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Photojournalists face a lot of challenges. Like journalists who trade in words, they must seek out stories to tell and develop sources. That takes patience. And persistence.

It takes more than being in the right place at the right time, waiting for the right weather, social dynamics, light, composition, framing and exposure to forever capture a moment in time. 

The hard part is getting sources to let photographers into their worlds to help better share a whole story with the community of Colorado. The more we see those diverse, rich, challenging and soul-swelling worlds, the better we can understand our state and our neighbors.

The easy part is clicking that shutter button. 

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Experience the best in Colorado news at a slower pace, with thoughtful articles, unique adventures and a reading list that’s a perfect fit for a Sunday morning.

We curated the 2022 Year in Photos based on the significant topics we covered in the last 12 months, picking images that tell as much of the story as possible in a single frame. There may have been better images in the archive this year, but we selected the ones that pack in as much information as possible within the four corners of the still medium.

We’re lucky to have two full-time photographers and a group of talented and dedicated freelancers across the state. All of them faced challenges like sub-freezing temperatures, long hikes, late nights and early mornings, and bumpy rides in planes and boats to gain access to the communities whose stories we helped tell. We hope you agree that all the effort was worth it.


Marshall fire

The year opened with people surveying the damage caused by the most costly wildfire in Colorado recorded history. The Marshall fire destroyed nearly 1,100 homes in neighborhoods in Louisville, Superior and unincorporated Boulder County and damaged many other buildings.

One year later, the cause of the Marshall fire remains undetermined and only a few people have begun to rebuild their homes.

TOP: Broomfield resident Joel Peterson walks with his daughter, Every, on Jan. 1 past a vehicle destroyed by the Marshall fire in Superior. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun) BOTTOM LEFT: David Gross, who lived with his wife for 30 years in Louisville, surveys the damage to his house south of Harper Lake on Jan. 1. (Steve Peterson, Special to The Colorado Sun) BOTTOM RIGHT: Patrick Hoffert plays tablet games at a Comfort Inn in Louisville on Jan 21. Patrick, his three siblings and their mother, Stephanie Valdez, lived with all of their pets in a two-bedroom hotel suite after the Marshall fire contaminated their rented home and possessions with smoke and ash. Valdez did not have renter’s insurance and so faced thousands of dollars in costs to repair and replace numerous items and furnishings. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

The last of Breakfast King’s tables were still set when servers showed up for work early Jan. 3. Staff closed up the night before not knowing the restaurant was closing for good, server Lori Prien said. (David Gilbert, The Colorado Sun)

Start of a labor movement

The Great Resignation quickly morphed into the year of the worker in Colorado, with union-represented employees winning wage hikes and better benefits. New unions were authorized by ski patrollers, Starbucks baristas and Meow Wolf workers. Jobseekers had their pick of work toward the end of the year, when there were an estimated two openings available for every job seeker. 

King Soopers workers and supporters, joined by Scabby the Rat, gather at a King Soopers on Jan. 13 in Glendale. Thousands of workers participated in a three-week strike that forced King Soopers to increase its offer to invest $170 million over three years in wages and bonuses, an offer that was 17% higher than two weeks before. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

Brandt Van Sickle, homelessness liaison for the City of Aurora, looks for homeless people under a bridge Jan. 25. Annual “point-in-time” observations and surveys, usually taking place in late January, are conducted early in the morning to avoid overcounting people living outdoors. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Wolves’ return

In 2020, Colorado voters narrowly OK’d the reintroduction of gray wolves to the Western Slope. A full year before Colorado Parks and Wildlife was scheduled to present a plan for bringing back the predators, a series of cattle kills on ranches near Walden made it evident that gray wolves from Wyoming had crossed the border on their own. Parks and Wildlife on Dec. 9 released its 293-page plan, which included an outline of how ranchers will be compensated for livestock losses.

Rancher Don Gittleson makes a phone call to Colorado Parks and Wildlife on Jan. 19 to report that a 1,200-pound cow had been killed by wolves overnight in front of his home outside Walden. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

I don’t want to tell you what will happen. If we see a wolf without a collar depredating livestock, how is CPW going to figure out who shot it? They are forcing our hand to become criminals.

