How to Cross a River Or Stream While Hiking!

Cross a River or Stream While Hiking

Rivers or streams during a trek or hike are common. It can seem exciting to have to cross a stream. However, it can be dangerous if precautions are not taken beforehand. For beginners, here is a guide on how to cross a river or stream while hiking.

Cross a River or Stream While Hiking – Smart Tips

Before even making a trek, you will have to think about the essentials to cross a river during a hike. Here are the elements to plan before an excursion in the middle of nature by crossing a water point.

Check the metrological conditions

This is the key point to check. For flood level, weather, and storm potential while hiking, you will need to check that the conditions are optimal or at least good enough to cross a river safely. To do this, look at the forecast weather forecast and inquire about the natural park through online resources.

Crossing a river while hiking

Provide the necessary equipment

This is the basic, in addition to the classic hiking checklist, you will need to provide some special equipment such as:

  • Walking sticks: to ensure your stability during the crossing.
  • A waterproof hiking bag: or, if necessary, a waterproof pouch to store water-sensitive equipment such as your phone or camera.
  • Hiking shoes: if possible with a good waterproof index to reduce the discomfort caused by wet shoes and socks. If you can, it is best to opt for water sandals that you will use instead of your classic pair of shoes.
  • Shorts: Wearing shorts helps prevent your pants from getting wet.

Leave early

Especially in the rainy season, it is advisable to take your walk in the morning. Indeed, there is more chance that the current is less powerful. Also, the chances of thunderstorms and higher water flows are more likely in the afternoon.

River - A Hiking Destination

Take a good look at the river before crossing it

Once there, you will need to be observant in order to find the best place to cross the river.

Evaluate the place beforehand

To properly assess the location and find the best entry point:

  • Look at the debris: in general, branches and driftwood indicate a high water level.
  • Opt for a shallow area.
  • Prefer wide rivers because the waters are shallower there and the current will normally be less powerful than in places where the river narrows.
  • Look for potential small islands: when the river branches, it is possible to find medians in its center. This type of area can be interesting because it offers a rest area during the crossing.

Check current

Once the potential crossing location has been found, it is always best to assess the current. To do this, throw a branch into the water and observe its speed and direction.

Find the right exit point

Before even entering the water, it is best to have an idea of ​​where to exit. Depending on the complexity of the crossing, this exit point may change. Nevertheless, it is better to have one or more options in mind in order to get out of the river quickly.

Loosen your backpack

To avoid any danger, it is recommended to loosen your bag before crossing a river on a hike. Indeed, in the event that you fall into the water, you can unload your bag so as not to be swept away in the current. Of course, this advice is primarily used in emergency situations.

The guide to crossing a river while hiking

Once you have made your observation, it is finally time to start your crossing. Here are the essential points for crossing a watercourse in complete safety.


Crossing the bottom of the river is generally the safest and most recommended method. However, keep in mind that the bottom of a river is inherently unstable due to its compounds (sand, mud and silt). This composition can be slippery or act as a suction cup which could lead to falls.

It is therefore advisable to:

  • Slowly slide his feet forward.
  • Cross against the current and slightly diagonally.
  • The use of walking sticks can add stability. Be careful when planting and removing them to avoid potential loss of balance.
  • As a group, hold arms and walk in a coordinated fashion to add stability to your movements.
  • If someone has more experience, they can cross first and then set up a rope so that other tour members can cross more safely.

Cross over the rocks

First of all, I would like to point out that:

  • Going through the rocks is not the most recommended technique.
  • The stones are often treacherous and can be slippery.
  • In some cases, this technique remains the most feasible.
  • Always evaluate other options before deciding on this one.

When the bed of a river is bordered by multiple rocks, crossing stone by stone can be envisaged. However, you will always have to check your support and above all not to jump.

How to cross a river or stream while hiking 4

In case of fast water, cross diagonally

If you have no choice but to cross in a fast-flowing stream, do so slightly diagonally downriver but facing upstream.

The best method then remains to lean slightly forward and walk like a crab, on the side.

What to do in the event of a fall?

Above all, don’t panic. Start by removing your bag if it prevents you from getting up. In case the water flow takes you:

  • Put your feet downhill to protect your head from any obstacles and get an overview of the situation.
  • When you get to calm water, swim to shore.

I hope these tips for crossing a river or stream have been useful to you. I wish you an excellent future hike! Do not hesitate to read our article on How to Avoid Ticks and Lyme Disease While Hiking! Indeed, these can be useful to you, especially in the event of a group river crossing.

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