Crossing rivers safely

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RIVER SAFE: Youth from the Summer Camp Adventure programme learn river crossing safety with volunteers from Mid Canterbury’s Search and Rescue. PHOTO SUPPLIED
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Navigating safely across any river requires careful consideration, as youth in the annual Summer Camp Adventure programme found out last week.

Gathered on the banks of the Ashburton River, about 20 youth, aged 10 to 13 years of age, and adult leaders were taught river crossing safety techniques from Methven Search and Rescue’s Don Geddes and a team of helpers.

The five day camp adventure included orienteering, boating swimming and biking. It finished with an overnight camp experience at Mania-O-Roto Scout Park in Ashburton, and river crossing training.

Youth adventurers were taught crossing the water in a group was stronger than crossing individually, to consider whether the crossing was needed, and to take into account water condition and clothing being worn.

FLOATING ALONG: Youth learned to use backpacks – with valuables secured inside in airtight plastic bags – as flotation devices. PHOTO SUPPLIED

They learned how to interlock their arms using a stick or loose backpack straps for added safety (with waist strap) and also how to use their backpacks – with valuables secured inside in airtight plastic bags as flotation devices in case they slipped and floated downstream.

They also learned not to turn around mid-stream if the crossing was deemed unsafe, but to back out slowly.

The youth took turns crossing the swift moving river under watch and with catchers in place downstream.

Other factors to consider included the speed of the current, the water depth, the surface of the river bed (whether its slippery), potential downstream hazards (like fallen logs, or overhanging willow) and where they were going to exit the river (to avoid other risks such as steep banks).