Beat the Heat: Tips on Traversing Rivers

By Madelaine

When traveling, especially in the south in the dead of summer it can be very tempting to take a dip in a river. Many national and state parks have rivers that can be used for swimming. But whether they’re small streams or large rivers like the Rappahannock, it can be a bit scary or uncertain of how to go about enjoying your time there. Float on tubes, kayak, canoe, or swim all can be fun if you’re prepared.

Check the weather:

Even if it’s supposed to be a sunny day out, I would suggest not to go swimming in rivers if it’s heavily rained within twenty-four hours. If currents are high and fast, it’s not safe to be in for you could slip or be carried away. The banks can also not be solid and make it easier for you to fall in. A good way to tell if the current is too fast before you get close is to honestly listen. You’ll hear if the water is going too fast at least twenty feet away. If it sounds like a waterfall, don’t go in.

Bring extra clothes:

A spare set of clothes is always a must. Whether it’s hot out in the south or you’re up north. Even if you leave your extra clothes in the car that is okay, but I’ll always suggest bringing an extra pair of socks and maybe a sweater. If you can’t stand the feeling of rocks under your bare feet, I suggest wearing shoes. But if you do this bring water shoes or tennis shoes you don’t care about anymore and then bring an extra pair for walking back to the car. Don’t just wear socks in though, for most of the time rocks can be slippery either from algae. Bare feet will give you some grip whereas socks will have you sliding. Water shoes will give you the most amount of grip.


If you’re like me and are deathly afraid of snakes or blood suckers, then follow these tips. If your river has a hard-current, critters are less likely to be near. If you see a little cove that has still water in it, stay clear and stick with the river that has a steady stream for its harder for animals to nest where there’s a current, this includes mosquitoes. If there’s a spot with a lot of rocks above the water line and you see any signs of snakes stay away from there, they tend to nest around those areas. Blood suckers whether you’re in the north or the south if you see a portion of the river where the mud is squishy in the water, try to stay out of it, blood suckers lie in wait there. If you ever have blood suckers on you and you’re having problems pulling them off salt will do the trick.

 If you’re canoeing on a river I suggest staying in the middle of the river and not moving along the shore as much. One you can get stuck in the mud, two that’ll be where any animal is. The same advice goes to swimmers if they can’t see the bottom of the river and are swimming in more muddy water. Animals will respect you if you respect them. If you don’t bother them they tend to leave your swimming alone, especially if you’re making a lot of noise.

Other advise:

Always obey signs. If they tell you not to swim, don’t do it. It’s probably to keep animals that live there, or yourself safe.

If the river is far off the trail you’re traveling on, even if you’re trying to get to a less crowded area of the river don’t go there. Stay within eyesight of a well-traveled path. If something happens to you, you’ll want it to be easy for others to rescue you.

Other supplies to bring:

o   Water

o   Sunscreen

o   Towel if you’re swimming

o   First air kit with band aids, salt, small knife, disinfectant

Don’t be afraid of the water. It can be a great way to cool down during the summer and open up a relaxing option for a day trip.

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