How to Ford a River

In case you can't caulk a wagon and float it across. (Adapted from here: http://nyti.ms/1Ui1SCl)
  1. Spend some time watching the river.
    Explore the edge. Try to get a sense of how it flows. Look downstream for hazards. (If you fall, you don’t want to go over a rapid or a waterfall.)
  2. Throw a stick in.
    If the floating stick moves faster than you can walk, find a wider, shallower crossing where the current is slower.
  3. Consider waiting - rivers rise and fall.
    Conditions change rapidly. If you’re stymied by a crossing, consider waiting to see if the water drops. Streams and rivers fed by snowmelt will be lowest in the early morning.
  4. Whatever you do, don’t be cavalier.
    George Spearing, a retired firefighter from New Zealand who has crossed hundreds of rivers on solo wilderness treks, calls water crossings ‘‘the No. 1 hazard.’’ New Zealand's swollen rivers pulled under so many early European settlers that by the 1870s, drowning was known as ‘‘the New Zealand death.’’
  5. Once you’ve found the right spot, keep your shoes on.
  6. Unbuckle your backpack.
    Should you fall in, you’ll need to wriggle free of it.
  7. Find a sturdy, 5-to-6-foot-long branch.
    Use it and your two feet to make a tripod of yourself. Always keep two points of contact on the ground.
  8. Face upstream and slowly sidestep into the water.
    Lean slightly into the current and use your pole for support.
  9. Move slowly, gauging the flow and depth as you go.
  10. If it starts getting too deep, back out.
    Be particularly careful if the water rises above your knees.
  11. You may need to wait a day, walk a mile upstream or even turn around.
    ‘‘You’re not invincible,’’ Spearing says. ‘‘Remember that.’’