Crossing Streams

So this came to me from my last work trip. We arrived at the trail head around noon to discover that the usually low stream (or Draft in the local tongue) was well swollen from the hurricane and subsequent rainstorms. While my colleagues ate their lunch I went up the trail to scout out the crossing. I was startled to see the water level about three feet higher than the last time we’d been there. Combined with the rapidly moving water, we were looking at a rather hazardous situation.

Water crossings in general complicate moving any amount of gear. Given we had 3 days worth of our food and water as well as two tools a piece our packs were upwards of 45 pounds a piece. The large, smooth, algae covered stones that make up the bottom of the draft here were difficult to cross when the water was only half-way up my boots. Now the water was up to my knees and flowing fast.

As I looked at the scene before my a few options ran through my mind.

1. stretch a line across and pull it taught. Use it as a hand rail.

2. form a human chain to pass gear across then everyone crosses unburdened

3. everyone crosses solo and we hope for the best

I settled on a bit of a compromise and moved all the tools across before getting my pack, letting everyone only worry about their own packs. This let me figure out a good route to guide everyone across on while keeping my gear safe the first time across. Given that no one had any objections we went with this plan.

There are a few options for physically crossing. Most people just want to charge straight across like they’re walking on a normal trail. If the water is below mid shin or flowing slowly I don’t see this being a hazard. Since this water was deep and fast moving I opted for a slower, more stable method described below. Then there’s using a hand rail to hold onto and pull yourself across with.

The method I opted for was this:

Face up stream, step with the leading leg, and crouch down to keep your center of gravity low. Plant your leading leg lightly and slowly put weight onto that foot, then draw your trailing leg next to it. Shift weight back to the trailing leg and step out with the leading leg. Simply put, a crab walk to the other shore making sure you keep you center of gravity low.

In that way I made it safely across with all tools and gear dry. It may be slower than just walking but provides a solid base and helps limit your chance of slipping. Obviously the most preferred way to cross is a bridge of some sort. Barring that use caution, keep your gear dry, and your footing firm.