FAQs – How should I cross a stream?

If a stream crossing is unavoidable, search for the best crossing site. Note that mountain streams are often deeper than they appear.

The most experienced hiker in the group should cross first, perhaps without his or her pack, to find the best route. (It is easier to return to shore or recover from a fall without a heavy pack on your back.)

Waterproof hiking boots can keep you dry when crossing a shallow stream. Do not cross barefoot, as mountain stream beds are often slippery or rocky. Always face upstream when you cross moving water. Check depth carefully as you cross, and use a walking stick (or better yet, two) for better balance.

If you find a log spanning the stream, exercise caution before using it as a bridge. Many hikers find it unsettling to walk on a log several feet in the air with a rushing stream below them. The surest-footed hikers should carry the packs across, one at a time. Those less experienced or confident should straddle the log and inch their way along less graceful, perhaps, but a lot safer and drier.

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