Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to best cross water with hiking kids

When hiking with children, you want to avoid crossing water. Still, sometimes to reach a destination you’ll have to go through small streams, or in the case of a tide or a recent flashflood you may be cut off from your vehicle. With children, it’s usually best to avoid a water crossing by properly timing your hike – don’t walk a beach at high tide, for example – or simply turning back when the trail ends at a waterway, such as when a bridge is washed out.

If you must cross, do so where the water is calm and no higher than hip deep, which probably will be too deep for young children, meaning you’ll need to put them in a baby carrier. You’ll typically find calm spots at a bend in the river or stream, mainly because the waterway widens and slows at the turn. Look ahead for any deep water. It will appear dark or greener than the rest of the waterway. Before crossing, check the far bank to make sure it isn’t undercut or steep, as climbing out of the water will be difficult for children or for you if they’re on your back.

One kind of water crossing you may face is rock hopping across a stream that at worst runs only a few inches deep. Approach any rock hopping cautiously, for the stones will be slippery. You want to keep your feet dry and don’t to want to risk falling – children can drown in just three inches of water. First, select your rock, looking for those that are wide enough to support one of your feet and that can be reached with steps rather than jumps. Always test each rock’s stability with your trekking pole before committing to it.

If you lose your balance, don’t fret about stepping into the water to stay upright. It’s almost always better to have one wet foot than to fall.

Waterlogged ground, such as marshland and swamps, ought to be avoided. More than your feet will get wet as you sink into mud, which makes stepping very difficult if not impossible for children. Should children fall, they might land in pockets of deep water. In addition, snakes and insects can abound in such environments.

Read more about cross dangerous terrain when day hiking with children in the guidebook Hikes with Tykes.