River Crossing For An Apocalypse

River Crossing For An Apocalypse

Most people would think knowing how to cross a river or wide stream in the woods is not of much usefulness in life unless you’re an avid backpacker. Before skipping this post, consider the following:

river crossing


The Scenario

You’re on a walk on a nature, woods, or forest trail with another individual for companionship. Let’s say one of you is a guy and the other a woman (it allows me to write” he and she” rather than “she and she” or “he and he” which could be confusing.) You don’t know this walking companion very well (the “she” because I’m a guy and it’s easier for me to remember that way but the reader can reverse roles if you choose). You only recently met her in town at a store and accidentally come across her on the trail. You decide to tag along because you read traveling in twos is a good idea, although she may not be very enamored with the same concept. Approaching a river, you astutely notice the trail turns to the right, along the bank. She stops at the river’s edge and announces, “I’m going to cross here.” Looking at the river, maybe three car-lengths across, you see the rapid flowing water carrying branches and sticks. It looks deep at the center and is strewn with boulders and rocks under the surface. Studying your trail map, you explain to her that the trail crosses the river a half-mile downstream on a nice, safe footbridge. She tells you that a zombie apocalypse just broke out behind us and she wants to hurry across the river there. (Zombie Apocalypse can be replaced with many other possible urgent emergencies if the reader wishes). Against reason, you decide to follow her. (As it turns out I didn’t need to use the word “he”). The reader can certainly appreciate that the need to cross a river may be more likely than initially thought.

river crossing
The Better Choice


How To Cross A River

Listed below are tips from hiking organizations on how to safely cross a river. Just so you are completely informed, some experts term this “fording a river.” I’ve added comments relative to the application of those tips for the common scenario outlined above.

river crossing

  • Choose Your Crossing—Scout for the shallowest water that doesn’t go above knee level, look downstream for hazards, look at both banks, look for downstream hazards like waterfalls or rapids, see if there are floating hazards like branches and logs—For our scenario this step can be skipped. She wants to cross there regardless of hazards. Your choice is either to follow her or violate the travel in twos guideline. Choose follow her.
  • Get Gear Ready—Protect essential gear by putting important items in waterproof bags and place them in your backpack. Loosen your pack so you can get out of it if you fall.—No problem here. No waterproof bags available.
  • Bare Legs—Long pants increase drag in the water. Roll them up, wear nylon shorts, or cross in your underwear.—We happen to be wearing shorts so that’s good. She might get wrong impression if I asked her to remove her clothes.
  • Footwear–Keep your shoes on or wear sport sandals, water shoes or camp shoes.—I don’t usually carry sport sandals for river crossings unless I had a previous warning about a forthcoming apocalypse.
  • Bear Rope—Attach your bear rope to your pack.—Really? What is a bear rope?
  • Floatation Device—Wear a floatation device if deeper than knee level.—Really? I don’t usually carry those things around with me.—Really?
  • Face Upstream—Makes it easier to confront moving water and keep your balance.—Cool, I can do that.
  • Two Points of Contact—Shuffle both feet along the river bottom and use a trekking pole or hiking staff, or make one from a branch.—Good idea but don’t have time to find a stick since she’s already stepping into the river.
  • Prepare to Fall—If you fall get out of your pack as soon as possible but do not risk drowning to save it.—I am prepared to fall…check.
  • Don’t be Afraid to Turn Back—Crossings can deepen in the center of the river. If you can’t find a shallower path, turn back.—Are you kidding? And face a horde of flesh eating zombies.

river crossing

This is a public service post.

If you do plan a backpacking excursion, or just want to cross a river for fun, these are a few sites offering good information on river crossings:





I am a fiction writer, but research topics and provide posts like the one above for enlightenment and entertainment. If you liked it, please take a look at some of my other posts and my home page, R. A. Andrade. This topic was prompted by the following passage in my novel, The Field Trip:

“We cross here,” said Jay.
Watching branches of various sizes race by in the rainswollen
water, he said, “I think it’s too dangerous. And we
don’t know how deep it is.”
“I think it is no higher than my waist. It will save a
minimum of two hours.”
Oswald sounded a short trill, as if signaling agreement.
Ross looked again. The river was only about three car
lengths across, but he could see no visible evidence of
depth. “Trust me Jay, it’s a bad idea.”
“I will cross here,” she declared. “I no longer need your
Looking at her face and hair, both highlighted by the
reds of the setting sun, his shoulders slumped. “Lead the
way, fair maiden.”

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