By Teddy Dondanville, Contributing Blogger
Winter is notorious for dragging on for infinity. Not actually, but you get the point– after a while, we are all ready for sunny springtime instead of winter.
If you’re like me, then you are probably chomping at the bit to get outside. You’ve been keeping your eyes peeled for the first signs of spring, like chirping birds and baby buds, and daydreaming about rafting rivers, paddleboarding, and cold plunges in alpine lakes.
Now is the perfect time to begin preparations for when the temperature warms up and when you can take a deep dive into your water hiking (and other water-related) adventures for the spring and summer.
What is Water Hiking?
Water hiking is an amphibious form of hiking that involves– you guessed it– water. And a lot of it. For example, wading rivers in the Rocky Mountains, hiking under tropical waterfalls, crossing creeks, scrambling over tidepools along the Pacific Coast, or passing through gorges and slot canyons in Utah.
Water hiking is the best on hot and sunny days. When you go water hiking, you intentionally plan to get wet, go for a swim, or get soaked.
General Safety Tips for Water Hiking this Spring
Every year, as the weather improves, it’s common for us to charge outside and forge into the backcountry on various water-related adventures. That’s fantastic– but don’t forget to consider a few general safety guidelines before.
- Prepare and plan before you leave your house. Ensure that you have enough food for the length of the adventure and 1 liter of water every 2 hours.
Part of your preparation is also wearing the proper clothing and footwear. Depending on where you live, the spring and summer can be notorious for temperature swings and freak storms, so ensure you have adjustable and waterproof layers.
Before adventuring in gorges, slot canyons, or any flash-flood-prone area, always check the local forecast to assess the risk of a storm and potential flash flood. Even if the forecast looks safe, always devise an evacuation plan when moving through flash-flood-prone areas.
In mountainous regions, snowmelt affects water levels in creeks, rivers, and lakes. If hiking in terrain where snowmelt accumulates, understand that water levels may be unsafe and certain areas may be prone to flooding and impassible.
- Never forget to tell somewhere where you are going and when you plan to be back home. Always set a turnaround time, and whenever possible, go on your adventure with a friend.
Tips for Fording Rivers and Navigating Water
A river is one of the most common obstacles on a hike or trail run in the spring and summer. For some, the river is an annoyance that gets in the way. For others, it’s a beautiful sight to behold and a valuable time to cool off.
If you need to ford a river or cross a creek this season, whether hiking, running, fishing, or backpacking, it’s important to do it safely. Here are some tips.
The safest place to cross a river is in wide, shallow sections. Look for smooth and calm water. Crossing a river in a straight section between bends is the safest.
Before you cross, observe your surroundings and plan ahead. In particular, look downstream to see where you might go if you lose your footing and have to swim.
During the crossing, shuffle your feet along the bottom instead of making big steps. The current is slower at the bottom.
- If you have trekking poles place the poles downstream and lean into them for balance. If you don’t have poles, you can fashion an improvised walking stick from a nearby branch.
Enjoy Water-Related Activities Safely
Water hiking, and other water-related activities, like rafting and paddling, are my absolute favorite ways to spend time outside during the Spring and Summer. It’s pure fun! But even then, it’s essential to stay safe.
Prepare and plan ahead, go with a friend, and return in time for happy hour!