Tips for swimming river crossing.

Looking for tips for swimming river crossings. We are planning on a trip in Canyonlands park in Utah. We have done the loop before, but with small boats.

It involves crossing the river 3 times. Nothing longer then 1 mile in the water.

Yesterday we experimented with pulling a dry bag attached to a waist belt. This work well for us. I also tried using webbed silicon glove, which seemed nice. Another thing we tried was using our running vest and filling the water reservoirs in the front and back of the pack with air. This seemed a general benefit, despite the drag.

Water temp is expected to be 55-65 degrees,
Air Temp of 85-95 degrees.

Im interested in hearing what gear an experienced open water swimmer would use for this. The loop is 75 miles, and we will be running as much as possible, So looking to carry very little. But plan on the following,

Googles, swim cap, gloves or hand pulls, drybag with waist strap.

Thanks for you input, its exciting to explore a new sport.



  • Karl_KingeryKarl_Kingery Denver, COSenior Member

    Canyonlands is beautiful. It is an awesome place. I have always wanted to cross over the river and go to the west side of Canyonlands, not many people visit that area. You should (if you have time) make a side trip up to Druid Arch and go through the Needles. If you will be pulling shoes, water, food, hat, etc, a drybag on a waist belt will work as well as anything and might be your best bet, or you could clip it to an inflatable swim buoy for the buoyancy. Most of the swim buoys that are out there won't have enough space for shoes/your backpack etc by themselves. I can appreciate the minimalist approach, the more you "need", the more you carry. If you are good with the water temperature, you could nix the swim cap, but that is small anyways. I would definitely nix the gloves and hand paddles. I'd keep the goggles and a swim suit (speedo is small and lightweight).

  • Karl_KingeryKarl_Kingery Denver, COSenior Member

    Also, you could put your water on the outside of the bag if it is well sealed. This would free up space in the bag and make it more buoyant. Let us know how it goes!

  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member

    Since I gather that you're swimming purely out of necessity and swimming isn't in the middle of your comfort zone, why not skip the swimming altogether. You'll get a great propulsion for weight trade-off with some good, light fins. Lay on your back and kick.

    I don't know how much gear you're talking about, but if it's something significant, I've used this trick to lug gear across deep water: Divide into two bags: wet (mesh bag) and dry (dry bag). Use a dry bag large enough that it can hold adequate air to compensate for the weight of your wet gear. Connect them together, put on your fins, roll over and voila. The dry bag floats the wet bag. You REALLY need fins for this to work, regardless of your swimming ability.

    I'll pass on a very important lesson learned the hard way: when you put downward pressure on your dry bag, you can force the air out and lose buoyancy. This can lead to unpleasant (and potentially dangerous) results. Seal your dry bag well, DO NOT TIE THE WET BAG to yourself without a quick release of some sort. You might also consider connecting the two bags with a tether long enough to reach the bottom of the river, then shorten it to a inch or so with a quick-release knot or clip and stow the extra in a way that it won't tangle. That way, you limit the drag but have the option of dropping the wet gear to the bottom and leaving the dry bag as a surface marker buoy (for recovery) if everything goes to hell. Not ideal, but better than getting stuck in Canyonlands with nothing but a Speedo.


    "Lights go out and I can't be saved
    Tides that I tried to swim against
    Have brought be down upon my knees
    Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."

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