Rio Colorado

Alfalfa blooms in the fields next to the shell of the San Isidro Catholic Church, which burned in 1975.

The patron saint of farming

BY: - February 8, 2023

LAS MESITAS, Colo. — The husk of a church rises up, seemingly scraping the low, heavy clouds. The hollowed-out sanctuary is open to the whipping wind and a smattering of raindrops.  Gutted by fire in 1975, the bones of the mission-style San Isidro Catholic Church remain, purple cowslip and grasses sprouting in the aisles. Empty […]

JD Schmidt's sheep graze in the San Luis Valley on June 23, 2022.

A new mentality of collaboration in a river district

BY: - February 6, 2023

MANASSA, Colo. — Nathan Coombs, who manages the Conejos River District, used to hold beliefs that more water for conservation meant less for farmers.  “I was raised on a production ag farm,” he said. “Water was for crops. That was the only use in my perspective.” The farmer from Manassa, Colorado, said his mind was changed […]

Kyler Brown drives a calf on June 21, 2022 as part of a drive that went through downtown Del Norte, Colorado.

Moral questions on a standard San Luis Valley farm

BY: - February 3, 2023

MONTE VISTA, Colo. — A self-described Midwest import from Missouri, 39-year old Kyler Brown is a cowboy, farmer and philosopher. These days, he feels driven by questions of life and death.  “Do people feel like they have morality in their occupation? I think people have moral moments, but probably most people don’t question the morality of […]

Beetle-bitten fir and spruce, along with burn-scarred aspens, are part of the fabric of the forest around the Rio Grande headwaters.

Drought, plague and fire: What one Colorado forest is up against

BY: - February 1, 2023

RIO GRANDE NATIONAL FOREST — The high alpine forests are a sickbed. Swathes of gray trees are bald on one side, with patches of russet needles fading into scraggly branches. Others show thick strips of bark sloughed off, revealing bleached trunks beneath.  Much of the 1.86 million acres of Rio Grande National Forest is dead. […]

Farmer Kyler Brown in front of a small dam on the Rio Grande at a farm outside of Monte Vista, Colorado.

Living on the knife’s edge, even at the source of the Rio Grande

BY: - January 30, 2023

RIO GRANDE RESERVOIR, Colo — After 15 miles of pockmarked dirt road, the Rio Grande spreads wide in the shadows of the San Juan Mountains. It glitters, aqua, whitecaps whipped up by the wind. But even in the birthplace of the river lay the stark stains of climate change.  Deep, bald scars pucker the mountaintops, […]