Skin Rash in Canyon Country

LarryBoy

Hiker Trash
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Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
2,506
Anybody else get weird rashes on their legs after walking through water in canyon country? I used to think it was just my skin being persnickety, but then my buddy got it too on a Lower Paria trip we took a few years ago... and many other people I've talked to have reported the same thing. Yet I haven't been able to find any literature on the subject.

Anyone know what the deal is with this? Has this happened to you?

For me, it typically manifests as a terrible itchy-burny sensation on the "constantly wet" portion of the leg, and feels a lot like a bad sunburn. It's typically worst on the back of the calf. There's a strong correlation between the nastiness of the water and the severity of the rash - the sludge in the Buckskin cesspools or the gloppy mud in lower Kanab Creek stand out as prime offenders to me. But not sure whether mineral load, or decaying biological crap are to blame. Thoughts?
 

Bob

Trailmaster
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Mar 3, 2013
Messages
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They closed the barrows one summer cause of it ..... Don't remember the name but it's a bacteria infrction
 

Laura V.

I'm not lost. I'm on an adventure.
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Joined
Feb 15, 2021
Messages
31
Anybody else get weird rashes on their legs after walking through water in canyon country? I used to think it was just my skin being persnickety, but then my buddy got it too on a Lower Paria trip we took a few years ago... and many other people I've talked to have reported the same thing. Yet I haven't been able to find any literature on the subject.

Anyone know what the deal is with this? Has this happened to you?

For me, it typically manifests as a terrible itchy-burny sensation on the "constantly wet" portion of the leg, and feels a lot like a bad sunburn. It's typically worst on the back of the calf. There's a strong correlation between the nastiness of the water and the severity of the rash - the sludge in the Buckskin cesspools or the gloppy mud in lower Kanab Creek stand out as prime offenders to me. But not sure whether mineral load, or decaying biological crap are to blame. Thoughts?
Yes! I had a terrible skin rash on my feet with the itchy-burny sensation on a 17-day Grand Canyon River trip. I was the medic for our trip, and almost half of my group ultimately got it. We “heard” from an outfitter that there is a fungus in the water which causes it but that little is known about it. Apparently, the NPS does know about it but is trying to keep it on the down low. My trip was in 2017. It was a newish problem at that time. The outfitter gave me a tube of anti-fungal medication from Mexico that I shared with my group and which seemed to clear up people’s feet within a few days - but everyone was fairly miserable in the meantime. Unfortunately, the label wore off the tube, so I don’t know what it was that cured us. I also had the same problem hiking Paria. As you said, there isn’t really any literature out there. It’s a mystery.
 

chandlerwest

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2015
Messages
508
Over the years, every time I have walked The Virgin River Narrows, under my socks, I essentially turn red. The socks get soaked so the water just stays compressed to my skin. It luckily never seems to manifest into an major irritant. It just looks horrible and I don't even think of scratching for fear of activating it.
 

Henk

Member
Joined
Nov 11, 2014
Messages
235
We live next to the IJsselmeer the big lake inside the Netherlands and we are regularly warned in the warmer periods that it's unsafe to swim in certain areas where the red brown, or blue-green algae are blooming. These algae are actually Cyanobacteria that can excrete toxic substances that can be deadly for fishes, birds etc., are harmful to humans, pets etc. and can cause all sorts of irritations on all parts of the body. Temperature and CO2 levels, that are on the increase, improve the conditions for such organisms to flourish so we can expect more in the future. They also be found in rivers, i.e.
Toxic Cyanobacteria Bloom in the Virgin River and the Streams of Zion National Park - Zion National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
 

Nick

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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,923
Yes! I had a terrible skin rash on my feet with the itchy-burny sensation on a 17-day Grand Canyon River trip. I was the medic for our trip, and almost half of my group ultimately got it. We “heard” from an outfitter that there is a fungus in the water which causes it but that little is known about it. Apparently, the NPS does know about it but is trying to keep it on the down low. My trip was in 2017. It was a newish problem at that time. The outfitter gave me a tube of anti-fungal medication from Mexico that I shared with my group and which seemed to clear up people’s feet within a few days - but everyone was fairly miserable in the meantime. Unfortunately, the label wore off the tube, so I don’t know what it was that cured us. I also had the same problem hiking Paria. As you said, there isn’t really any literature out there. It’s a mystery.

That condition that is common for river runners in the Grand Canyon is called Tolio and it has become pretty well known. I hear a lot of people talking about it when they're planning trips.

 

regehr

Member
Joined
Mar 28, 2012
Messages
1,419
so it might be cyanobacteria, it might be fungal, or it might be both? ugh. I love sitting in rafts and walking in waterways and haven't had this stuff happen yet, nor to anyone on trips with me. which is nice since I spent most of yesterday wading in Muddy Creek, and a rash on top of the numerous cedar gnat bites would have been kind of intolerable.
 

Bob

Trailmaster
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Mar 3, 2013
Messages
2,672
the cyanobacteria are still in the Virgin River. I saw tons of colonies of the blue-green algae when I hiked the Subway last week, so the cyanobacteria is very active there as well
That's it......
 

Laura V.

I'm not lost. I'm on an adventure.
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Joined
Feb 15, 2021
Messages
31
That condition that is common for river runners in the Grand Canyon is called Tolio and it has become pretty well known. I hear a lot of people talking about it when they're planning trips.

That’s right! “Tolio” - I’d forgotten that’s what it is called. Thanks for the information. Seeing those pictures brings it all back. I can almost feel the burn. Shudder. It really was horrible.
 

Rockskipper

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Joined
Jun 11, 2017
Messages
2,982
When I was a kid, I used to get something similar from the Yampa River. My mom treated it successfully with peroxide, straight from the bottle.
 
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