How To Cross Rivers Safely


Who wants to know how to cross a river when one can just use a bridge – you may wonder! Well, it may sound unnecessary but if you love spending time in the wild, you may want to master this skill for your own safety.

Research shows that the greatest percentage of hikers and backpackers’ deaths are caused by drowning in overflowing rivers. Those who love backpacking in the rain especially are at a higher risk of losing their lives to bursting rivers than summer hikers.

Luckily, crossing a river is quite simple. With the tips laid out below, you will be able to get to the other side safely and relatively dry.

Before You Go

How to cross a river successfully depends on how prepared you are. The exercise can be dangerous but you can make it less intimidating by:

Being Aware Of The Conditions

Try to gather some information on the conditions out there. How is the flow of the river? What is the likelihood of experiencing a storm? You can acquire such information from the internet or probably from the authorities.

Acquiring The Right Equipment

It’s obviously going to be tough out there but this is just how you make memories. So, be ready.

Bring with you some trekking poles. These will not only enable you to go up the mountain when hiking but also make it easy for you to know how deep the river is. If you forgot to bring the trekking poles you can as well make use of a good strong branch.

As much as you may prefer hiking boots over anything else, it’s a good idea to pack a pair of hiking sandals to make the exercise easy. Boots maybe a bit uncomfortable and you may end up damaging them. On the other hand, crossing a river barefooted is the worst idea.

Don’t forget a pair of shorts. You don’t want to do this with your hiking pants, as they will just get wet and keep dragging you behind.

Before You Cross

Do A Brief But Keen Inspection

This will be the only way to help you determine the best place to cross and that has fewer risks. This should be an area with no submerged items and that is shallow compared to the other parts of the river.

Examine The Flow Of The Water

You will need your trekking pole for this.  Dip it in the river and start moving in the same direction as the water. If you can put up with the speed of the pole without running then the current is fine. In this position, you can as well try and access the shape of the underwater surface to know what your feet will be stepping on.

Determine The Depth And Width Of The Water

Know how deep the river and the point from which you intend to cross is. Again, your hiking pole will help in this. If the depth of the water is beyond your knees, then that is not the appropriate spot to cross from. Keep dipping your pole to find an area that is less risky for you to get to the other side.

Locate The Easiest Exit Point

Before you start crossing, you should find out how close you are to the nearest exit point and how accessible it is. You don’t want to get near the bank and realize that it’s all muddy and not even a log to step on is visible.

A tightly Strapped Backpack Is A Deal Breaker; Loosen It!

Having your backpack tightly strapped could be the cause of your drowning. How?

If you happen to lose balance, there will be no time to get the bag off your back and it will already be soaked with water, become too heavy and drag you downstream.

Loosen it up and make it easy for you to remove it when worse comes to worst. We would rather you lose the bag than suffer from hypothermia or even worse; lose your life.

Time To Party!


Having considered everything stated above, it’s now time to cross. Be very careful with your steps. Don’t look at the water because you could easily lose your balance; pay close attention to where you are heading to.

If you are in a group, be considerate; don’t force anyone to do something that is beyond their confidence, let them take their time.

Always keep your feet firm on the surface and trust the trekking pole as your third leg.

There are several methods on how to cross a river safely depending on the number of persons;

1. The Group Eddy Method

This is where you form a triangle, that is, with three persons. The strongest should be at the upper part of the triangle so that he can withstand the current. Everybody should be facing inwards and you should move together with one step at a time.

2. The Group Pole Method

In this, you have more than four members, and you make a straight line, the strongest being the first one. You should all lock your hands together and walk parallel to the river to minimize the current effects.

Globo Surf Overview

Rivers are home to several species of living things; both harmful and harmless. You are likely to encounter creatures like crabs, piranas, and even other dangerous insects. If you are not careful, you will not make it to the other side without a bite, sting, or scratch. The above tips on how to cross a river will help you carry out the activity successfully.

Equip your backpack with a cover so that in case it comes into contact with water, your items will remain dry. Not only that. There should be at least a member of the group who knows how to swim. This is a risky activity and things can easily go wrong. It is not guaranteed that you will all make it through and a skilled swimmer can always save the day.

More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:


  1. How to cross a river without a bridge,
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!