Our Story

Journey through Shadowcliff's Founding Years and Environmental Stewardship Legacy

To learn more about Shadowcliff’s programs, as well as who and how we host, visit the Guest Experiences section of our website.

A Dream, A Vision, A Prayer: The Rempel's Founding Years

The Shadowcliff story begins with a tent and a campsite on the banks of the North Inlet stream. In 1956, Patt and Warren Rempel dreamed of building a simple, rustic lodge and purchased two lots on the North Inlet stream in order to fulfill this dream. Inspirational morning meditations on a promontory, which overlooked Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake, served as the source of the dream which became Shadowcliff.

At that time, the Rempel family lived in Manhattan, Kansas where Warren served as a campus minister at Kansas State University as well as a founding member of Ecumenical Christian Ministries (ECM) and the UFM Community Learning Center. Patt was working as a nurse. In addition to these community roles, the Rempels also had a heart for supporting international students attending K-State who often went long periods of time without seeing their families. Consequently, the Rempel’s vision for Shadowcliff prioritized the inclusion of many different peoples and cultures.

Because the family lived in Kansas during the school year, they spent summers on the newly acquired land, building Shadowcliff piece by piece over several decades. After a year or two of tent camping by the stream, the Rempels began the first building project in the summer of 1959 with teams of adventurous student volunteers from Kansas State University. The first cabin to be built was dubbed the “International Headquarters of Shadowcliff”, and was constructed over a period of 6 weeks. This was the A-frame which was the first installment of Overlook Cabin. The main lodge, now known as Rempel Lodge, was started in 1963, but wasn’t completed until 1976. By 1981, construction of the main buildings was completed through the efforts of approximately 650 volunteers from 42 countries!

The Rempels weren’t just visitors to Grand Lake. From 1981 to 1999, Warren served as the interim pastor of Trinity in the Pines Church in Grand Lake, and was instrumental in leading the charge to keep a casino developer out of town. In 2000, Patt and Warren retired from Shadowcliff management and instead of selling the property, they generously ensured that it would continue to serve as a place of retreat and healing for people from all walks of life, all over the world.

Bridging the Gap & Environmental Stewardship

After the Rempels, Shadowcliff leadership transitioned to co-directors Bob Mann & Judith Christy who, at the time, lived in Kansas City, Missouri. Bob & Judith had been frequent visitors to Shadowcliff and part of an interfaith group called Ekumenikos. Bob also practiced law and founded the environmental education organization Bridging the Gap in Kansas City. In 2001, Shadowcliff became a nonprofit affiliate of Bridging the Gap and over the next ten years hosted multiple workshops cultivating solution-oriented leadership in the fledgling sector of sustainability professionals.

In addition to programming, a number of physical and policy changes were made to the facilities, including conversion to all LED lighting, updating to more efficient windows, adding low-flow toilets and showers, and creating “Compassionate Kitchen” principles that included more local food sourcing and meals with less meat-centric entrees.

In 2013, the Laws of Nature Interpretive Trail was added to the grounds of Shadowcliff in honor of Bob & Judith’s contributions. The trail features signs and benches made by volunteers that highlight ten “laws of nature” for visitors to consider while they take in the surrounding views.

Shadowcliff Continues Inspiring the Journey

After a mutually-beneficial 22 year relationship under Bridging the Gap, Shadowcliff received its designation as a stand alone 501(c)3 non-profit organization in 2022 and took official ownership of the property in 2023. Shadowcliff is led by a volunteer Board of Directors and Executive Staff, and continues to draw support from passionate volunteers from all over the world. Our mission is to “hold space for individual and collective transformation” and our values are Healing, Growth, Community and Hospitality.

We recognize that through the years, many different people have come to Shadowcliff seeking a transformative experience in a welcoming setting. We also recognize the power of compassionate leadership to change lives. With this understanding of our history, and by living through our values, Shadowcliff prioritizes non-profit groups seeking community-oriented space to fulfill their missional work — whether that’s a hands-on workshop, team-building retreat, or respite for clients and their families.

Shadowcliff continues to offer welcoming and inclusive space for groups, families, individual guests, hostelers and visitors of all kinds! We look forward to seeing you at Shadowcliff this summer.

Visual Chronology

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