River Crossing

River Crossing

Advice on how to cross a river or stream safely

Image courtesy of Alan Halewood

River Crossing 

River Crossing

Careful route planning should ensure that you cross streams and rivers only by bridges or in places where they are narrow and shallow. However, there could be a time, even after good planning, that you have to cross a river. Apart from getting wet, river crossing is a potentially dangerous activity. 


  • Plan your route to avoid a river crossing
  • Walk miles extra if there's a bridge available and you're not 100% certain about your ability to safely cross the river
  • If you have to cross without a bridge, unfasten hip and chest straps of your rucksack so that it's doesn't drag you down if you happened to fall
  • Walk the river bank to find the most appropriate place to cross; shallow & slow moving water would be ideal
  • Pack the contents of your rucksack in sealed plastic or roll-top bags. If you fall in, your rucksack should float, and contents stay mostly dry. See keep it dry in the kit section
  • Remove socks but wear boots, to avoid instability if you stood bare foot on a sharp rock
  • Cross as a group where possible - see video
  • Use walking poles if crossing alone
  • Stand on rocks if you can, but be aware of wet rocks or those with slime/other vegetation. Taking a tumble will not only get you wet, it could cause serious injury 
  • Take your time


The following is an excellent video, in particular showing how to cross as a group and the theory of crossing solo.

Solo Crossing with Poles

Use of Ropes

The following video demonstrates the correct use of a rope when river crossing. The main thing to remember is that a rope should never be tied to someone, as they could be dragged under water if they fall.