Tips for Crossing a River in the Wild

 If you are stranded in the wilderness and trying to get to safety, you may come to the point where you need to cross a river.  Or if you are backpacking you may choose to cross a river, but if you don’t do it safely you can quickly find yourself fighting of survival.  Whether you are crossing a river out of need, or want, here are some tips to keep in mind to prevent injury or worse.


Find the right spot

Crossing a river may be absolutely necessary for your survival, but don’t let that drive you to jump into rapids and swim for it.  Follow the river and look for a wide area.  It may seem less desirable to cross what looks like more water, but in reality, it is the same amount of water, it is only wider because it is spread thinner, making it less deep and slower moving.

Get ready

Even if you have found a nice wide, slow area, don’t rush in, get yourself and your gear ready.  If you haven’t already, take your gear out and put it in a trash bag or waterproofing bag within your pack.  Adjust your pack so that it sits a little lower on you, lowering your center of gravity and giving you more stability.  Get a walking stick to provide you with more stability and something to test the depth in front of you before taking a step.

Be Careful

Crossing won’t be easy.  Point yourself slightly upstream to adjust for the force of the water.  Feel out each step and move slowly.  If you do fall and are swept down river, roll to your back, keep your feet down river so that they will strike any rocks first and not your head, try to get to the bank rather than on a rock in the middle of the river that you could get stuck on, or even pressed against by the water and drown.


Most dangers in the wilderness should just be avoided, but some like crossing a river might be unavoidable.  Be careful and plan out your strategy before rushing into something so dangerous.

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