— Phillip Anderson, a Walden rancher and president-elect of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association

Visitors catch a glimpse of the face of Barney L. Ford carved in snow Jan. 27 during the annual International Snow Sculpture Championship in Breckenridge. Ford, who grew up enslaved, followed the underground railroad West, seeking fortune during the Gold Rush. He staked a claim in Breckenridge, but was duped by a lawyer. In Denver, he became a successful hotelier and restaurateur, and worked to bring other Black people out of poverty and enslavement. His home in Breckenridge now is a museum dedicated to his memory. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)


Workers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus administer COVID-19 nasal swab tests for students Feb. 1 at Aurora Science and Tech Middle School. The Colorado School of Public Health tested students with swabs, as well as using masks with testing strips that collect respiration samples over several hours at a time. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Danny McCorkle, a seventh grader at Sierra Middle School, waves an equality flag during a protest against actions of the Douglas County District school board Feb. 3 in Castle Rock. Hundreds rallied after the district’s board majority moved to unseat Superintendent Corey Wise and alter the district’s student equity policy. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Not making it public. Not giving the public a chance to respond. This is not effective government. It will have long-term damage on this district.

— David Ray, Douglas County District school board member

A Samaritan’s Purse volunteer recovers an Army military coin belonging to Flemming Christensen on Feb. 16 in Louisville. Hundreds of volunteers and residents pored through the ash and rubble of homes burned by the Marshall fire before neighborhood cleanups began. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Skier Colin Cook hits a jump with help from the Harley the horse and its rider, Amanda Sanders, during a skijoring race on Notorious Blair Street in Silverton on Feb. 20. Even in a state where the extreme is the status quo in outdoor sports, the mashup of rodeo and ski racing results in an adrenaline jolt. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)


Ukrainians watch war from a world away

As the world condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, people in Colorado kept tabs on loved ones stuck in war zones. Many tried to raise awareness by collecting medical supplies, warm clothes, portable chargers and other donations to send to family members. Some organized local fundraisers or help arrange for safe shelter in places other than Ukraine. Some went back home to help friends and family escape the now nearly year-long war.

Vlada Petraglia attends her church, the Transfiguration of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church in Denver on March 8. Petraglia regularly communicated with friends and family to help them navigate their way out of their towns in Ukraine. Petraglia’s parents, who lived in Kharkiv, stayed in a bomb shelter then attempted to leave the city after Russia attacked the area. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Elizabeth Morales, 7, receives a COVID-19 booster shot from Andrene Watson on March 13 at St. Pius X Parish in Aurora. Hispanics in Colorado have a low rate of vaccination. One woman worked to reverse that trend, regularly visiting churches around the metro area to organize inoculation clinics. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Six members of the Liberty Girls stroll March 15 in Highlands Ranch. About 315 women make up the Liberty Girls, a group organized by Donna Tompkins. “We’re trying to stand up for things in our state and county and for electing people that we think will represent our values for our kids,” Tompkins said. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

The South Platte River in Logan County is viewed from overhead March 16. Nebraska’s Department of Natural Resources has plans to dig a $500 million canal across its border and take water from the South Platte River on the Colorado side. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican from Sterling, pulls his single-engine 1980 Cessna Skylane from a garage March 16 in Sterling. Sonnenberg is a hobbyist pilot and has owned the Skylane for 10 years — not quite as long as he served in the statehouse. Sonnenberg was term-limited after serving 15 years total in the state House and Senate. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Carmelita Borrego, an employee at R&R Market for 19 years who does “everything,” stands outside waiting for her husband March 14. The market, Colorado’s oldest business, almost closed before being reinvented as a food co-op with the goal of making it easier for residents of San Luis to access fresh, healthy food without having to drive long distances to other stores. (John McEvoy, Special to The Colorado Sun)


Gov. Jared Polis signs an abortion rights bill into law April 4 in Denver. The bill, passed through the Colorado statehouse following the longest House debate in state history, protects access to birth control and abortion services. It passed a month before news leaked that a U.S. Supreme Court decision was likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that prevented states from outlawing all abortion. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Tina Peters saga

Tina Peters was indicted on suspicion of breaching Mesa County’s election system, allegedly to uncover election fraud, and later earned the top spot on the Republican primary ballot for Colorado secretary of state. She came in third, lagging the top finisher, former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson, by 20 percentage points and paid for a recount that did not change the outcome of the primary. Peters faces a seven-day trial in March on the criminal charges against her. 

Embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters dances to Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” before entering the stage in front of the delegates at the GOP state assembly April 9 at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Going forward, every time you hear (Democratic Secretary of State) Jena Griswold complain about the ‘Big Lie,’ just realize that’s the left’s big cry. We’re going to give them something to cry about in November aren’t we?

— Tina Peters, embattled Mesa County clerk

Colorado State University students Megan Sears, center, and Mikaela Richardson walk through the burned forest April 15 to sample the snow depth where the Cameron Peak fire burned on Cameron Pass. Their research attempts to determine how large forest fires affect river systems in the West. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Eric Novikoff, 60, started ketamine treatments at the Mental Health Center of Denver after trying six antidepressants over about five months that provided little relief from his severe depression and suicidal thoughts. The medication, better known for its use as an emergency room sedative, can heighten a person’s senses, so Novikoff often brings an eye mask, blanket and noise-canceling headphones to his two-hour treatments. “I’ve had some very interesting enhanced sense experiences, like hearing the blood flowing in my body,” he said April 20. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

I’ve had some very interesting enhanced sense experiences, like hearing the blood flowing in my body.

— Eric Novikoff, who has been getting ketamine treatments


U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighter Jeff Macklin ignites piles of dead trees May 5 to burn more than 400 acres of beetle-killed trees before hot, dry summer conditions raise the risk of wildfire in Summit County. Beetles have killed 3.4 million acres of lodgepole and ponderosa pine forest in Colorado since 1996. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

A great horned owl recovering from a head injury is kept in the hospital area of the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program in Fort Collins on May 6. The program rehabilitates around 300 birds a year, 78% of which are returned to the wild. Raptor populations are returning to Colorado, with the public highly invested in protecting them and their habitat. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Visitors to the Great Sand Dunes National Park struggle against the wind to return to the parking area May 13 while others brave the tempest to climb onward. Months of record-setting winds damaged buildings and crops and put a damper on outdoor tourism in Colorado. (John McEvoy, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The Super Flower Blood Moon Eclipse visible from Cheesman Park in Denver on May 15. The hue of the blood moon is due to air molecules in Earth’s atmosphere scattering most blue light. The remaining light reflects onto the Moon’s surface, making it appear red. The eclipse was one of two visible in Colorado in 2022. The second, on Nov. 8, was the last total lunar eclipse visible in Colorado until March 14, 2025. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Tale of two cities

The latest U.S. census showed that Colorado’s population is shifting and the divide between urban and rural communities is getting wider. Compared with Broomfield County, where the population has grown by almost 33% from 2010 to 2020, Kit Carson County has seen a decrease of 15% in a decade, especially slowing since a prison closed in Burlington. Marcus Lyngstad, 14, said his hometown of Vona, with about 100 people, feels even sleepier today than when he moved there four years ago.

LEFT: Marcus Lyngstad, 14, stands with his casterboard in front of a building in Vona on May 28. (Jeremy Sparig, Special to The Colorado Sun) RIGHT: Anthony Gutierrez and Lily Moore enjoy the swings June 3 at the Broomfield Swim and Tennis Club. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

It was not exactly lively when I first moved here, but it’s certainly become more and more like a ghost town.

— Marcus Lyngstad, 14-year-old resident of Vona

A pedestrian walks past businesses on Main Street in Frisco on May 21 that were closed for the season. The nearby ski area, Arapahoe Basin, received 16 inches of late-season snow the previous day. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)


Maria Bornn, surveys her home in the San Luis Valley on June 6. Bornn, who had been homeless in California, rediscovered her family’s early-1900s house in poor condition, streaked with black mold, filled with insects and littered with animal nests, its floors collapsing. “It took a lot of sacrifice to clean,” she said. “You have to have the right attitude and the right mindset.” Hers is one of 150 homes in disrepair in the San Luis Valley that owners and housing advocates hope to rehabilitate. In the San Luis Valley, 30% of homes are abandoned. A valleywide survey estimates the region is short about 1,800 homes. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Shirley Dale, a Buena Vista resident of 17 years, unloads a package inside the local post office to be shipped June 7 in Buena Vista. In mountain towns like Crested Butte, Buena Vista and Colorado City, sending and retrieving packages can be an hourslong endeavor for residents. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

I got frustrated and decided to try to do something.

