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River Safety

Crossing rivers can be fun. Being crossed by rivers is not.

Venturing onto rivers is a pastime enjoyed by many, whether it is for rafting, tubing, kayaking, swimming or even simply crossing rivers when tramping. Associated with these enjoyable activities however is an inherent danger. Drowning in rivers account for nearly 30 percent of the annual drowning toll.

A basic understanding of rivers and a healthy respect for the power of moving water can help to eliminate some of this danger.

Don't be in a hurry to experience rivers, which are beyond your capabilities.

Rivers and riverbanks are places where care should be taken.

River currents are often stronger than they appear. Water in a river exerts a very powerful force against any fixed object. This force once in place remains constant unlike the ocean where the force is released with each tidal surge. Even calm looking rivers are very powerful. You can throw in a twig to check how fast the flow is. Remember, the current is stronger around the outside of a bend in the river.

Riverbanks can also be dangerous places because the river hollows out the bank underneath the edge. Stand away from the edge so that the bank doesn't collapse and trap you under water. Be careful of tree roots and branches in the water as you may get caught up in the tangle.

There are a number of hazards in the river which can be dangerous if you are unsure how they work, and how to avoid them. These hazards include eddies, rapids, strainers, and high water which are created by the movement of water around and over obstructions.

Swimming in a river is different to swimming in a swimming pool or in the sea. The pressure of moving water is constant and you may be drawn under the surface by the swirling currents. While white water rivers appear to be more dangerous than calm rivers, do not underestimate the power of any river.

If you get caught in the current, float on your back and travel feet first down stream to protect your head from impact with any objects. Angel your travel towards shore. Do not fight the current but head downstream to a suitable landing beach. Never attempt to come ashore amongst trees or river debris.

River crossing

Tramping is an activity enjoyed by many people in this country. At some stage on any trip into the wilderness, rivers, streams and creeks will have to be crossed. All rivers must be treated with respect and if in doubt err on the side of safety and caution.

River conditions can change rapidly due to heavy rainfall or the release of water from storage areas. Always be prepared to decide against crossing. Nothing can go wrong if you and your party stay on the riverbank.

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