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High Alpine Lakes in San Juan Mountains, Colorado - rinkable?

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High Alpine Lakes in San Juan Mountains, Colorado - rinkable?

Old 02-28-19, 11:16 PM
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High Alpine Lakes in San Juan Mountains, Colorado - rinkable?

Title should say drinkable.

I would filter. Pathogens are not my concern.

My concern is mineral content. Some of the lakes look pretty colorful and I'm sure there are lots of minerals.

Anything to be concerned about?

Looks like there are lots of streams and rivers to draw from but I was just wondering about the lakes.


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Old 02-28-19, 11:26 PM
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They sold all the uranium production to the Russians, so nothing to worry about. They are great environmental stewards.

@cyccommute might have a real answer.

Last edited by Cyclist0108; 03-01-19 at 07:43 PM.
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Old 03-01-19, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH
Title should say drinkable.

I would filter. Pathogens are not my concern.

My concern is mineral content. Some of the lakes look pretty colorful and I'm sure there are lots of minerals.

Anything to be concerned about?

Looks like there are lots of streams and rivers to draw from but I was just wondering about the lakes.


-Tim-
Lakes are generally okay. If you see fish rising, they would be generally safe since trout are sensitive to pH and a low pH is related to mine drainage.

Rivers, on the other hand, are much more questionable, especially around towns. Most of the towns were mining centers and there are thousands of mines draining water into the rivers around Colorado. And don’t be fooled into thinking that just because the water in a river is colorless that it is safe. Gold King Mine may have turned the Animas River orange but mines in the area drain hundreds of times the volume of the Gold King Mine into the river daily. It just happens not to be orange. It’s still toxic.
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Old 03-01-19, 11:18 AM
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Buy a Filter at REI..
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Old 03-01-19, 11:43 AM
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To be clear, I'm talking about lakes at >10k feet elevation in the San Juan mountains.

Sloan Lake in the American Basin is 12,900 ft.

Lake Como below California Pass and Blue Lake (below) are both at 12,200 ft.

Again, I'm not concerned with pathogens and would use a filter. I'm concerned with minerals from the surrounding land.

Is water from these safe to drink or does the color indicate minerals one would not want to ingest.




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Old 03-01-19, 06:14 PM
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I like running water better, but have filtered lake water many times, Agree with cycocommute, if fish, ok!
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Old 03-01-19, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by gracehowler
if fish, ok!
This sounds like it should be in some kind of rule book or bullet list of do's and don't's.

Thanks.
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Old 03-01-19, 11:13 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob
Buy a Filter at REI..
Filters don’t work on heavy metals.

Originally Posted by TimothyH
To be clear, I'm talking about lakes at >10k feet elevation in the San Juan mountains.

Sloan Lake in the American Basin is 12,900 ft.

Lake Como below California Pass and Blue Lake (below) are both at 12,200 ft.

Again, I'm not concerned with pathogens and would use a filter. I'm concerned with minerals from the surrounding land.

Is water from these safe to drink or does the color indicate minerals one would not want to ingest.




-Tim-
It would be hard to make a blanket statement. Mining activity has occured at elevations to the tops of mountains. Animas Forks, for example, is over 11,000 feet and there are mines higher than that. Look around and if you see mine tailings, it might be best to pass. If the tailings have a very yellow or red, that means there is probably acid discharge downstream of those tailings. If the water and the ground under the water you are thinking of using is red, yellow or basically any color by dirt brown...pass.

I haven’t run across any high lakes that I wouldn’t filter from. They are generally safe but not always.
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Old 03-02-19, 01:54 PM
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If you're not sure you can use a Sawyer Select S3 filter to remove metals. https://www.rei.com/product/123094/s...ottle-20-fl-oz

I did a Google search for the three lakes mentioned and could not find any info on water quality. Though it appears that Blue Lake is a source of water for Telluride so would imagine it is okay to drink after filtering for pathogens.
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Old 03-02-19, 03:15 PM
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The simple, economical and safe solution is to load up with known good water from purchased bottled water or a municipal water tap, and carry in bladder(s) through areas of unknown/unreliable water supply. Arsenic and lead can do significant, lasting damage.
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Old 03-03-19, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by seeker333
The simple, economical and safe solution is to load up with known good water from purchased bottled water or a municipal water tap, and carry in bladder(s) through areas of unknown/unreliable water supply. Arsenic and lead can do significant, lasting damage.
It’s difficult to carry that much water. TimothyH’s ride is going to remote areas that take several days to traverse. San Juan County is sparsely populated in the extreme. The population of the county is 699 people in a 388 square mile area. The only “city” in the area is Silverton where 530 people live and it’s the only municipal water source in the area.

It’s also a difficult place to ride a bicycle because it is also the highest county in the US. The Alpine Loop that TimothyH is planning on riding is not that long but the altitude kind of keeps even those of us acclimatized from doing massive mileage. Since most of the route is over 10,000 feet and on Jeep roads, doing more than about 25 to 30 miles per day is difficult. And the altitude requires more water, especially if you are not well acclimated. So you’d need to carry water for about 3 days. Based on 4 hours of activity, you need about 200 oz (2 Camelbaks full) of water per day just for riding. That’s 600 oz for 3 days plus what you might need for cooking. That’s about 40 lb. Carrying what you need probably isn’t an option.
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Old 03-03-19, 10:59 AM
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Filters don’t work on heavy metals.
Someone made a killing selling them to be used Flint Michigan, by the thousands.
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Old 03-03-19, 11:04 AM
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Sounds awesome Tim! I did just a little googling, found a site promoting hut to hut cycling/trekking adventures. Here's a blurb from their site:
https://sanjuanhuts.com/hike-questio...he-hiking-huts

Sounds like they tell you just to grab it from nearby water sources and filter. I wonder if they test and certify those particular water sources near the huts if they're advising hut users to use the water? I'd assume they have some liability? Unless those huts are public?

