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Algae bloom in Steamboat Lake prompts swimming restrictions for children, dogs

A potentially toxic algae bloom at Steamboat Lake State Park prompted warnings not to allow children younger than 6 or dogs to swim in the water.
Scott Franz/file photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Lake State Park north of Steamboat Springs is warning children and pets to avoid swimming in the lake due to a potentially toxic algae bloom.

Warm water temperatures are fueling algae blooms in several bodies of water in Northwest Colorado, according to a news release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife issued Tuesday. Not only can certain species of algae get people and animals sick, they also make fishing difficult and can harm water delivery systems. 

Recent tests point to the presence of blue-green algae, also called cyanobacteria, at Steamboat Lake, according to Park Manager Julie Arington. While that type of algae can be poisonous, it does not always produce the toxin that affects people and animals, Arington said.

Staff have been monitoring the blooms for toxicity and will continue to do so.

“So far, we have not found any evidence that the algae is producing a toxin,” Arington said.

As a precaution, the park has installed signs telling visitors not to allow dogs or children younger than 6 to swim in Steamboat Lake. As Arington explained, dogs and young children are more likely to ingest the water and any algae that might be in it.

Lower water levels on the Yampa River might soon prompt additional recreation restrictions in Routt County. 

As of Tuesday, the river was flowing at just above 90 cubic feet per second, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s measurement site under the Fifth Street Bridge. At 85 cfs, a voluntary closure through city limits takes effect that prohibits commercial outfitters from operating on the river through Steamboat. The closure also urges swimmers, boaters and anglers to avoid entering the river within city limits. 

Two other factors — if the river temperature stays above 75 degrees for two consecutive days or if the amount of oxygen in the water stays below an average of less than six milligrams per liter for two consecutive days — would prompt a voluntary closure. For the last week, river temperatures have oscillated between about 60 degrees and just under 73 degrees.

Wildlife officials are monitoring river levels and working with local outfitters regarding any potential closures, according to CPW spokesperson Randy Hampton.

Elsewhere in the region, hot and dry conditions are putting stress on trout species, making them more susceptible to predation and disease and leading to recreation restrictions outside of Routt County. Voluntary fishing closures are in effect from 2 p.m. until midnight on the White River in Rio Blanco County and on the Colorado River in Garfield County.

Anglers throughout the region should avoid fishing during the warmest parts of the day to reduce the stress on trout, according to CPW.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.


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