More River Crossing Tips

HikeItForward-Final-Medium 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.

River Crossing3. Speed of a floating stick—Throw a stick into the water and see how rapidly the water carries it away. If you cannot walk as fast as it is moving, then it is not safe to cross.

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.

Photo of river crossing:

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Hiking, Kennebec River, Maine, River Crossing, Thru-Hike, Trail | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Post navigation

6 thoughts on “More River Crossing Tips

  1. drgoffe

    How will #6 work for the guy who likes to hike in sandals?

  2. janloyd

    Great advice…hope I never need it! But you probably will! 🙂

    • I have not crossed that many streams and rivers, but I have been impressed with the power of water and the danger of fast moving steams. I plan to give them my deepest respect.

  3. I use heavy trail boots so carry water shoes for crossings deeper than the top of my boots otherwise I just splash on through..The water shoes have a solid bottom but mesh top so they protect from rocks but are light enough and dry pretty quickly hanging off the bottom of my pack They also make good camp shoes at the end of the day.

    One thing I didn’t see mentioned in either of these posts was to look for crossings with several smaller channels rather than one deeper channel. If the river is winding these will usually be found in the straight sections between bends. The bends often will have a deep channel on the outside of the curve.

  4. Great insight! There seems to be a real skill in reading the river to find the best location for the crossing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: