River Hiking

River Hiking Tips With Backpacker Diaries

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What would it be like to use a flowing river as a trail? In some areas of the American Southwest, a walk in and out of a flowing stream with wettable shoes is often easier than navigation on the river bank. That’s why wettable shoe hiking, or river hiking, is a common method of backcountry travel on the Colorado Plateau and beyond. This style of adventure does involve a learning curve whether it be on a day trip with a light pack or a multi-day trip with a heavier pack. Here are some tips for easier travel on river walks.

This video gives some tips on navigating the rivers safely and efficiently.

To summarize…

1. WEAR NEOPRENE “RIVER” SOCKS INSIDE YOUR FOOTWEAR

This type of breathable wetsuit material will be more durable, dry out faster and provide more comfort underfoot in constantly wet situations.

2. ASSESS WHETHER RIVER HIKING IS THE BEST CHOICE

Walk through the river if…

  • No established onshore trail exists 
  • The water is not too deep
  • The current is not too strong
River Hiking
Walking through the river is sometimes the easiest and safest way to go. Photo Credit: Amos Prudhorn

This will save the struggle of battling up and down slippery river banks through thick and scratchy foliage while leaving less of a trace.

3. BRING HIKING POLES WITH POWDER BASKETS

Bringing two sticks will enable three points of contact for better balance. Powder baskets will guard against poles sinking too deep into the soil. Poles also make for an easy probe to measure water depth and assess the feasibility of a particular line through the river.

4. PAY ATTENTION TO HOW CURRENTS AFFECT DEPTH

River Hiking
Photo Credit: Amos Prudhorn.

River currents often dig out soil and create extra depth upstream from large rocks while leaving shallow or exposed sandbars on the downstream side.

5. WATCH OUT FOR QUICKSAND

If the ground or river bed starts sinking beneath your feet, keep moving. Yes, quicksand is a thing! If you do get stuck here are some tips for getting out.

Amos Prudhorn of Backpacker Diaries

Amos aims to inspire appreciation of hiking, backpacking and the outdoors with various trip reports, trail tips, and other resources on his Facebook group and YouTube channel “Backpacker Diaries“.

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