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Rainbow Falls, long known as Graffiti Falls, today is probably best characterized as Mud Falls.

Just a few weeks after the Colorado Department of Transportation installed new highway signs touting the resurgent recreation area just west of Manitou Springs, piles of eroded embankment washed onto the site. Now the recently restored hiking and picnicking spot, off U.S. Highway 24, is shut down indefinitely, says Andre Brackin, El Paso County engineer.

"It could be for several weeks or months," he says.

Rainbow Falls is one of several areas along Ute Pass that flooded last week with sediment pouring down from the Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar.

"We're expecting it to be recurring during the monsoon season," Brackin says, "which has made problems for the trail."

The main trail leading to the waterfalls has washed out, he says, and it will be difficult to get equipment in to remove the debris and repair the embankment that leads to the highway. Cost of the cleanup is not known, he adds. But El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, who represents the district that covers the area, has issued a statement saying the county is working with other agencies to assess the damage.

Rainbow Falls, a trailhead for the Ute Pass Trail, for years was dubbed Graffiti Falls because of vandalism to the waterfall's rocks and overhead bridge. A community effort to restore its natural beauty has been afoot since 2010, when the county took over ownership with the intent of returning the landmark to its former glory days as a scenic public attraction. The county obtained grant money to create a restoration plan and rallied various citizen groups to fundraise and help remove the graffiti, trash and noxious weeds.

A public cleanup of the area is still planned for September, Clark said, in partnership with the nonprofit group, Manitou Environmental Citizens Action.

  • Fire and rain deal another blow to Rainbow Falls.

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