5280's Top Longreads of 2016

These are the stories that captivated our readers in 2016. 

January 4 2017, 9:00 AM

Treasure photo by Allison Doty; inset image courtesy of Linda Bilyeu

For many, the new year is often a time of reflection, and the same is true here at 5280. While moving forward into 2017, we are also looking back at the in-depth stories that struck a chord with our readers last year. Here, find (and share!) our most popular long-form narratives from 2016.


1. How One Colorado Man Disappeared While Hunting for Hidden Treasure 

By Robert Sanchez | August 2016

Randy Bilyeu thought he’d located Forrest Fenn’s infamous cache of gold and jewels. Then he went missing in New Mexico's high desert. Inside the hunt for Fenn’s riches—and the search for the man who vanished looking for them.


2. How Massive Cuts Have Remade the Denver Post      

By Robert Sanchez | October 2016

Journalists at the state’s largest newspaper once wondered how much more they’d have to endure. Now they’re finding out.

—Photo by Matt Nager


3. How the Gold King Mine Spill Threatens Navajo Nation 

By Robert Sanchez | February 2016

Colorado’s Gold King Mine spill sent millions of gallons of contaminated water into the Animas River this past summer. More than 130 miles away in New Mexico, along the San Juan River, the environmental disaster is making the Navajo Nation rethink itself.

—Photo by Matt Slaby


4. Rogue Agent 

By Quentin Young | May 2016

Parts of the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge—which is located on the site of a former nuclear weapons plant—will soon open to the public for recreational use. The FBI agent who raided the facility in the 1980s says the area isn’t safe. What if he’s right?

—Photo by Benjamin Rasmussen


5. Awake in the Night  

By Robert Sanchez | December 2016

Mary Kuanen escaped the violence of Sudan only to live through her husband’s murder in suburban Denver. Half a decade later, the single mother of five is still working to build the better life she was promised.

—Photo by Matt Nager


6. Still Life 

By Chris Outcalt | January 2016

Giselle Gutierrez-Ruiz has spent nearly two decades locked up in a Colorado prison. Three and a half years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that his sentence is unconstitutional. Why hasn’t his case been given a second look?

Update: In November, Gutierrez-Ruiz was freed from prison after serving nearly 20 years. Read more about his release here.

—Photo by Morgan Rachel Levy


7. Colorado Springs’ Identity Crisis 

By Robert Sanchez | April 2016

A look at one of the most misunderstood cities in America.

—Photo by Matt Nager


8. Final Post: One Local Veteran’s New Mission 

By Kasey Cordell | November 2016

Julian Scadden volunteers his time to ensure no Denver veteran dies alone.

—Photo by Patrick Andrade


9. The Truth About Muslim Immigration in Colorado 

By Luc Hatlestad | July 2016

How one refugee family found its freedom—though not necessarily acceptance—in its migration to the United States.

—Photo by Benjamin Rasmussen


10. Our Children, Ourselves 

By Natasha Gardner | December 2016

More than 180 kids are born in Colorado every day, and as many as one in four will be abused or neglected by their caregivers during their early years. Why is it so difficult to stop this from happening—and even harder to find justice for victims?

—Illustration by Hsiao-Ron Cheng