National Park

Toxic bacteria found in water in Utah’s Zion National Park


Toxic cyanobacteria that pose risks to children and pets have been found in the waters of Zion National Park, according to park staff.


The same toxic bacteria that killed a dog two years ago has been detected again in Zion National Park, officials say.

Park staff monitor harmful cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins monthly and detected dangerous levels in the park’s North Stream on Friday, Nov. 4, according to a news release.

A warning is also in effect for the North Fork of the Virgin River, and health monitoring is in place at La Verkin Creek, officials said in the statement. Warnings and health surveillance advisories mean visitors should avoid swimming or dipping their heads.

A “danger notice” means that visitors should avoid direct contact with water.

Visitors should not drink water in the park, officials said.

Some activities, such as “technical canyoning”, are still authorized with a permit. Officials urged visitors to check with the park’s Wilderness Office at [email protected] or 435-772-0170.

Cyanobacteria colonies can be “yellow, tan, green, brown, or black,” officials said. Toxins found by staff include “anatoxin-a, nodularin, microcystin and cylindrospermopsin”.

Toxins pose an especially serious risk to children and pets, such as dogs. In 2020 a dog was poisoned in the North Fork of the Virgin River.

The dog died less than an hour after swimming in the river and “breaking down” on seaweed growing on the rocks. He could not walk and had seizures before his death, McClatchy News previously reported.

People can have a wide range of reactions if exposed to cyanotoxins, including skin rashes, upset stomach, headache, diarrhea or fever, McClatchy News reported.

In more severe cases, the bacteria can cause liver and kidney damage, or pneumonia and respiratory disease. People have also died from exposure in rare cases.

Park visitors concerned about cyanotoxin poisoning should call the Utah Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222. In addition to rashes and diarrhea, symptoms may also include “drooling, drowsiness, tingling, burning, numbness, pain, incoherent speech, seizures” and vomiting, officials said. Park.

Brooke (she/them) is a McClatchy Real-Time reporter covering LGBTQ+ news and the west. They studied journalism at the University of Florida and previously covered LGBTQ+ news for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. When they’re not writing stories, they enjoy spending time with their cats, riding horses, or spending time outdoors.