“From Yellowstone to the Dry Tortugas, our national parks are American treasures….We must protect them.”
Glistening at 8,150 feet in Yosemite National Park’s alpine region, Tenaya Lake is situated between granite peaks and domes in a setting so stunning the lake is often called the “Jewel of the High Country.” The lake’s waters spill into Tenaya Creek, which cascades 10 miles through a spectacular canyon, flowing into Mirror Lake until it ultimately reaches the Merced River. Yosemite’s scenery is so awe inspiring, it draws 3 million visitors every year. But the park’s seemingly pristine waterways can hold dangers that are sometimes hidden from view.
“From Yellowstone to the Dry Tortugas, our national parks are American treasures,” says Eyal Harel, CEO, BlueGreen Water Technologies (BlueGreen). “They’re home to stunning lakes that reflect snow-capped peaks, rocky shorelines, and forested landscapes. These water bodies serve as important habitats for fish and wildlife and, in many cases, are vital water sources to surrounding communities. We must protect them.”
Outbreaks of toxic blue-green algae in Tenaya Creek and other Yosemite waterways in places like El Portal, Yosemite Valley, Wawona, and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, have prompted warnings from the National Park Service for visitors to take precautions to protect their families and pets.
“Whether you’re kayaking on the Grand Tetons’ Snake River or watching green herons stalk the shoreline of Indiana Dunes’ Great Marsh, toxic algae should not be part of the scenery.”
Not only is toxic algae slimy, stinky, and ruins park scenery, it can be extremely dangerous and should be avoided. When waters warm, naturally occurring cyanobacteria can grow rapidly and bloom, producing an outbreak of harmful algae. These blooms release dangerous toxins that can sicken or even be fatal to people, pets, and wildlife.
Over the Fourth of July weekend in 2020 at Zion National Park in Utah, a dog died barely an hour after swimming in the North Fork of the Virgin River. The 6-month-old husky puppy ingested toxins that were too much for his body to handle. He suffered seizures and couldn’t walk before passing away. It’s a tragic story that is repeated every year at water bodies across the country and, as climate change worsens, the number of outbreaks will only increase.
“Whether you’re kayaking on the Grand Tetons’ Snake River or watching green herons stalk the shoreline of Indiana Dunes’ Great Marsh, toxic algae should not be part of the scenery,” says Lucia Ross, CMO, BlueGreen. “Yet we are seeing an increase in outbreaks in our national parks. This problem is being fueled, in part, by changes in our climate: warmer temperatures, more intense weather events, and in some areas, changes in salinity and coastal upwelling.”
The increase in outbreaks and the inherent risks that come with them – prompted the National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey in 2021 to launch a two-year study. They are tracking harmful algal blooms in 12 freshwater and 6 marine national parks to determine the scope of the problem and to define the proper protocols for management and rapid response to outbreaks.
“There is nothing so American as our national parks. The scenery and the wildlife are native. The fundamental idea behind the parks is native….The parks stand as the outward symbol of the great human principle.“
Recent toxic algal blooms affecting national parks include:
- October, 2022: NPS warnings remained in effect for harmful cyanotoxins in North Creek and the North Fork of the Virgin River in Zion National Park. La Verkin Creek wasunder a Health Watch due to the presence of toxin-producing cyanobacteria.
- September, 2022: NPS detected cyanotoxins in the Blue Mesa Reservoir in Curecanti National Recreation Area in Colorado and closed the area
- September, 2022: Testing in Yosemite National Park yielded positive results for small amounts of toxic algae in El Portal, Yosemite Valley, Wawona, and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.
- August, 2022: Warning advisories were posted after a toxic algal bloom was detected on Hebgen Reservoir at the western edge of Yellowstone National Park.
- June, 2022: NPS issued warnings for toxic algal blooms in Lake Richie and Chickenbone Lake in Isle Royale National Park, Michigan. The warnings remained into the falling effect today.
- June, 2022: NPS issued warning advisories for Zion National Park’s North Fork of the Virgin River and all connecting tributaries due to cyanotoxins in the water. In July, 2020 a dog died an hour after swimming in the North Fork where toxic algae were present.
- September, 2021: NPS issued warnings for toxic algae in Yosemite National Park’s Tenaya Creek and alerted visitors that harmful algal blooms may be present in other waterways throughout Yosemite Valley.
- Since 2016, blooms of toxic algae have been detected regularly in Voyageurs National Park in Kabetogama Lake and Rainy Lake.
The increase in frequency, intensity and duration of toxic algal blooms nationwide is unacceptable. We must take action now to save America’s treasures; our national parks are our nation’s pride and joy. It is our duty to protect them. As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “There is nothing so American as our national parks. The scenery and the wildlife are native. The fundamental idea behind the parks is native….The parks stand as the outward symbol of the great human principle.”
Employing emerging technologies, like BlueGreen’s LakeGuard products and services, is only the first step. We must stay committed to ending climate change and saving all of Planet Earth’s precious natural resources.
Participating parks include: Acadia National Park (Maine), Canaveral National Seashore (Florida), Fire Island National Seashore (New York), Olympic National Park (Washington), Padre Island National Shoreline (Texas), Sitka National Historic Park (Alaska), Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Wisconsin), Cape Cod National Seashore (Massachusetts), Curecanti National Recreation Area (Colorado), Isle Royale National Park (Michigan), Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Nevada), National Mall and Memorial Parks (District of Columbia), Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial (Ohio), Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Michigan), Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota), Buffalo National River (Arkansas), St. Croix National Scenic Waterway (Wisconsin) and Zion National Park (Utah).