River crossings

Ukkusiksalik National Park

To learn more about river safety, consider taking a Swiftwater safety course before your trip.

All rivers and streams are dangerous. Some streams may be uncrossable for some members of your group. Be prepared to change your route or turn back.

River crossing tips

  • Gear considerations
    • Footwear: Neoprene boots in combination with a hard gripping soles will protect your feet from the cold water and will allow you to keep your boots and socks dry.
    • Hiking poles: hiking poles are essential for balance while crossing and are useful for testing water depth.
    • Waterproof kayak pants with feet can provide additional protection from heat loss.
  • Deciding to cross
    • Group abilities: Ensure that all group members are willing to take the risk. Consider the abilities of the weakest group member.
    • Location: Assess the safest location to cross, remembering that ideal crossing locations change regularly. Consider the following:
      • Water depth
        • Braided areas tend to be shallower than single channels.
      • Water speed
        • Flatter areas tend to have slower-moving water than steeper areas.
      • Hazards
        • Riverbanks: may be unstable and could collapse.
        • Underwater: cloudy water can obscure rolling rocks and unstable footing.
        • Downstream: be aware of waterfalls, deep pools, open sea, etc.
  • Safe crossing techniques
    • Heavy packs make crossings more difficult; you may wish to test cross without a pack or have stronger members shuttle packs.
    • When crossing with a pack, unfasten waist and chest straps so you can remove your pack easily if you become pinned underwater.
    • Face upstream, move with the current and use hiking poles to maintain balance.
    • Consider group crossing techniques, i.e., the leader is upstream with group members in single file behind to take advantage of the leader’s downstream eddy and support.

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