View Full Version : Fording Rivers

Low Step
07-27-2010, 10:43
How many rivers are there to Ford on the AT? What kind of footwear is recommended?

the goat
07-27-2010, 11:20
i think i forded one or two in maine. they were easy enough to ford with bare feet.

07-27-2010, 11:22
Not sure the number but I would always take time to remove my Keen Targhee II's and put on my Crocs when fording. I'd also use wrap some Velcro "one wrap" around the Croc's ankle strap and front of my foot to prevent it from coming loose in swift currents or on slippery bedrocks. Worked wonderfully well!

Don't forget to unbuckle your hipbelt and chest strap on your pack in case you have to ditch in a hurry. Safety first!

07-27-2010, 11:59
There are 14 that I know of in Maine, but some could be shallow rock hopping.
1,930.0 Sawyer Notch/Brook - ford
1,932.7 S Arm Road, Black Brook - ford
1,945.2 Bemis stream - ford
1,972.5 Orbeton Stream - ford
1,982.9 S Branch Carrabassett River - ford
2,027.6 Kennebec River - Canoe
2,052.5 W Branch of Piscataquis River - ford
2,057.9 E Branch of Piscataquis River - ford
2,071.4 Little Wilson Stream - ford
2,074.3 Big Wilson Stream - ford
2,078.9 Long pond Stream - ford
2,095.0 W Branch of Pleasant River - ford
2,111.6 E Branch of Pleasant River - ford
2,168.6 L Fork Nesowadnehunk - ford
2,169.5 U Fork Nesowadnehunk - ford

07-27-2010, 12:58
Water was low when I hike through Maine in June. Only one of the fords was over my knees - the rest were glorified rock hops or mid-calf deep.

I hear they can get pretty nasty under the right conditions.

I wore non-goretex trail runners and lightweight merino wool socks. Didn't take them off, just walked right through the water with shoes and socks on. Walked them dry pretty quickly.

07-27-2010, 13:25
Rocks tend to be slippery and occasionally sharp. If the water is deep and the current fast, I find the safest way to ford a stream is to remove my socks, but replace my boots for the safety and traction they provide.

After crossing the stream I empty the boots of water, dry my feet and replace my socks. Boots dry quickly after a quick water crossing, especially if you still have dry socks.

Once I watched as a group of sobo hikers, who had used the barefoot technique, went by. One girl asked plaintively where her boots might wash up on shore after having been wash away when she slipped and fell in a rain swollen river in Maine.

Another time a hiker who disparaged my remove socks/replace boots technique, showed me his technique. He tossed his boots across the stream, missed and saw one of his float down river, never to be recovered. He didn't summit that day. Instead he walked, one foot bare, over sharp roots and rocks back to our vehicles. The rest of us climbed Abraham in Maine's high peaks region.


Pedaling Fool
07-27-2010, 14:21
The guidebook will list all the fordings, but it only lists the ones that are usually year-round fordings. Weather will determine if you need to ford or how bad the fording will be. I had to do a fording (water well over knee-high) just north of Erwin in 2006 of a creek that normally doesn't require fording (in the strict definition of the term). In 2007 it was nearly bone dry.

07-27-2010, 22:01
I'm getting ready to do the Maine trail in August. I was going to do the croc method, but Weary's idea of sock removal, cross with boots on was interesting. If there are only a couple actual fords to do, I was thinking of modifying his idea by duct taping the top of the boots to keep most of the water out of them when hiking thru the stream. They are waterproof up to the top of the boot, so probably would stay pretty much dry? Anybody just trashbag your feet high enough to keep the top of the bag out of the water? Any thoughts?

07-27-2010, 22:53
Nice suggestion on the velcro on the crocks. In the winter, I use the Weary method. Change socks. I hate fording, but then I am short. This post reminded me of a winter ford in Missouri.
It was really deep but not fast at all. because a finger of a lake had flooded over the trail. Our women group undid our our waist belts but realized it was so deep all of our clothes would be soaking wet in cold weather. So we all stripped down to our panties and bras and crossed. The water was over my waist. We were laughing and yelling because it was really cold. Of course, this was the moment some guy comes hiking down the trail fromthe other side. We had not seen a soul for two days. This was before the digital camera and cell phone age and I am grateful for that.

Sunshine Tami Jo
07-27-2010, 23:21
Wow, Erin...bet you made his day!

Bare Bear
07-29-2010, 12:42
I finally wore out a pair of Nike River sandals that I will miss...not made anymore. Now I switch out to crocs.

07-29-2010, 13:02
In '08, a fairly wet year, I remember three or four fords on the entire AT, none of which were attention-getting at all--just over the knee at the deepest. My partner that year had hiked in '02 as well, and he said that year he never once got his feet wet during a river crossing.

As far as technique, it all depends on the water and river bottom, and if my footwear is wet to begin with. If it's clear water and you can see a sandy bottom, why not go barefoot? If it's white water and rocky, you'd be crazy not to wear your shoes. If it's mostly rounded rock, sometimes I'll wear socks and no shoes. Sometimes I wear shoes and no socks, per Weary's method. Mostly I don't care at all and let everything get wet. Sometime I go naked and take a bath. It all depends.