Toxic algae downstream from where hiker family died prompts closure of Merced River area

The mysterious deaths of a family of hikers in Mariposa County last month that have baffled investigators now have led federal authorities to bar the public from 28 miles along the Merced River due to toxic algae downstream from where the family died.

On Friday, the Bureau of Land Management closed its campgrounds and recreation areas along the Merced between the towns of Briceburg and Bagby in Mariposa County. The decision came after the agency received word from the county that concerningly high levels of toxins were found in river water samples taken about 12 miles downstream from where the family died.

“When the tests came back positive, we felt we should take action,” said Jeff Horn, recreation branch chief for the BLM’s Mother Lode Field Office, which oversees agency land between Nevada County and Mariposa County. “We feel it’s wise to err on the side of caution.”

The bodies of a couple, their 1-year-old daughter and their dog were found last month on the Hites Cove Trail, close to the Merced River west of Yosemite National Park. There was no apparent cause of death and investigators have been hunting for answers. Toxicology reports on the victims are pending.

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