In a survival situation, you may have to cross a river or fast flowing stream or even a lake. Before you try
to cross a river or stream, develop a good plan.
Your first step is to look for a good place to cross. Good places will be categorized by:
A split river. It is usually easier to cross a river a piece at a time then all at once.
Ideally you want to be upstream of a shallow bank or sand bar encase you get swept downstream.
Ideally again your course across the river will not be straight across but instead one that angles down stream with the current.
Generally with rivers fast currents means shallow sections and slow river currents means deep.
The amount of water moving past a point on the stream will be the same no matter where you choose to cross, unless of course another water source is present. So if you can find an area with relatively swift moving water where the river is wide that would be a good spot to cross.
Watch for the following hazards and avoid these if possible:
Obstacles on the opposite side of the river that might hinder your travel.
A deep or rapid waterfall or a deep channel. Never try to ford a stream
directly above or even close to such hazards.
Rocky places. You may sustain serious injuries from slipping or falling
An eddy can produce a powerful backward pull downstream
of the obstruction causing the eddy and pull you under the surface.
If necessary/possible a makeshift raft to carry your clothing
and equipment across the river can be a big help. A raft for yourself is a must if trying to cross a very cold river. You can wade across if you can get only your feet wet. But dry them thorough as soon as you reach the other side.
It might be necessary in extreme circumstances to cross river rapids. If so swim with the current, do not fight it. Try to keep your body horizontal. This will reduce the danger of being pulled under.
In fast, shallow rapids, lie on your back, feet pointing downstream, finning
your hands alongside your hips. This action will increase buoyancy
and help you steer away from obstacles. Keep your feet up to avoid getting
them bruised or caught by rocks.
In deep rapids, lie on your stomach, head downstream, angling toward
the shore whenever you can. Watch for obstacles and be careful of eddies and converging currents, as they often contain dangerous
swirls and undercurrents.
Before even entering the water do the following: Remove any loose fitting clothing to lessen the water's pull on you. Keep your footgear on to protect your feet and ankles from rocks. It will also provide you with firmer footing.
Tie your pants and other articles to the top of your pack or in a
bundle. This way, if you have to lose your
equipment, all your stuff will be together. It is much easier to find one
large pack than to find many individual items.
All packs and equipment should be able to be instantly removed. Not being forced underwater by heavy equipment is more important than saving the equipment. A good walking stick will help you maintain your balance. Move slowly keeping two points of contact on the bottom at all times.
If there are other people with you, cross the stream together. Ensure
that everyone has prepared their pack and clothing as outlined above.
Position the heaviest person on the downstream end of the pole and the
lightest on the upstream end. In using this method, the upstream person
breaks the current, and those below can move with relative ease in the
eddy formed by the upstream person. If the upstream person gets temporarily
swept off his feet, the others can hold steady while he regains
Some publications encourage groups to tie theirselves together to cross streams. I am not a fan of this. This could easily lead to drowning if the group gets swept down stream. A rope can be used but never tied to you.
River Crossing Page 2