ground far below. Up so high, with not much between you and the ground, the anti-government ranting on the signs posted near the front of the castle return to mind - and you realize it is unlikely that code enforcement officials have given these structures their blessing.

Above and below: some of the many balconies, walkways and bridges we DIDN'T explore!

Another view of the castle, from up the hillside at the back.

Photo above: the first of the public notices posted as you enter the property... a sign of interesting things to come.

The rest of our sightseeing day was beautiful, including a short hike around a lake ringed with summer cabins. People fished from the shore and explored in kayaks and canoes. It was a quintessential last-days-of-summer scene. We took a back road home, happy with our interesting day.

Two hours later, the blue sky was gone, the weather radio was blaring, and a massive thunderstorm bore down on our peaceful valley. Wind, rain, lightening, thunder, and blasts of hail transformed the day. Wow! It swept through in about an hour, followed by a flash flood warning transmitted via weather radio. No floods for us, just giant puddles everywhere. Quite an eventful day.


  1. Hi there, what a cool and very interesting looking castle this is! One I'd like to explore someday. Why isn't he living in it?

    Hugs, Sharon & Ron

  2. We missed going to that when we were in Westcliff. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

  3. What a totally amazing sight. It will definitely make it to my "must see" list. The pictures are great. Quirky things like that are my favorite things to do. Thanks for sharing.