Forget bears and lightning: The most common and dangerous backcountry hazard is a river crossing—especially during the spring melt, when backcountry waterways run high and rough. Follow these tips to learn to do it safely.

Mark crossings as you plan your route, and call ahead to check water levels. Carry a tide chart if you’ll be hiking coastlines.

Look for a different place to cross if you’re in deeper than your knees; scout downstream if you encounter rapids, waterfalls, or obstacles such as fallen trees.

Always cross a river at its widest point; narrow spots are deeper and faster. Check your map for forks, which contain less water and are potentially easier to cross. On glacial rivers, many braids mean easier wading.