Before leaving my research on the Kennebec River in Maine, I wanted to share a few more tips for a successful river crossing. The Rough Rules of Thumb: 1. Look for a bridge. 2. Pray for a canoe or boat. 3. Hope for a guide rope stretched across the water. 4. Remember as much of the following advice as possible.
Bob Proudman, Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) Director of Trail Operations and Hawk Metheny, ATC New England Regional Director provide some sound principles for inexperienced hikers attempting to ford a river (I drive a Honda so “Ford”ing sounds strange but very American).
1. Before crossing, scout out the best location to cross—Don’t assume that the blazed line of sight to the other bank is the best or only path to follow. The volume of water flowing downstream is not constant and water levels/currents are dynamic, so a good crossing point yesterday may not be safe today.
2. Avoid “chokepoints”— Look at the current and how fast it is flowing. Avoid crossing at points where the banks of the stream narrow. The power of the current will be strongest at these chokepoints and could sweep you off your feet.
4. The more body mass you have in a strong current, the less control you have—If you begin to cross and the depth of the water is above your thighs, turn around and look for a better location to cross.
5. If the current seems too swift, turn back. If a river is flooded, wait for it to subside. If in doubt as to whether a river is safe to cross, don’t cross—find an alternate route.
6. Crossing barefoot is never recommended because of rocks, submerged logs, fishing tackle, broken glass or rusted metal. Open-toed sandals are not recommended because they do not protect your toes, can fold in a strong current, and increase drag. Remove the boot insoles and your socks, and use gaiters. After fording, dump the water out of your boots, put the insoles back in, put your socks back on, and wring out your gaiters.
If you missed the first blog on fording stream check out my archive on 2/7/14.