Curecanti National Recreation Area in Colorado is a series of three reservoirs along the once wild Gunnison River. The reservoirs that make up Curecanti today are a destination for water-based recreation high in the Rocky Mountains. Best known for salmon and trout fishing, Curecanti also offers opportunities for hiking, boating, camping and bird watching. Start planning your trip now. Photo by Alex Stephens, Bureau of Reclamation.

The Dolores River, “The River of Sorrows”

For centuries there was a peaceful tribe of cliff dwelling natives that inhabited these canyons. As the legend goes, in the mid 1850′s a marauding tribe came from the North. They slaughtered every man, women and child. From thereon the canyon was shadowed in gloom, but the river still ran.

One hundred years later, the Bureau of Reclamation built the McPhee dam on the outskirts of the San Juan Mountains for agricultural purposes. The once free river, had the life sucked out of it. No longer would there be seasonal floods that washed the sediment and muck away. Nowadays, the river is choked with mud and impenetrable tamarisk. The Bureau is required by law to release a large quantity of water once a year to mimic the floods. But they haven’t done that in over five years. When I visit this place, I feel the pain of not only the ancient ones, but of the river. It’s flows are a mere trickle that resemble tears.

Someday, this river will be free again.