Rivers and Streams Water Crossing Survival

Rivers and streams can come in all shapes and forms. These could be shallow or deep, perhaps narrow or wide, or even slow or fast moving. A good plan should be prepared beforehand when wanting to try and cross such. This is a guide for rivers and streams water crossing survival.

Note: Streams just really are smaller/shorter rivers. Both rivers and streams are bodies of freshwater and are naturally flowing.

Observing Crossing Locations

The first step to take is to gain elevation where you can clearly observe the river or stream in question. As so, try to find high and natural geographical terrain, and if none, go find a tree to climb. From this elevation point, you can try to find where to cross.

Rivers and Streams Water Crossing Survival: Good Indicators

  • A level stretch that breaks into several other channels. Two or three narrow channels of these are usually a much easier cross than that of a wide river.
  • A shallow bank or sandbar. If you can, select a point upstream from a bank or sandbar for the current to carry you to it if ever you lose your balance or footing.
  • A course across the river that heads downstream. This will allow you to cross the current at about a 45-degree angle.

Rivers and Streams Water Crossing Survival: Bad Indicators

If possible, avoid potential hazardous areas such as:

  • Obstacles on the opposite side of a river might hinder your crossing. Therefore, try to find a spot from which your traversal of such will be safe and easy.
  • A ledge of rocks crossing the river. This often is an indicator of dangerous rapids or canyons up ahead.
  • A deep or rapid waterfall / deep channel. Never try to ford or cross such a stream directly above or even in close proximity to such hazards.
  • Rocky places. You may sustain or acquire serious injuries from slipping or falling on rocks when crossing. Usually, these submerged rocks are very slick and slippery, as such, maintaning balance could prove extremely difficult. The occasional rock that would break the current, however, could assist you.
  • An estuary of a river. An estuary normally is wide, possessing of strong currents, and subject to tides. These tides can influence some rivers many a distance from their mouths.
  • Eddies. An eddy can produce a powerful backward pulling force downstream of the obstruction thus allowing it to pull you under the surface.

Rivers and Streams Water Crossing Survival: Other notes

The depth of a fordable or crossable river or stream is no deterrent for crossing if you can keep or maintain your footing. In fact, deep water can sometimes run more slowly and therefore can be safer than more other fast-moving shallow water. You can always directly go cross and dry your clothes later, or if necessary or possible, you can build a raft or make use of a flotation device to carry your clothing and equipment across the river.

Do not try to swim or cross a stream or river when the water is very cold or much ado low in temperature. The swim you would perform could prove fatal. If in such cases, try to make a raft of some type. Also, know that flotation devices won’t protect you from the cold. Wade across the river or stream if you can get only your feet wet. Dry them then vigorously as soon as you reach or make your way across to the other bank.


You may want to know learn about the different flotation devices out there you can make use of for the purpose of water crossing.

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