“A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.”
― Laura Gilpin
Rivers and Streams come in all different shapes and sizes, speeds, and depths. There are always unknowns, so be sure to have a plan how you will cross, as well as following proper procedures for crossing.
If you want to cross a river or stream, you need to get a good view, so get to a high place or climb a tree.
Look for good locations to cross such as a level stretch where the river breaks into two or three channels, because it may be easier to cross.
Consider crossing upstream of shallow banks or sandbars, so the current will carry you to it if you lose footing.
- You will want to move at a 45 degree angle across the river. This will make it easier to cross.
When crossing rivers or streams there are lots of potential hazards. If possible you want to avoid places where the water will go fast. White water is a good indicator of a bad location. Water is usually swifter in narrowing or swallowing areas. Stay away from
- Shore obstacles
- Ledges of rocks that indicate rapids or canyons
- Deep Channels
- Extremely Rocky Places because they are slippery and dangerous
- Estuaries (Strong currents, wide, and subject to tidal effects)
Sometimes deep water is safer because it has slower current, as long as you can keep your footing.
If you attempt to wade or swim across a cold river, you could get hypothermia, so try building a small raft for crossing, unless the river or stream is ankle high.
If absolutely necessary to cross rapids, you can do so, but the dangers are real. If you are thinking of doing this, you must know many techniques that will help you be safe.
Deep Swift Rivers
To cross deep, swift rivers, you must swim WITH the current. Keep your body horizontal with the water to reduce chances of being pulled under by eddies.
Fast Shallow Rapids
To cross shallow rapids, you should lie on your back and point your feet downstream, but keep your feet up so they don’t get caught by rocks. Fin your hands by your hips to steer away from obstacles.
To cross deep rapids, lie on your stomach, head pointed downstream and toward the shore. Watch for converging water or large obstacles because they cause eddies and swirls.
Swift Treacherous Streams
To cross a swift stream, you need to de-cloth to reduce your drag (the water pulling on you) except for your footwear, and tie them into a bundle that you will tie to a pack or your shoulders. Make sure the pack can be easily taken off if pulled by water. Keep everything as high as possible.
Find a strong pole or stick to help you. it should be a couple inches in diameter and 6-7 feet long. Hold it firmly into the ground on the upstream side. Keep good footing. As you move, you will take small steps, then move the pole across and slightly downstream from its previous location (still upstream from you). The pole will break water currents, and if you keep the pole angled, it will keep pressure downward on you, helping you stay put.
You will end up moving downstream at a 45 degree angle.
For multiple people, everyone needs to pack the same way. Hold a pole parallel to the current that everyone will hold onto, lightest person upstream and heaviest downstream. The heavier people can cross easily, and can hold the lighter person if they lose footing.
If you have a rope that is 3 times the length of the river, you can make a loop. At least two people on shore and no more than one person in water at all times. The person crossing is tied to the rope, and those on shore leave only enough slack to allow them to cross. Strongest person crosses first.