Beware of camping close to a river or stream in wet weather, or if there’s any likelihood of heavy rains, in case of flooding. Rising waters could overtake your campsite. It’s best to seek higher ground, and camp well above the waterway.
Canoeing and rafting are especially hazardous iwhen the water is high and fast, and may be overflowing the river’s banks. Know when to stay put and wait it out. You could be risking your life to proceed during high-water conditions.
For foot-travelers, crossing a river can present some danger even at times of normal water levels. While in some wilderness areas it’s common to find bridges across the larger streams and rivers, in others this isn’t the case. Or you might discover that a particular bridge has been washed away or otherwise destroyed. To continue on your way may require fording the river.
If you prefer not to cross a river, you can always turn back or head in a different direction. Tbe water level is certain to make a difference. Wading may be easy if it’s low, or there may be exposed rocks or a large fallen tree to walk across on. But if the river is a raging torrent from heavy rains, or from melting snow in springtime, forget about crossing. Go somewhere else.
Remember that if you ford a river under conditions of low water, heavy rains on subsequent days might make it impossible for you to return the same way. If there’s no alternative you could be stranded for as much as several days.
Even slow-moving water should be crossed with care. If it’s more than waist-deep you’ll have to float your pack across. Don’t forget that if your pack should be swept away and all gear is lost, your life could be in danger, especially in cold weather.
There’s also the risk that you could be carried away by the current and either injured or drowned. If you’ll be visiting a park or region where river crossings are to be expected, consult a good wilderness survival book for detailed instructions on how to ford a river in the safest possible way.
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