ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah (ABC4) – A danger advisory has been issued for the North Fork of the Virgin River. Park rangers say visitors should avoid all contact with the water until further notice.

Does this water look strange to you? After checking levels, park officials found harmful algae bloom in three major areas of the Virgin River. One park visitor decided to steer clear of the water after his wife saw a warning sign at a campsite bathroom.

 “I saw a group of young guys, maybe in their 20s, and one of them was at the river rocks and he was drinking out of the water so obviously he didn’t know about it,” says Dave Schlott, a visitor from New York.

Last month, toxin levels were low, but at the beginning of March, officials found those levels increased, posing a risk to visitors.

“And this is a new type of harmful algae bloom known to us in Utah, we’re used to the lake harmful algae bloom,” says Dr. Kate Fickas, a harmful algae bloom program coordinator for the state’s division of water quality.

Monthly water tests started after someone’s pet died last year. Effects from the toxins can happen in just a few minutes.  

“With this neurotoxin, anatoxin-a children and pets are especially vulnerable, because they’re smaller, they have smaller livers, smaller bodies,  but all humans are susceptible to anatoxin-a poisoning,” says Dr. Fickas.

The algae grows on rocks, sticks, and sand and it could have a ribbed texture. Park officials say it’s important to not drink or submerge your head in the water because these toxins can enter the body through the nose, eyes, even open wounds.

“We really want folks to check out our park website, any national park has a park website, and as you check that park website you really want to plan ahead and know the conditions at the park,” says Amanda Rowland, the spokesperson for Zion National Park. 

Visitor, Elizabeth Schlott tells ABC4, she only knew about the toxic water after seeing a warning sign in the bathroom, she believes more signs are needed in the park.

“You always have to be careful, but yeah there should be more signs about how dangerous it is, because there so many people walking around here, so many little kids, little kids put their hands in their mouth,” says Schlott.

Officials say adding a filter to drink this water won’t protect you and it’s best to just stay away.

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