The Nature Place

Visit Our Observatory Near Colorado Springs

Blog Collaborated with Simon Lambert, The Nature Place Apprentice 2023

As we approach the annual mark of the darkest and longest night in the northern hemisphere, we are so grateful for the rich history and opportunities our astronomy programming has offered night sky viewings to thousands of campers, guests, and families through the decades. 

The Nature Place Observatory

Our observatory has had many uses across the Light years from educating young minds in the summer camps to astounding stargazers who visit the Nature Place. Throughout Sanborn property’s 75-year legacy, the astronomy program has undergone radical changes starting from humble beginnings until expanding into its vastness as of today.

Its roots go back all the way to the 1950s – the early days of the Big Spring summer camp. Former camper, Dr. Charlie Schweighauser, author of Astronomy A-Z, takes the first looks into the camp’s sky gazing program by providing its very own telescope. At its infancy, campers learned about the stars, cosmos, and constellations.

Founders, Sandy and Laura Sanborn, were avid astronomy enthusiastsReflecting Telescope in Colorado Springs themselves and wanted to support and expand the program in any way they could. Encouraging childrens’ sense of wonder is one of the key values at camp and there was no better way to do so than to teach about the expansiveness of the universe and what traverses the night sky. It wasn’t long before they helped get more telescopes in camp to have one be placed in High Trails and the other in Big Spring. (Dr. Charlie Schweighauser introduces first telescope at Sanborn to campers, Right)

Around the late 1960s, a local resident named Alan Raycroft had built a shack on the property to store stargazing equipment. Seeing the benefit this could have on the program, Sandy would later purchase it and have it relocated over to High Trails. Alongside telescopes, it would go on to house a number of other celestial viewing resources and later become the first rendition of an observatory in Sanborn. This would become the site of many night programs for kids during the summers, falls, and springs who would come to learn about the different star arrangements and planetary movements throughout the night. It was also host to one of the camp’s cookout sites whereupon stargazers would revel in the star-studded skies while simultaneously enjoying campfire cooked foods.

Observatory near Colorado SpringsThe next big addition came when Sandy purchased a sizable telescope – “Big Blue” is the very same that’s housed in the observatory we have today. Acquired in the 1980s, it wasn’t until 1991 that construction of the new observatory would be completed. This came with plans to install a rotating dome to navigate the skies more efficiently and an adjacent classroom to hold lessons and demonstrations on various astronomical subjects. It was further supplied with an assortment of materials to enhance the experience like a multitude of stars charts and a library concerning all things interstellar with more additions added on now and again.
(Left Observatory photo taken upon completion.)

You may be wondering; What can this telescope view with such dated technology from over 40 years ago? Although true, this telescope’s capable view pales in comparison to recent images produced by the James Webb Telescope (click link to explore the technology) and any other modern telescope available to the lay astronomer, we can see quite a great deal of our neighbors in our “local” galaxy: Orion Nebula Cluster, Andromeda Galaxy, Ursa Major & Minor, Merak & Mizar, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Earth’s Moon, Sirius, Betelguese to name a few objects we typically see through the seasons. If you happen to be searching for an observatory in Colorado Springs, we’d be glad to host you and your group!

While we know it is sometimes difficult to appreciate our darkening night sky earlier and earlier in the northern hemisphere, be grateful for the chance to view our ever growing understanding of space through the winter solstice and ensuing winter months. Whether used as a camping destination for our campers at Sanborn Western Camps,  classroom full of students with High Trails Outdoor Education Center, or mesmerizing various groups that venture to The Nature Place, the observatory has and will continue to educate and spark wonder in any stargazer who yearns to discover the vastness of our observable universe!

Full Lunar eclipse at The Nature Place

                                                                                                      Lunar Eclipse May 2022 as viewed through our telescope. Photo: Mike Rodriguez

Classroom Observatory in Colorado(Classroom setting within the Observatory)

The Nature Place Sanborn Western Camps Telescope in Colorado




(Within the Dome of the Observatory)

(Viewing the night sky in Florissant, Colorado)

Night Sky Observatory at Sanborn Western Camps The Nature Place