In Steamboat Springs, Colorado, people are planting trees along the Yampa River, which winds through the Rocky Mountain town.

The trees provide attractive green space. And Tim Sullivan of the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council says they also help the river adapt to increasingly hot and dry summers.

“Last summer, 2020, the month of August was not only the hottest August on record, but the driest that we’ve ever seen in the recorded history,” he says.

During hot, dry weather, the river temperature rises and water levels drop. One problem makes the other worse: A shallower river heats up faster, and warm water evaporates more quickly.

So to help protect the river for aquatic life and human use, Sullivan’s group is planting trees. Their shade will help cool the river.

“There’s opportunity and need to put more trees back on the landscape,” Sullivan says.

His group partnered with Steamboat Springs to plant hundreds of narrow-leaf cottonwoods and mountain alder trees along a mile of the Yampa River.

They plan to expand the project over the next 10 years to cover about 20 miles – creating a more lush, beautiful landscape that’s better prepared for a hotter, drier future.

Reporting credit: Jan Ellen Spiegel and Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.