River crossings are potentially dangerous. The impacts of delays from waiting for waters to subside, or taking circuitous routes to avoid a crossing or to find an easier one put enormous pressures on leaders. You need a good understanding of the forces of moving water, and to have the technical skills to manage difficult crossings. Further, most groups do not carry the necessary equipment for a difficult crossing or a rescue if something does go wrong. This chapter is about river crossings - how and when, and the issues involved in the decision to cross or seek alternatives.
Anyone who has been caught by rising floodwaters knows only too well the frustration that they cause and the decisions that need to be made. Many things influence these decisions. They may include the warm bed and the hot food that is waiting on the other side of the river or it may be that you or one of your party has a deadline to meet. Whatever the factors, never let them override the most important issue of all— the safety of you and your group.
Some river crossings are straightforward and require very little planning. Many river crossings can be dangerous. Deaths have occurred in bushwalking groups crossing rivers in Australia. Walks and skitours should be planned so that difficult or frequent river crossings are avoided.