— Dylan Futrell, who started a stand-in-line service for residents for a fee

Noah Kaplan, as The Mudprophet, left, and Kristine Whittle, as the gardener, perform in “The End: A Bus Tour of Denver’s Climate Future” on June 9. The 16-mile nightly bus tour took audiences through the city with performances at stops where the potential for future climate change catastrophe was evident. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Revisiting the Marshall fire

Six months after the destructive Marshall fire, thousands still were in limbo, renting houses and apartments temporarily in the hopes of finding their way home. 

TOP LEFT: Gwen and James Brodsky and their 13-year-old twins, Ben and Lily, had only minutes to gather belongings as they fled the house they lived in for 12 year in Coal Creek Ranch. They moved into a new home in June, six months after the Marshall fire. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America) TOP RIGHT: Christina Eisert and her son, Ansel, 13, in their kitchen June 9 in Louisville. Eisert, who lost her home in the Sagamore neighborhood to the Marshall fire, shares an apartment with two of her children and two dogs. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun) BOTTOM LEFT: Cindy Ray, who lost everything when her five-bedroom home in Louisville burned, talks about her dash to safety. Now in a rented house in Broomfield, she says she wishes she had grabbed more of her possessions. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun) BOTTOM RIGHT: Stephanie Baer and daughters Jaden Crawley, 16, and Julia Crawley, 18, moved into a rental home in Boulder with their two dogs. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Ranch apprentice Anja Stokes puts up her saddle in a tack room at Chico Basin Ranch southeast of Colorado Springs on June 21. Opportunities to learn to manage ranches are increasingly scarce. Ranchlands, a land management company, is helping bring along the next generation of ranch owners and workers with programs that train people like Stokes. She began as an intern and is now an apprentice on the 90,000-acre ranch, which is trying new ways to remain financially sustainable, like providing ranch tours to tourists and selling meat and leather goods directly to consumers. (Mark Reis, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Aaron Michaels, aka Hunnie Bun, 13, puts on earrings June 22 at their home in Highlands Ranch to practice for a show at Denver’s pride weekend June 25. Michaels’ first time performing in drag was November 2021 through Dragutante, a nonprofit platform and event for young members of the drag community. Drag performers have been swept into the rhetoric of conservative politicians claiming without evidence that the art form is a means of “grooming” children. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

A screenshot from a bodycam on June 11, the night Christian Glass, 22, was shot and killed after Clear Creek County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call. Many Colorado counties do not have a mental health team to respond to 911 crisis calls. When body camera footage of police shooting a man in distress on a dirt road in Clear Creek County became public, it was opposite of what the sheriff’s department said initially about the more than hourlong standoff. Two of the deputies involved in the June death of 22-year-old Christian Glass now face criminal charges.  (Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC screenshot)

 I think a lot of people now would agree that there’s a systemic problem with policing. It’s too aggressive; they escalate at every opportunity.

— Sally Glass, Christian’s mother

Roe v. Wade falls

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, returning the right to regulate abortion access to the states. In the months since, the number of people seeking abortions in Colorado has risen as laws governing the procedure in other states have tightened.

Demonstrators march through downtown Denver on June 24 after the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision in the Dodds case. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Liz Campbell, president of the Country Meadows Homeowners Association, stands outside her home in the trailer park in Gunnison on June 22. Campbell and other residents tried to purchase the mobile home park when they were outbid by a buyer from Wyoming, who renamed it Ski Town Village and raised rents 73%. A Colorado law that passed in 2020, meant to help protect residents of mobile home parks, gave them time to organize financing. Creative funding solutions have emerged from the law, allowing some resident groups at least the chance of maintaining homeownership. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)


Rainbow Family member Abraham Levin plays the shofar next to his 10-year-old daughter Ahviyah during the 50th annual Rainbow Family gathering on July 4. Rainbows have knitted a unique social construct, borrowing elements from a variety of religions and creeds. (Matt Stensland, Special to The Colorado Sun)

This is a gathering of the tribes. We are not a religion but we share a lot of common philosophies. When we come together, we reinforce those philosophies that cross cultural and economic boundaries.

