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Why it's Important to Purify Water in Yellowstone

The waters of Yellowstone National Park play an essential role in the survival of it's ecosystem. Yellowstone is home to over 600 lakes and ponds (107,000 surface acres of water), and 1,000 rivers and streams (approximately 2,500 miles of running water), all that to say that nearly 5% of Yellowstone is water.

The fact that 5% of the park is covered by water means that this land is ideal for multi-day backcountry travel, where you can fill up on water along the way instead of having to carry loads with you.

The water in Yellowstone looks pristine and clear, but don't be fooled to think that it is clean and safe to drink on it's own. Because of the park's immense wildlife populations, there are animals constantly drinking, defecating and dying in and around these waters.

Not only do you want to filter the dead bison out of your water, but water can also be contaminated by disease-causing microorganisms. These microorganisms can cause water-borne illnesses, including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach aches or pains.

The best ways to purify water are:

  1. Bringing water to a rolling boil for a minute. Boiling water is one of the best ways to kill disease-causing microorganisms. If you are at an elevation of 6,500 feet or lower, bring your water to a rolling boil for at least one minute. If you are at an elevation of higher than 6,500 feet, bring the water to rolling boil for at least three minutes.

  2. Use a water filter. There are many different kinds of water filters (we have a list of our favorites below), from hand pumps to gravity bags. These have a filter that removes bacteria and protozoa. They are usually quick and easy, and leave the water tasting clean.

  3. UV Light. This is a modern way to purify water, using a battery operated wand and a wide-mouthed water bottle. The UV light kills any protozoa, bacteria and viruses, and is lightweight to carry.

  4. Water treatment drops or tablets. These are relatively inexpensive and lightweight, and the chemical treatment is proven to be safe for consumption for most people (with the exception of those that are pregnant).

You can read all about what the American Hiking Society has to say about water purification HERE.

Our favorite water filters are:

  • For large groups, we recommend the Katadyn 6L Gravity Bag. A gravity bag is exactly what it sounds like. Scoop as much water as you can into the bag, hang it from a low branch and let gravity do the work. This type of water filter is easy to use and maintain, and requires very little effort on your part.

  • Other favorites include Katadyn BeFree Gravity Bag and Sawyer Squeeze

Our favorite UV Light system is:

  • For solo backpackers, we recommend the Steripen. This type of water filter is battery operated and uses UV rays to purify water. Simply fill a one liter, wide-mouthed water bottle, and swirl the Steripen in the water bottle for about 90 seconds.

Our favorite water treatment drops are:


One of the benefits of going on a guided backpacking trip with Nomadic By Nature is that you don't have to worry about finding the perfect water filter.

Our guides have years of guiding experience, in Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and everywhere in between. They know how each filter works, so you can just sit back and enjoy the amazing scenery that Yellowstone National Park has to offer!


This is Nomadic By Nature’s earliest backpacking trip in Yellowstone — while most trails lie under a blanket of snow, Black Canyon of the Yellowstone remains mostly snow-free because of its low elevation. As we hike along the Yellowstone River, you will gain perspective of how wild the canyon really is.

This region is home to big wildlife — big horn sheep, elk, deer, bison, birds of prey, and the possibility of grizzly bear, to name a few. Highlights include a raging and untouched river, amazing geology, waterfalls, wildflowers and ever-present wildlife — all combine for a powerful experience in the World’s First National Park.

On the six-day version of this trip, we will have the opportunity to explore the lesser-traveled Buffalo Plateau. This area is surrounded by mountains, full of wildflowers and gives you the chance to unwind and relax in the solitude.


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