My friend and I just paddled in Moab on the Colorado River. It was a beautiful trip.

95% of our trip was flat water, but we hit three class 2 rapids. She got splashed in the face.

A few days after she was diagnosed with Giardia.

Any suggestions on how to avoid this.

you didn’t
mention what your water source was. how did you do dishes? I would wonder how else raw water may have found it’s way into her system.

not camping only river splash
We were not camping. We ate at restaurants and staye din a motel. The only river water she was exposed to was small rapids in the Colorado River that splashed her in the face.

I told her next year I will give her my scuba mask to wear.

Pretty unusual …
Giardia is endemic in Rocky Mountain streams and rivers, I grew up in Utah, and lived in Colorado for many years participating in water sports that involved prolonged and profound immersion and never had issues.

My bet is that her water bottle was contaminated either on the outside or inside. Did you have dogs along? Horses nearby?

My dog on the other hand loved fresh stream water and had to be treated several times.

I would suggest she keep her mouth closed when running rivers.

Never got giardia from CO rivers.
The event may have been random rather than likely. Those of us with moustaches are more at risk.

Who diagnosed your friend ?
Does not sound right to me.

We have been drinking mountain spring water for 40 years and have never got it

Have paddled WW all over the country and been completely covered with all kinds of water

Jack L

There you go
Have your girlfriend shave her mustache.

Jack, you might want to

– Last Updated: Jul-09-15 10:11 AM EST –

Try some of the small brooks in the Alaska Range. Some of my buddies and I got it by just washing our mess kits in these pristine little streams.

It was strange that there were six of us and all but one got it.

This was about 56 years ago.

Location not mtn spring water

– Last Updated: Jul-09-15 11:39 AM EST –

Murky, heavily used water.

The first time I went to Moab, there were dead, bloated cattle floating upended in the river.

Cliff Jacobson
Somewhere in one of his books, an interview, or a presentation, I recall Cliff Jacobson admitting to frequently drinking unfiltered water in the BWCAW and Quetico, although he did not publicly endorse doing this these days.

He recounted an incident or incidents in which folks who meticulously filtered their drinking and cooking water contracted Giardiasis from water splashing on their faces, or from rubbing wet hands across their faces, while those who drank unfiltered water did not.

Perhaps someone here can recall that source.

Giardia is spread by human contact
It’s in the dirt spread human to human and poor sanitation is often the reason.

Typically you have to ingest the water

All is anecdotal in this thread and to say the definitive cause of it is water splash is a big reach. No proof

Not necessarily

– Last Updated: Jul-09-15 2:52 PM EST –

While it is undoubtedly true that the great majority of Giardiasis infestations are spread by human vectors as a result of poor sanitation, Giardia lamblia also infests the intestinal tracts of mammals, including beavers, ergo the colloquial term for Giardiasis: "beaver fever".

Humans vary considerably in their susceptibility to Giardiasis. It is very common for a single individual to contract it from water that multiple other individuals drank without incident. It has been estimated that ingestion of as few as 10 cysts can result in clinical infestation. The cysts are microscopic, and 10 is not a lot.

Giardia is Mountain Wests Dirty Secret
Don’t drink stream water anywhere in Western US without boiling or filtering.

As long ago as the 1860s when the gangs of Chinese workers were building the Transcontinental railroad through the Sierras and Great Salt lake Desert the Chinese workers boiled tea and were largely fine and their Anglo bosses had serious cases of the runs constantly. Not sure if this is true, but told to me by a amature historian ( also Chinese american) and you see it mentioned in histories of the railroad.

Possibly us old-timers, who drank
from streams and lakes in the 60s and 70s, acquired a kind of immunity to giardia and other bugs. I sure have rowed and paddled on some filthy rivers, and I’m sure splashed water has repeatedly gotten into my system.

I would think that a newbie to river water, such as the OP’s girl friend, might be more vulnerable to infection from lack of prior exposure and acquired immunity.


I’ve only had GI problems from paddling once in 55 years of rowing and paddling, and that was when I drank from a canteen that had mud from the Ohio Mohican R. on the nozzle.

When we paddled the BW area
20 years ago we were told to paddle about fifty feet off shore and the water was perfect to drink without any filtration.

That is what four of us did on a ten day trip and had no problems.

One time down in Florida, I made the mistake of eating some unwashed grapes and had the s–ts and a stomach ache for the next five days

Jack L

Then how did we get away with
drinking from mountain streams in the Cascades, the Olympics, and the Coast Range in the early 70s? No one filtered or boiled then.

Cascades and Olympic Mts
aren’t considered the mountain west. Sorry

Giardia was not as prevalent back then
It exploded after backpacking became popular, which not coincidentally occurred in the 70s. It had been around before then but lacked the big influx of transmitting bodies, i.e., humans.

Drinking cups
To this day, I can still find old drinking cups where they used to hang on tree branches next to running streams. Some were near springs emerging from the ground. I remember years ago hiking and hunting with my dad in and around the Adirondack region, where we would freely use the cups he had hung in various locations to get a cool drink right out of the stream or spring. Nobody ever got sick back then from that practice.

The timeline doesn’t make sense for Giar
It normally takes 1-2 weeks for Giardia to become symptomatic. Symptoms probably showed up a day before your friend went to the doctor. This means there would have been a very very short gestation period.

More than likely it was a virus or gastrointestinal distress caused by oral-fecal contamination.

Giardia is an easy diagnosis for gastrointestinal distress accompanied by a recent history of exposure to water. The doctor just guessed and gave some antibiotics, anti nausea, and anti diarrhea medication.