— Rob Savoye, who lives in Nederland and has gone to every gathering since 1980

Jason Pratt, a military veteran, demonstrates a CZ Scorpion gun in his home July 12 in Greenwood Village, where he has operated Tomcat Tactical since 2017. The presence of Pratt’s business, legally operated from a rented home, led the city council to ban home gun sales. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Push for legalization of psilocybin

Psilocybin became a household word this year in Colorado. With decriminalization on the ballot, we learned about the burgeoning number of people ingesting small amounts of psychedelics to help with anxiety and depression.

Voters passed the measure in November.

After taking psilocybin, Chryss Cada often experiences realizations and epiphanies. “It’s not always fun. A lot of times, it brings up really dark stuff. … You’ll spend a lot of time shedding a lot of really deep, tightly held emotions that it accesses,” Cada said on July 15. “But it helps. It’s like letting off some steam, shedding some of my grief every time I do that.” (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America) 

A field of potatoes is irrigated near Center on July 19, using Rio Grand water delivered by a system of canals and headgates that form the largest water delivery system in the San Luis Valley. Potatoes are big business in the San Luis Valley, but farmers looking for new markets have been especially interested in cultivating exports to Mexico, where the tubers are a luxury item. This summer they were cautiously optimistic after decades-old prohibitions on selling Colorado potatoes south of the border were lifted. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun) 

Jeff Derry, executive director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies, collects snow samples on Loveland Pass on July 18 outside Georgetown. Colorado’s pristine high country continues to be a vital area for researchers as they look for clues of climate change. A retired U.S. Geological Survey researcher and his colleagues confirmed that an invisible layer of microplastic is blanketing the Rocky Mountains, polluting snowpack and water in undefined ways. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

 It seems to be everywhere, and there’s a lot of it.

— Richard Reynolds, executive director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies, on the prevalence of microplastics in Colorado’s snowpack

Construction companies work to clear the forest for a new chairlift and ski runs as part of a 555-acre expansion at Keystone’s Bergman Bowl on July 28. The U.S. Forest Service forced construction to stop after contractors mistakenly built a road in protected alpine tundra. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)


Scorched wetlands, three months later

The May Ranch near Lamar was charred in April by a 9,000-acre wildfire. A few months later, emerald green grass stretched from Big Sandy Creek to the horizon where the blackened pasture had been. The endangered black-footed ferrets released on the ranch in 2021 were out of the fire zone, and though elusive, are occasionally spotted in pursuit of sleeping prairie dogs.

LEFT: A view of the Big Sandy Creek looking south after a 9,000-acre wildfire raced through the May Ranch on April 22 near Lamar, threatening wetlands vital to the ranch’s conservation efforts. RIGHT: A view of the Big Sandy Creek that runs through the May Ranch is viewed from the north near Lamar on Aug. 2. (Mike Sweeney, Special to The Colorado Sun)

It’s all back.

— Rancher Dallas May

Local racer Marvin Sandoval urges Buttercup to loop around the Mosquito Pass sign during the Leadville Burro Race on Aug. 7. Sandoval adopted Buttercup for his daughter, but the burro ended up as his main race partner after his original burro began limping before a race several years ago. “I just saw that she had that internal drive to want to be in the front,” Sandoval said. “So I just started training with her and then I guess we started winning a lot of races together.” (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

School administrators charged after investigating sexting case

When Brush school administrators Bradley Bass and Scott Hodgson investigated a Safe2Tell tip that high school students were “sexting” they documented the images that had been shared on Snapchat and as a result violated state child pornography laws. Both men were charged and the case, at the intersection of social media and small-town relationships, has divided the community.

