How to Ford a River
In case you can't caulk a wagon and float it across. (Adapted from here: http://nyti.ms/1Ui1SCl)
- •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.)
- •Throw a stick in.If the floating stick moves faster than you can walk, find a wider, shallower crossing where the current is slower.
- •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.
- •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.’’
- •Once you’ve found the right spot, keep your shoes on.
- •Unbuckle your backpack.Should you fall in, you’ll need to wriggle free of it.
- •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.
- •Face upstream and slowly sidestep into the water.Lean slightly into the current and use your pole for support.
- •Move slowly, gauging the flow and depth as you go.
- •If it starts getting too deep, back out.Be particularly careful if the water rises above your knees.
- •You may need to wait a day, walk a mile upstream or even turn around.‘‘You’re not invincible,’’ Spearing says. ‘‘Remember that.’’