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How to Cross a Raging River

Flickr/James Duckworth

At some point crossing a river is necessary, but how do you do it without risking your life in the process?

When you’re out on the trails, you may find yourself coming across a raging river that stands between you and where you need to get to. Of course, you could always turn around and find a suitable crossing, but who knows how far you would have to travel before you found one.

If you are faced with the task of crossing a raging river know how to do so safely with these tips.

1.  Width

Before taking the first step to ford a river pick the widest point of it where the water will be slower and shallower.

2.  Sandals

If you have sandals with you, change into these to keep your boots dry, but if not it’s better to keep your boots on rather than taking the risk of slipping on tricky terrain while going barefoot.

3.  Hazards

Before fording a river make sure that you avoid hazards like waterfalls, fallen trees or rapids as the water will be at its fastest at these points and could sweep you off your feet, knocking you underwater downstream.

4.  Your Backpack

In fast-moving rivers unbuckle your backpack hip belt and sternum strap so that you can easily get rid of your pack should you need to.

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5. Hiking Poles

If you have walking poles with you, use these as a way of gauging how deep the water is and to provide added balance.

6. Angle

When walking across a fast flowing river, cross at a slight angle, heading downstream, but with your body facing up. This will give you a clear view of anything that may be travelling down the river at speed. Lean into the current and shuffle across rather than lifting your feet for added stability.

7. Flip Onto Back

If you slip and the current takes you, flip on to your back with your feet pointing downstream and keep your head clear of the water. You should have unbuckled your straps before this point, so ditch your pack if it’s necessary and swim to land as quickly as you can.

The next time you think there is no way but to swim across a raging river and pray for your life, remember these tips and know that you can make it across safely if you are smart about it.

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How to Cross a Raging River