Bradley and Tressa Bass at Tressa’s mother’s home outside of Brush on Aug. 9. Tressa’s mother wrote a character letter for her son-in-law saying one of the greatest blessings in her life was when Bradley married Tressa. “I have watched him love her unconditionally, be supportive, selfless, and always putting her needs first,” she wrote.  (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Mouse, a yearling from the Divide Basin herd in Wyoming, performs in the freestyle event at the Meeker Mustang Makeover on Aug. 27 at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds. The wild horse was trained by Jason Heid, 16, of Clark. New horse owners, young and old, have 120 days to tame and train these horses. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

 I go out every morning and she nickers at me. She walks up to me when I want to put the halter on. She leads. I don’t even have to pull on her. She just loves attention and loves being around me and people,

— Brynn Emlyn, 13, talking about her mustang

A wild mustang herded by a helicopter flips over a fence hidden in thick brush during the Piecance-East Douglas roundup in August. The horse was treated for cuts but not seriously injured, according to federal officials. Despite pleas by Gov. Jared Polis and wild horse advocates to stop the practice of using helicopters to round up mustangs in northwest Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management conducted multiple roundups to reduce the size of herds on drought damaged public land. After weeks of herding, about 864 horses were removed. (WilsonAxpe Photography via the American Wild Horse Campaign)


Colorado River crisis

The Colorado River is in crisis, with drought sapping its ability to serve the millions of people and millions of acres of agricultural land that depend on its flows. Water managers in seven states are developing new strategies, but there are difficult questions over the river’s future under the 100-year-old Colorado River Compact.

Joe Bernal heads out to clear debris from irrigation channels on his farm outside Fruita on Sept. 1. Farmers and ranchers in the Grand Valley are feeling the impacts of a two-decade drought and are experimenting with new irrigation methods and crops to reduce use of precious Colorado River water. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Gov. Jared Polis receives a third dose of the omicron booster shot, which protects against the COVID-19 variant, as Rocky of the Denver Nuggets watches on Sept. 7 outside Ball Arena in Denver. Nearly 80% of Colorado’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, and nearly 72% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Public Health and Environment in September. Colorado ranks 15th among all states for the percentage of people fully vaccinated. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Weld County farmer and rancher Steve Wells has made his fortune after shifting to oil-and-gas leases on his land and said he wanted to spend $11 million to get Gov. Jared Polis out of office. However, he pulled back later in the campaign after seeing how big the gap was in the governor’s race and that no others were pitching into his Republican cause. (Valerie Mosley, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Everybody wants me to spend my money wherever they want me to spend my money. I really don’t like working with other people that tell you how to do everything you do. I feel really good about this.

— Steve Wells, a Weld County rancher who pledged $11 million to what many called a doomed campaign

Changing Mascots

In 2021, Colorado passed a law requiring all school districts to remove Native American mascots within a year. Montrose schools spent more than $350,000 updating its uniforms, wall designs and more. In Lamar, the booster club made $14,000 selling old jerseys and memorabilia, with generations of graduates in attendance. 

Shoppers rummage through jerseys on Sept. 17 during a fundraising sale of athletic clothes and gear at Lamar High School emblazoned with the “Savages” mascot that is no longer permitted under state law. (Mike Sweeney, Special to The Colorado Sun) 

With some minor exceptions, people are embracing the new mascot. Change is tough for folks and when you have something in place for 100 years, it can be hard to change.

— Matt Jenkins, a spokesman for Montrose School District, where three schools had to dump mascots

Kirsten Heckendorf holds on her hat while boating on Grand Lake on Sept. 19 in Grand County. The natural lake was left behind by a receding glacier and is framed by some of Colorado’s most prized wilderness. A local advocacy group is renewing concerns about the Colorado-Big Thompson project’s continued impacts as it moves water to the Front Range but continues to disrupt the lake’s ecological system. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

This green water is not a normal thing. It shouldn’t be this green.

