How to Cross a River

Updated: May 21

By Mary Anderson

Mary at a river crossing in New York State.
  • Cross as early in the morning as possible, so the water will be lower, due to cooler night temps slowing down the snow melt. This will ensure you are half asleep when you hit the icy water.

  • Try to assess the depth, even though it will be near dark because the sun will not quite be up yet. Look for the shallowest places. Of course, this will be where the river is the widest, so you will have the pleasure of being immersed in it, picking your way across slippery rock, for a longer time.

  • Don’t cross where there are boulders of any size tumbling down the river.

  • Try not to cross too close to a waterfall.

  • Undo the hip belt of your pack so when you fall in the icy water on the slippery rocks and get swept away you can take it off, or at least try to. Don’t follow your natural instinct to make getting your head above water the first thing you do. Get the damn pack off! At least then you will drown face up instead of at the bottom of the river. You will be easier to find that way.

  • Above all, have fun!

Mary Anderson is writing a book about her trek along the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail, a journey of healing that she undertook in her sixties. Mary hiked the southern half of the trail, from the Mexican border into Wyoming, in 2020 and will begin the northern half in a few days. You can follow her progress here on the Korongo blog.


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