To me, Southern Colorado is one of the more interesting areas in the United States. Stuck between mountain and desert, jumping between high and low elevations, you can find some of the craziest people and locations hidden miles from anything else. I was out exploring Westcliffe to experience it’s “Dark Sky” status and I came upon Bishops Castle, a man made structure that towers 160 up above the trees.
The castle is the life work of Joe Bishop who bought the land with $450 when he was 15. Being that young, he wasn’t allowed to actually own the land so he had his parents buy it for him. His father was an iron welder, which is where Jim learned the trade from. For 10 summers, Jim and his father camped on the land during the summer building season, and cleared it with intentions to eventually build a cabin on it. Trading off shifts on the land building and at the families iron shop, they used rocks from the area to construct their cottage.
Eventually, the problem of how to get running water to the property came up and building a gravity fed cistern seemed like the best solution. It was at this point that neighbors started calling the property a castle and that’s when the idea for actually making one sprang up in Jims mind. Willard disagreed though stating that it would be too much work and their partnership building the property split.
Over the years, the castle continued to grow. Jim became dedicated to building it completely by himself, as every time someone offered their help, they never showed up when the time came. Over the years, he had gained many skills ranging from iron welding, to mortaring, to scroll bending and used every one of them in constructing this masterpiece. It is completely free to enjoy, leading to some problems with the state and building codes, as everyone is technically a guest of Bishop’s while they are on the property.
Climbing this tower was probably one of the cooler things that I have done. What starts as a single set of stairs leading to an open floor plan, quickly breaks off to claustrophobically tight stair cases made of wrought iron. As you climb higher, the walls start to disappear and suddenly all there is to hold you up is a frame with a sign warning that the structure could fall apart. But you can still go higher.
Eventually, the brave reach a shaky tower that sways with the wind. It’s only big enough for one person at a time, but don’t worry, 90% of the people climbing turn back at some point leading any wait to be very short. I’d encourage you to be brave though. The views are absolutely stunning and getting to the top, for me, lead to an intense feeling of calm satisfaction. I’ll definitely stop by next time I’m in the area since even at 60years old, Jim is never done building.
Closest Supercharger Colorado Springs 73 mi
215 N Cascade Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80903
12705 CO-165, Rye, CO 81069