Anyway sounds epic
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Old 03-03-19, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
It’s difficult to carry..
Yep, I know, which is why I'd find a better route / location to tour. I suppose one could cache supplies (gallon milk jugs) like you do when you hike the John Muir trail. How bad do you want it?
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Old 03-03-19, 03:56 PM
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When I opened the thread, I thought it was going to be about ice skating on the HIgh Alpine Lakes in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado....
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Old 03-04-19, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob
Someone made a killing selling them to be used Flint Michigan, by the thousands.
Filters used for backcountry travel don't work on heavy metals. A portable filter filters for particle size mostly.
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Old 03-04-19, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by seeker333
Yep, I know, which is why I'd find a better route / location to tour. I suppose one could cache supplies (gallon milk jugs) like you do when you hike the John Muir trail. How bad do you want it?
San Juan County is heavily mined but there are still some pristine places. As I said above, as long as there are fish in the water, you can generally assume the water is safe enough.

I can also see the allure of the route that TimothyH is proposing. I plan on doing parts of it myself this summer. It's not a complete poisonous hell hole. Just parts of it.

Note to TimothyH: Put aside some time in Silverton to visit the Mayflower Mill...you'll be going right past it...it's a mill for metal extraction that worked from the late 1800 to the early 1990s. It's not a museum and it's as if the workers just got off work. Really fascinating to see how metals were extracted from the ore.
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Old 03-04-19, 11:12 AM
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I'm really hoping to go but not 100% sure. My younger daughter might go to a pretty pricey school. We'll see.

This is the general idea, only twice as long.

The Alpine Loop, Colorado - BIKEPACKING.com



Originally Posted by cyccommute
It’s difficult to carry that much water. TimothyH’s ride is going to remote areas that take several days to traverse. San Juan County is sparsely populated in the extreme. The population of the county is 699 people in a 388 square mile area. The only “city” in the area is Silverton where 530 people live and it’s the only municipal water source in the area.

It’s also a difficult place to ride a bicycle because it is also the highest county in the US. The Alpine Loop that TimothyH is planning on riding is not that long but the altitude kind of keeps even those of us acclimatized from doing massive mileage. Since most of the route is over 10,000 feet and on Jeep roads, doing more than about 25 to 30 miles per day is difficult. And the altitude requires more water, especially if you are not well acclimated.
Originally Posted by cyccommute
Note to TimothyH: Put aside some time in Silverton to visit the Mayflower Mill...you'll be going right past it...it's a mill for metal extraction that worked from the late 1800 to the early 1990s. It's not a museum and it's as if the workers just got off work. Really fascinating to see how metals were extracted from the ore.
Experience is worth a thousand suppositions. Thank you for the information and for taking the time to post.

I'm keeping a notebook of everyone's comments and suggestions. Yours are included.

Anyway, water shouldn't be an issue. I was just wondering about the color of the lakes, that's all.


-Tim-
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Old 03-04-19, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH
I'm really hoping to go but not 100% sure. My younger daughter might go to a pretty pricey school. We'll see.

This is the general idea, only twice as long.

The Alpine Loop, Colorado - BIKEPACKING.com







Experience is worth a thousand suppositions. Thank you for the information and for taking the time to post.

I'm keeping a notebook of everyone's comments and suggestions. Yours are included.

Anyway, water shouldn't be an issue. I was just wondering about the color of the lakes, that's all.


-Tim-
The color of the water in your picture is probably due to silt. Here's an explanation of why some glacier lakes are turquoise in color. Blue Lake (one of dozens of so named lakes in Colorado...we can be boring when it comes to names) is a glacial tarn lake. If you look at the picture you can see a glacial valley curving off to the right high above the lake. Although the glacier melted long ago, water comes down that scree slope and carries a lot of silt with it. It may be slity but it would be fine to drink after filtering.
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Old 03-04-19, 01:01 PM
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If there are glaciers or snow available, that's another option. There are portable distillation devices that would take care of heavy metals and minerals. Also, it's a very different situation when you are ingesting the water for a meal or two or a day or two, vs having it as your everyday supply. We get tiny doses of all kinds of things with no problems. There is arsenic in many foods, for example. In the case of rice, the levels can be concerning if you are eating rice from certain parts of the world (including substantial areas within the US) frequently. If only occasionally, none of it is of concern.
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Old 03-04-19, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
The color of the water in your picture is probably due to silt. Here's an explanation of why some glacier lakes are turquoise in color. Blue Lake (one of dozens of so named lakes in Colorado...we can be boring when it comes to names) is a glacial tarn lake. If you look at the picture you can see a glacial valley curving off to the right high above the lake. Although the glacier melted long ago, water comes down that scree slope and carries a lot of silt with it. It may be slity but it would be fine to drink after filtering.
OK. This makes sense. Thanks!
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Old 03-26-19, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH

This is the general idea, only twice as long.

The Alpine Loop, Colorado - BIKEPACKING.com

-Tim-
Wow, that is amazing!
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