Current Exhibits


Lens on the River: A Photographic Journey on the Yampa River with John Fielder

June 2, 2023 - May 2024

Opens June 2 for First Friday Artwalk and to help kick off the Yampa River Festival!

John Fielder has worked tirelessly to promote the protection of Colorado’s ranches, open space, and wildlands during his 40-year career as a nature photographer and publisher. His photography has influenced people and legislation and has earned him recognition, including the 1993 Sierra Club Ansel Adams Award, in 2011, the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s first Achievement Award ever given to an individual, and in 2017 Colorado Mountain College presented him an Honorary Degree in Sustainability Studies.

51 books have been published depicting his Colorado photography. His latest books are Weld County: 4,000 Square Miles of Grandeur, Greatness & Yesterdays and Colorado’s Highest: The History of Naming the 14,000-Foot Peaks.

In 2023 he donated his life’s work of Colorado photography to History Colorado. Thousands of images will be available for personal and commercial use through the museum’s photographic archives. John lives in Summit County, Colorado. Information about him and his work can be found at


Protecting the Yampa River by John Fielder

The images in this exhibit are from a book and project, "Colorado’s Yampa River: Free Flowing and Wild from the Flat Tops to the Green." It was conceived by rafting guide and river advocate Pat Tierney in order to bring attention to threats to what is effectively the last undammed tributary in the American West’s entire Colorado River Basin. Pat would do the writing, and I would take pictures as we floated together the entire 250-mile-long river from its headwaters in the mountains around Steamboat Springs to its confluence with the Green River. It is our hope that the Yampa remains undammed, and this exhibit is intended to promote that ending via donation of the proceeds of the sale of these prints to Friends of the Yampa, one of a number of non-profit organizations dedicated to the preservation of free-flowing rivers.

As Coloradans, our wild places tie us together. The Yampa River is one of these. When you live here, as I have for 50 years, you learn that perhaps the one thing that most connects us to one another is our need to be outside. You learn that, collectively, we are compelled to experience the stabilizing force of our natural surroundings. And today, as the world continues to become warmer, more crowded, more chaotic, and more connect­ed, the personal sense of security derived from things that seem to be permanent, like the wilderness, is more important than ever.

It is critical to remember, though, that our landscapes are not static but rather living, dynamic environments full of both the calm and fury of nature. We all should want to keep it that way. We should want to maintain these trea­sures for our children, and our children’s children, so they can experience the flows and patterns and sensuousness of the outdoors. I am a nature pho­tographer, and I can say this with­out reservation: It is one thing to view photographs of our wilds and something else entirely to be in those landscapes. There is no substitute for tasting, smell­ing, feeling, and hearing wilder­ness. The mineral-rich flavor of a mountain stream in spring; the touch of powdery aspen bark in the summer heat; the smell of decay­ing leaves during autumn; the sound of a class IV rapid in a canyon: These are the ways a Coloradan should experience the state’s abundance.

Throughout the years, we have worked diligently to safeguard these natural gifts. Today, more than 3.7 million acres of Colorado land are federally protected as wilderness (ironically, we have only one federally protected wild and scenic river, the Poudre), and we annually preserve tens of thousands of acres of ranch­es and farms through conservation easements. On top of that, we are the only entity in the world that dedicates all of its lot­tery profits, typically more than $100 million each year, to pre­serving our environment. All told, the Colorado Lottery has given more than $2.7 billion back to the state and local governments to protect more than one million of our state’s 66 million acres by creating parks, protecting open space and wildlife habitat, building trails, and preserving ranchlands and rivers.

Even with these successes, the state’s economy and ecol­ogy seem to be locked in an ongoing conflict. We need jobs for our citizens, and the energy industry provides them in re­cord numbers. It is reviving towns and issuing boosting our economy. Yet, we are conflicted by fossil-fuel energy development and its neg­ative impacts on our sublime topography and as a cause of global warming. The tourism and recreation industries are setting their own records for rev­enues and job creation, but we need to be concerned about the harm human footfalls can cause to our natural settings as well.

Some of those visitors even set up shop in Colorado to be close to our extraordinary quality of life. Again, we welcome the jobs, but there is a price to pay. It is estimated that Colorado’s population will increase by 750,000 each decade, mostly along the Front Range, until at least 2050. One of the resources that becomes stretched is water. Global warming has finally forced us to reckon with shortages that threaten life as we have known it in the West. The integrity and usefulness of the Colorado River Compact of 1922 must now be reconsidered in its entirety, and all seven affected states will be forced to accept a new paradigm for their use of water in the decades ahead. Nature is paying a high price as our rivers dry up, and alarm bells are sounding as we witness declining flows in our beloved Yampa.

History shows societies that pro­tect their fresh water and forests survive longer and that a close relationship with na­ture makes people healthy, happy, and prosperous. In turn, flourishing societies have the resources to preserve the environment. In biology, this is called symbiosis—one thing depends upon the other. Colorado and its citizens have long understood this intuitively; however, as we move forward, the question becomes: Do we have the wisdom, foresight, cour­age, and sense of obligation to continue to make choices and investments that will perpetuate Colorado’s remarkable wild places? I hope the answer is yes. It would be a shame and a tragedy if, one day, the only way we can enjoy our state’s un­matched beauty is through one of my photographs.

Read more about the exhibit.