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The drought is so bad in southwestern Colorado this waterfall is dry, and mushrooms are missing

A drought is covering 75 percent of Colorado.
Credit: Courtesy Amy Levek

KUSA — The highest level of drought continues to cover most of southwestern Colorado, despite some decent rain coverage on Wednesday and Thursday.

Drought can impact farming, the fire danger and water supplies, but it also has some strange side effects.

Here’s a look:

Dry waterfalls

Ingram Falls near Telluride has come to a stop.

“Depending on when you’re up there, there’s either no flow … or just drips,” Telluride resident Amy Levek said.

The falls is suffering from poor snowpack last winter, and now a weak monsoon.

“Well I’ve been here for 31 years, and I’ve never seen it this bad,” Levek said.

She said she’s seen Ingram Falls flowing strong, even in late summer. She posted a series of pictures on social media showing the falls in better years compared to 2018.

“I just went back over my photos when I saw what it looked like the other day and it’s grim,” Levek said.

She and other residents say the more famous Bridal Veil Falls nearby has also been running extremely low.

Unusual Monsoon

Southwest Colorado normally benefits from the monsoon, but a strange pattern has been taking moisture far to the north. It’s been guided by consistent and strong high pressure over the western U.S. this summer.

Where’s the 'Shrooms?

Last weekend was the famous Mushroom Festival in Telluride. Damp woods, from monsoon rains, are a normal breeding ground for shrooms. Not this year, though.

“Two weeks ago, I went out and found a few, and that is very early for mushrooms, and then last weekend when I went out there was nothing, absolutely nothing,” Levek said.

Drought Misconception

People always respond that Southwest Colorado has always been in a drought, and that is why the ancestral Puebloans who built Mesa Verde left.

While it is true that drought chased them away, it is not true that Southwest Colorado is always dealing with drought, especially a drought this bad.

One year ago, there was no drought in the Colorado at all, just a few patches of abnormally dry conditions. Now, just one year later, drought has a grip on 75 percent of our state.

To find the last time southwest Colorado had drought this exceptional, you must go all the way back 15 years to August 2003.

Record Low Rivers

The San Miguel, the San Juan, and the Las Animas rivers have all hit record low steam flows at some point this summer, just to name a few. Many other creeks and rivers are running below 10 percent of normal this August.

Water Restrictions

Municipalities are starting to implement water restrictions. The city of Aspen announced they are going to stage 2 watering restrictions for the first time in their history.

Lucky Melons

Severe drought conditions during the Rocky Ford planting season forced farmers in southeast Colorado to use less area in their fields. The interesting part, though, is that while they’re growing, drought weather is not so bad. Melons love very hot sunny days, and cool nights.

The Rocky Ford Growers Association (RFGA) says this year’s yield will easily beat last year’s crop. Hail was rough on the 2017 melons. Some farmers estimate that 70 percent of their crop was lost to severe weather.

Michael Hirakata, RFGA president, says a normal yield is about 700 boxes per acre. This year, despite the drought, they are still producing 700 boxes or more per acre.

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