— Mike Cassio, president of the Three Lakes Watershed Association

Brett Boersig, the wall setter at Fading West’s house manufacturing facility in Buena Vista, watches as the frame of a house destined for a neighborhood in Norwood is assembled. He uses a remote controller to guide the movement of the walls, lifted by a crane, inside a warehouse on Sept. 27. With housing scarce across Colorado’s high country, the Pinion Park neighborhood in Norwood, not far from pricey Telluride, is emerging as a model to quickly create attainable homes through collaboration of public and private, for-profit and nonprofit businesses, governments, agencies and groups. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)


Bulls spar during rutting season inside Rocky Mountain National Park on Oct. 7. The beauty and wildness of the elk rut, full of grunts and whistles during mating season, is on full display around Colorado every fall, where gangs of humans and elk descend upon Estes Park. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

U.S. President Joe Biden signs a document to designate Camp Hale as a national monument on Oct. 12 outside Leadville. The signing ceremony at 9,200 feet honored the 10th Mountain Division soldiers who prepared there for battle in the mountains of Europe during World War II. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun) 

I don’t think until you see some of these places you don’t understand why it was so important to continue to preserve.

— President Joe Biden

Colorado’s failed adoptions

More than 1,000 children adopted from Colorado’s foster care system have been returned to state care in the past decade. These disrupted adoptions are often blamed on a lack of support for parents attempting to build relationships with kids who suffered from extreme neglect and abuse in their birth families. Services such as therapy and respite care vary widely by county, creating an inequitable support system. 

Michelle Schuldt comforts her adopted son Niko, 5, after he scrapes his elbow at Sunburst Park in Aurora on Oct. 19. Schuldt and her husband have six adopted children in addition to two biological children. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

I am screaming to anyone that will listen. Teachers. Therapists. Somebody help me. Somebody help my kid, my family. We need help.

— Michelle Schuldt, who has adopted six children from the child welfare system

Gunnison Aquatic Biologist Dan Brauch, left, and Fisheries Technician Sam Neal motor across Blue Mesa Reservoir with kokanee salmon, kept in a tub, on Oct. 21. The salmon are taken to the Roaring Judy Fish Hatchery where their eggs and milt will be collected. Kokanee salmon inhabit the waters of Blue Mesa Reservoir and the East and Gunnison rivers, but to the dismay of nearby merchants, guides, outfitters and anglers — the species is dwindling in population. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

That’s the million-dollar question. How many fish are still in the river?

— Seth Firestone, Roaring Judy Hatchery manager


A man places his hand inside a clear box, allowing mosquitos to bite him.

Biology professor and filmmaker Bob Hancock, who studies mosquitoes at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, watches as Sabethes chloropterus mosquitoes feed on his hand on Nov. 9. Hancock helps conduct field work to collect mosquitoes around various regions in Colorado to track diseases like West Nile virus. Colorado has seen a large increase in cases of West Nile in the past two years, and researchers across the state are trying to determine why. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Mourners line the Colorado Capitol rotunda on Nov. 10 to pay tribute to the late House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, whose ashes lay in state. Partisanship in Colorado government slowed for a few days after McKean’s sudden death at age 55, just hours after attending a campaign rally ahead of the Nov. 8 election. McKean, the Republican House minority leader, was appreciated on both sides of the aisle for his compassion and humor. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

He really made time to connect with people. He was the kind of person who listened and heard what someone had to say.

— Gov. Jared Polis, during McKean’s service

Lisa Siler, center, sits with her son, Logan, 6, and daughter, Addison, 9, before the Jefferson County School Board voted on Nov. 10 to close 16 elementary schools. The children attend Wilmore-Davis, one of the schools recommended for closure. Jeffco, the state’s second-largest school district, had 14% fewer children under 18 in 2020 living within its boundaries than in 2000.  (Joe Mahoney, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Election 2022

In the 2022 election, Republicans in Colorado fell further behind trying to claim a majority in the state. All statewide races went to Democrats in landslide results, and the Republicans lost seats in both chambers of the state legislature and failed to pick up two U.S. House seats expected to fall their way. The race to represent Colorado’s sprawling 3rd Congressional District was drum tight, with incumbent U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Silt, beating challenger Adam Frisch, a former Aspen city councilman, by just 546 votes when she had been projected to easily win. 

