There are two kinds of blooms this time of year in the state: 1) the brilliant colors of wildflowers in alpine meadows and 2) the nasty algae showing up in our lakes. Let’s start with the good blooms.
High altitude meadows in our section of the Rocky Mountains are flush in flowers right now, with the peak blooming season over by the end of July. Those of us near the capitol city drive up above Alta ski resort to Albion Basin to view the beauty there because it’s fast and assessible. Props to Alta Community Enrichment for creating the Wasatch Wildflower Festival with partners Alta Ski Area, Brighton Resort, Cottonwood Canyons Foundation, Friends of Alta, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, and US Forest Service-the Salt Lake Ranger District. The festival is free and is held July 21 & 22 in BIG Cottonwood Canyon and July 28 & 29 in LITTLE Cottonwood Canyon. There are suggested trails, so you can take yourself on a little stroll to see the flora or scheduled three-hour hikes with trained wildflower guides. The varieties of wildflowers that grow here are astonishing! There’s Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, Fireweed, Mountain Pennyroyal, Larkspur, Columbine and so much more. Each flower hike is rated for ‘kids, beginners, intermediate and advanced hikers’ based on time and difficulty of trails. Some hikes involve rides on trams or chair lifts and discounts will be offered. Go to www.cottonwoodcanyons.org for more info.
Now for the bad bloom. Toxic algae are spreading across our waterways. Simple plants known as cyanobacteria are turning lakes here weird colors because the algae that exist in the water is like on some kind of plant crack and they are growing like crazy, especially in the hot weather. This is extremely bad for all of us because the tainted water kills animals and humans alike who might ingest it accidentally or intentionally. These ‘blooms’ are often caused by nutrient pollution of nitrogen and phosphorus, activated by the sun in slow moving water. Those substances have been added to nearby farms and homes to fertilize crops and have run through the storm water into the waterways. Blooms can also come from wastewater, fossil fuel runoff, and electric power generation. They kill fish as the algae release toxins into the water. If your dogs run up to get a drink, they will become ill or die (as would people).
Avoid water that basically doesn’t look like fresh water-even if it’s on a big fresh water lake, reservoir or river. If the surface looks green, scummy or smells bad get outta there! In the past two months there have been toxic blooms reported at Provo Bay, Lincoln Marina, Sandy Beach, Utah Lake State Park and parts of the Jordan River. Last year the Utah Poison Control Center had 173 cases of human and animal algae bloom poisonings. It’s weird looking stuff and you naturally want to go up and look at it and poke at it. Don’t. This bloom can kill you, your kids and your pets.