Virgin River tests positive for cyanobacteria that produces toxins

Jul 11, 2020, 12:31 PM
zion virgin river cyanobacteria...
The green water of the Virgin River flows slowly past a large sandstone boulder; a large orange rock formation towers above in the distance. Photo: National Park Service

SPRINGDALE, Utah — Zion National Park is warning visitors not to swim or wade in the Virgin River after the water tested positive for a toxin caused by cyanobacteria. 

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department issued a public health warning about cyanobacteria in the Virgin River. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, cyanobacteria or blue-green algae often occurs in calm and nutrient-rich water. Some species of cyanobacteria produce toxins that can make people and animals sick. Algal blooms in Utah lakes forced health officials to issue several warnings to state residents in the past few years. 

Cyanobacteria at Zion National Park

Signs at Zion National Park warn visitors not to swim, submerge themselves, or allow pets to get in the water or drink it. 

In a news release, the National Park Service said it first learned about the cyanotoxin in the Virgin River because a dog died July 4, 2020, about an hour after swimming in the river’s North Fork. 

“Prior to its death, the dog exhibited symptoms consistent with possible exposure to cyanobacteria toxins — those produced by harmful algal blooms. The dog could not walk, was in pain, and was having seizures,” the statement said. 

Water samples taken from the river showed concentrations of anatoxin-a, the specific cyanotoxin involved, tested higher than 55 micrograms per liter in at least some of the samples. 

“The health threshold for primary recreation from the Utah Department of Health and DWQ [Division of Water Quality] is 15 micrograms per liter,” the statement continued. “Additionally, harmful cyanobacteria that produce anatoxin-a were identified in multiple areas of the North Fork of the Virgin River.” 

Health officials urge all visitors to the area to follow these guidelines: 

  • Do not swim in the North Fork of the Virgin River, and do not put your head underwater 
  • Do not drink the water from the river, even if using a filter or purifier 
  • Avoid any areas with visible algal scum 
  • Keep pets away from the water 
The Narrows hike, popular with many Zion visitors, requires hikers to wade through the water. The hike is still open, but park officials urge caution while following those guidelines. 

Today’s Top Stories

All News

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi "had a direct and honest ...
Jennifer Hansler, CNN

Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister have ‘direct and honest exchange’ on Taiwan

Leaders from the United States and China have honest and direct exchange about Taiwan.
11 hours ago
Nancy Galarza looks at the damage that Hurricane Fiona inflicted on her community, which remained c...
Aya Elamroussi, Theresa Waldrop and Christina Maxouris, CNN

Hurricane Fiona likely to be ‘extreme weather event’ as it barrels toward eastern Canada, forecasters warn

Hurricane Fiona has weakened to Category 3 and will likely be extreme weather event as it approaches Canada.
11 hours ago
Utah Republicans are looking to ban transgender surgeries and other hormone-based care....
Mark Jones

Utah to receive additional $4.9 million from FEMA in response to COVID-19

FEMA has announced Utah will receive an additional $4.9 million to help with the housing costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1 day ago
Bluff Street Pedestrian tunnel...
Mark Jones

New Bluff Street Pedestrian Tunnel opens in St. George

State and local readers took part in the opening of a new pedestrian tunnel Friday in St. George.
1 day ago
motorhome crash...
Mark Jones

Motorhome crash in Box Elder County claims the life of one person

A motorhome crash Friday afternoon in Box Elder County claimed the life of the driver.
1 day ago
police, lights, siren, emergency, law, officer, flashing, crime, cops, patrol, arrest, lock, speedi...
Mark Jones

New fire breaks out on Y Mountain in Provo

A fire on Y Mountain Fire has broken out Friday evening. Provo Fire says the U.S. Forest Service has been notified. Provo Fire also says it has received a lot of calls about the fire.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Virgin River tests positive for cyanobacteria that produces toxins