TOP LEFT: Adam Frisch, the Democratic candidate for the 3rd Congressional District, peeks at early election results on Nov. 8 during an election night watch party at the Belly Up in Aspen. (Kelsey Brunner, Special to The Colorado Sun) TOP RIGHT: Teams of Pueblo County election workers, each made up of one Democrat and one Republican, prepare the remaining 5,000 mail-in ballots to be counted on Nov. 10. Politicians and the public were fixated on the counting in Pueblo County, the largest population center in the 3rd Congressional District, two days after the polls closed as the margin between candidates to represent the district in the U.S. House narrowed. (Mike Sweeney, Special to The Colorado Sun) BOTTOM: U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Silt, crosses an intersection to greet supporters during a rally on Nov. 4 in downtown Montrose. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Tony Jones and Bex Schimoler, manager at the Learned Lemur, admire a taxidermy boa snake on a wall of the antique shop on Nov. 17. Jones, 63, has been homeless for four years and often sleeps in his car when not staying at Phone Repair and More Denver where he works. He has nothing, but helped create a Thanksgiving feast to share with friends, business owners, and community members along East Colfax. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Homeless people deserve love, too. They deserve someone to care for them. A lot of them out here don’t have families. They’ve got nowhere to go. I figure, let Tony be the family.

— Tony Jones, a man experiencing homelessness who planned a Thanksgiving feast to share

Attendees listen to speakers during a commemoration ceremony and exhibition opening of the Sand Creek Massacre at History Colorado on Nov. 19. After a failed attempt a decade ago, the History Colorado Museum took its time finding how to tell the full story of the Sand Creek Massacre, where hundreds of Native Americans, mostly women, children and the elderly were murdered in southeastern Colorado on Nov. 29, 1864. The new exhibit has the voices of those families who still feel the pain of the day an encampment was ambushed. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

We want you to know these stories and we want you to tell them. Don’t varnish it, don’t change it. Tell the truth.

— Fred Mosqueda, of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma and a descendant of massacre survivors

Club Q Shooting

The LGBTQ community lost one of its safe spaces in Colorado Springs when a shooter went into Club Q and started randomly firing, killing five people and injuring at least 18 others.

Those killed were: Daniel Aston, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, Derrick Rump and Raymond Green Vance. 

TOP: Carter Rodriguez, who worked at Club Q, embraces friends during a vigil at All Souls Unitarian Church on Nov. 20. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America) BOTTOM: People gather during a vigil on Nov. 21 to mourn. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)


An electric scooter rider waits Dec. 1 for a light rail train to pass in Denver’s LoDo neighborhood. Touted as a last-mile solution to improve city public transit systems, at least three people a day show up at Denver Health’s emergency room with scooter-related injuries. Since dockless scooters first appeared in Denver in May 2018, more than 2,500 riders have gone to the emergency department with scooter injuries, and there have been five deaths. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

We started seeing a lot of patients come in with very bad injuries from these scooters. Since then, it has been just week after week of bad scooter injuries.

— Dr. Alexander Lauder, Denver Health orthopedic surgeon

U.S. Forest Service Snow Ranger Anne Gaspar ski tours during a patrol near Vail Pass on Dec. 6 in Eagle County. The 131-year-old forest, which includes 11 ski hills, eight wilderness areas and four large reservoirs, leans heavily on the recreation offered in the White River forest’s 2.3 million acres with the economic impact of $1.6 billion. The snow ranger program on Vail Pass help educate and manage people recreating, such as parking and minimizing avalanche risks. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Mike and Suzanne McKee and their kids Maddie, 13, and Spencer, 10, survey the progress of their new house near the Coal Creek neighborhood in Louisville on Dec. 20. The McKee family had lived in their home for 12 years before the Marshall fire, and have been staying in a townhome in Broomfield. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Beth Robinson, in blue, and her family bow their heads in memory of 253 homeless people who have died in 2022, during a vigil held Dec. 21 in Denver, as temperatures plunged to 5 degrees before the longest night of the year. The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless has hosted the event for 33 years. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)


Danika Worthington, Presentation Editor |

Olivia Sun, Photographer |

Hugh Carey, Photographer |

Dana Coffield, Senior Editor |

David Krause, Team Editor |

Lance Benzel, Team Editor |

We use this byline as a placeholder in breaking news situations when an editor has written a story. The byline will be updated when the story contains information gathered by a reporter.