HOW TO CROSS RIVERS AND
STREAMS WHEN HIKING By Ken Jensen
Several things to consider when
crossing moving water :
1. Cold Water = Possible Hypothermia
2. Shallow waters = Faster current
3. Faster currents = getting swept off of
4. Invisible hazards of the river can be just
Things to look for the
best crossing areas:
Level ground with
Upstream of shallow
bank or sandbar.
Choose a course
across that will allow
you to cross at about
a 45 degree angle.
Here are a few items to look out for hazards that will hurt your
Obstacles on the opposite bank that will hinder you getting
Upstream of deep channels or waterfalls
Rocky places - slipping
River estuaries (empty to bigger bodies)
Rock ledges – rapids indicated by water changes
Eddies – Current behind an obstacle with ever changing
Deep Swift Rivers
Swim WITH the
Keep your body
much as possible.
This reduces your
getting pulled by
an eddy current.
Fast Shallow Rapids Tips:
Lie on your back with
hands by your hips
and fin them to guide
and help avoid
Deep Rapids Tips:
Lie on stomach
toward the opposite
Stay away from
converging water or
they cause eddies and
Swift Treacherous Streams Tips :
Remove clothing except your shoes to reduce
Tie it into a bundle and attach to your pack or
Make sure you can remove the pack if the water
catches it, so you don't get pulled.
Use a pole at about your height (ideally 6-7 ft).
Place it upstream on the ground. It will break the
incoming current and place a downward force on
Take small steps and keep good footing.