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Recreate Safely

Rain and melting snow pick up pollutants from our parks and trails and carry them into local waterways untreated. These are the same waterways where we swim, fish, and play during the summer. By recreating responsibly, you can protect water quality, aquatic life, and fellow community members.  Use our tips to leave home prepared to protect yourself and our waterways while hiking, camping, and swimming.

When swimming in lakes and creeks...

Avoid entering or playing in bodies of water that:

  • Smell bad
  • Look discolored
  • Have foam, scum, or algal mats on the surface
  • Contain or are near dead fish or other dead animals (for example, do not enter a body of water if dead fish have washed up on its shore or beach)

Algae Blooms

Take precautions when algae is present. Not all algae are harmful to humans or pets, but the best way to keep your family safe during an algae bloom is to:

  • Keep out of the water, including children and pets.
  • Avoid drinking the water. Ingestion of blue-green algae can cause gastrointestinal distress in humans.
  • Avoid boating near or through algae blooms.
  • Clean fish well and discard the guts appropriately.
  • When in doubt, just stay out!


When wading or swimming in any natural water body you may be exposed to E. coli and other microorganisms. Below are some tips to help reduce the chance of illness resulting from E. coli exposure while swimming:

  • Don’t get water in your mouth, eyes or open wounds.
  • Stay out of the water if you are sick.
  • Wash your hands and shower after being in the creek.
  • Don’t swim within in 48 hours of a rainstorm.

When recreating with pets...

  • Always pick up after your pets. Pet waste contains harmful bacteria, parasites, and nutrients that do not belong in our waterways.

Take precautions when algae is present:

  • Do not let pets eat algae, get in the water, or go on the beach or shoreline.
  • Rinse pets off with tap water after they have been in a lake, river, or pond; do not let them lick their fur until they have been rinsed.
  • Seek veterinary care immediately if your pet has consumed or licked algae on its fur after swimming or playing in water that has an algal bloom. Ingestion of blue-green algae is potentially lethal to dogs.

When you are hiking and camping...

  • If you pack it in, pack it out. Carry out any trash you create or find.
  • If no bathroom facilities are available, dig holes for solid waste at least 200 feet from any water source. Get more tips from Leave No Trace.
  • Pack out solid human waste where required, always pack out used toilet paper.