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for people who care about the West

Which stories held your attention this year?

From the Animas to Washington wildfire, here are the stories that our readers spent most time on in 2015.


This year, High Country News readers spent a lot of time reading our articles  more than 8,000 days' worth to be exact. That's almost 22 years of time spent learning about everything from the battle of Obama's Clean Power Plan to the private life of Laura Jean Schneider, a rancher in New Mexico and author of Ranch Diaries. We looked at which stories caught and held your attention this year and they're a surprising group. You spent more than 19,000 hours reading our breaking news coverage of the Animas River spill, but you also spent 61 days reading Glenn Nelson's mournful reflections on the death of three young firefighters in Washington's Methow Valley.

Here are the news and opinion stories that you spent the most time reading this year.


  1. When our river turned orange
    Nine things you need to know about the Animas River mine waste spill.
    Minutes spent reading: 1,189,115

    After mine waste spilled into the Animas, the river turned a mustardy-Tang color as the wastewater moved through. This was taken about 24 hours after the spill.
    Jonathan Thompson
  1. After a ski patroller’s death, a flurry of questions
    Forest Service permitting issues complicate a southwestern Colorado tragedy.
    Minutes spent reading: 157,705

  1. What Mt. Hood’s fading summer ski season means
    As year-round skiing in the Pacific Northwest diminishes, what else will be lost?
    Minutes spent reading: 105,382

  1. Tesla's new home battery: energy revolution or pure hype
    Powerwall aims to fill a missing link to integrate wind and solar into the grid.
    Minutes spent reading: 88,203

  1. Gold King Mine water was headed for the Animas, anyway
    The nuts and bolts of acid mine drainage.
    Minutes spent reading: 79,285

  1. In Colorado, a ‘rental crisis’ forces workers into the woods
    Tent cities, waste and overcrowding have created something foul in Crested Butte.
    Minutes spent reading: 75,582

  1. An update on Nevada scofflaw Cliven Bundy
    The rancher still has influence in some circles, and has seen zero repercussions for trespass cattle and unpaid fees.
    Minutes spent reading: 75,183

    Cliven Bundy speaking at a July 2014 forum hosted by the American Academy for Constitutional Education (AAFCE) at the Burke Basic School in Mesa, Arizona.
    Gage Skidmore/Flickr

  1. What does super El Niño mean for the American West?
    The weather event follows Earth’s two hottest years on record.
    Minutes spent reading: 70,624

  1. Hidden camera traps capture wildlife in Wyoming
    An ecologist uses a scientific tool for artistic purposes.
    Minutes spent reading: 64,700

  1. Deaths renew calls for national parks to rescind BASE jumping bans
    Squirrel suited flyers say the bans actually contribute to deadly accidents.
    Minutes spent reading: 61,628

Opinions & Essays:

  1. Stop the rock-stacking
    A writer calls for an end to cairns.
    Minutes spent reading: 643,150

    Rock stacking stirs up controversy.
  1. Endurance runners in the Grand Canyon are missing the point
    Marjorie "Slim" Woodruff, an educator who leads trips in the Grand Canyon, bemoans the popularity of endurance sports in the park.
    Minutes spent reading: 108,882

  1. It’s time to let Lake Powell go
    In today’s ‘new normal,’ there is simply not enough water to maintain both Lake Powell and Lake Mead.
    Minutes spent reading: 96,412

  1. What we've lost in the Methow Valley wildfires
    Three firefighters died as fires ripped through Washington.
    Minutes spent reading: 88,346

  1. Leave your dog at home, please
    Woodruff returns, to argue that a lack of regulations on service dog is causing canine chaos in national parks.
    Minutes spent reading: 78,298

  1. Anatomy of a flash flood
    After a series of deaths, a writer considers his own close calls in canyons.
    Minutes spent reading: 71,722

    Paria Canyon hiker.
    Adam Baker/CC Flickr

  1. Children in Alaska’s barbaric country
    As parents, we watch our kids walk into vast new worlds — like it or not.
    Minutes spent reading: 68,940

  1. Dispatch from a medic on the North Star Fire in Washington
    What base camp and wildfire look like from one firefighter's perspective
    Minutes spent reading: 53,838

  1. On death’s doorstep in the Grand Canyon
    A misstep in the backcountry alters an avid hiker’s perspective.
    Minutes spent reading: 51,500

  1. Ranch Diaries: What life's like as a female rancher
    Some ranchers still say women ruin horses and a rancher and his wife can be paid at two-for-the-price-of-one.
    Minutes spent reading: 43,000