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June, 2006. My friend Padre is a minister, a cleric from Ohio, and we get together most years for a backpack in the high country. As we load up packs at the trailhead for the Never Summer Mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park, I ask Padre if we dare leave the water filter behind. We’ve decided to use only unfiltered water on this trip, but he says we should carry the filter just in case. So I toss it in my pack. Throughout the trip we enjoy cold and very pure natural waters - with no gut wrenching regrets later - and the filter remains in the pack, unused.

I’ve often felt a nice connection to the natural world that comes from reaching right down into a stream and sipping handfuls of icy water on a hot day. I make it a regular part of my hiking practice to look for good water and drink some on every hike. Over the years I’ve realized that with proper and systematic evaluation of a water source, one can probably obtain clean and pure drinking water by using careful selection criteria. This article describes the methods I use to decide which waters to sip from. I’ve been doing it continuously now for almost twenty years and never once acquired any intestinal illness during that time.


  • Introduction
  • Background - Giardia in the Jarbidge
  • Enjoying the Taste of Natural Water
  • Doc’s Rules for Sipping the Waters
  • General Principles of Sipping the Waters
    • First Principle: Get water close to its source
    • Second Principle: Make sure the water is cold
    • Third Principle: Look for fast-moving water
    • Fourth Principle: Take water that is naturally filtered
    • Fifth Principle: Avoid large mammals
      • Beavers
      • Cattle
  • Closing Comments
  • About the Author

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