Hiking in a Creek

water hikeHave you ever started out on a day hike with children only to have it turn into something completely different that what you planned?  Ha. Of course you have.

Many of our adventures start out as one thing (“I want to climb X route” or “sleep at X campground”. . . “I want to relax in a tube on the water”, or “I want to sleep in the sand”) and end up as something completely different (“The route had a group staked out on it for the day” or “I couldn’t find the campground in the dark”, “the tube had a hole”, or “it rained”).

With kids, the ability to adapt your planned adventure is a required skill.  Adaptability and flexibility are a key component to successful outdooring (yes, I’m using that as a word).

This past weekend,  I wanted to go for a hike at Tucquan Glen with the kids (a place we’ve hiked before).  While I planned for a hike, there was a part of me that remembered the kid’s excitement at the water.  The trail follows the water on either side of a creek that feeds into the Susquehanna River.  It’s a mile out and back, and the trail is both rocky and shaded.  The kids greatly enjoy the obstacles and the terrain.  I enjoy that we can turn around at any point, cross the creek when we want, and/or sit down for lunch with the beautiful (small) waterfalls as our scenery.

Day Hike Packing for Creek Wading

On this day, I brought water shoes for the kids (actually, C wore her Keen sandals, the water shoes were for R who outgrew his Keen’s).  We also packed lunch, snacks, lots of water, and water guns for playing in the creek.  Their attire included a bathing suit, though I brought dry alternatives.   While my plan was to hike to the river, I was prepared for some water fun.  We even brought the dog.

Day Pack Packing list

  • Water shoes
  • Bathing suit
  • Dry Clothes
  • Towels (pack towels recommended)
  • Picnic blanket (my one luxury)
  • Lunch Food
  • Water
  • Snack Food
  • Water Guns
  • Water bag for electronics
  • Life vest (not packed, but might be needed for future creek hikes)

tucquan glen water Hike Turns into Wade

As you might expect, things didn’t go as planned.  The kids took one look at the creek and switched into “water mode”.  Water shoes went on, shorts came off, and in they went.  The hike turned into a wade, with me dodging water gun shots and making sure kids didn’t lose their footing when they stumbled upon slick rock.

Since I was hiking around, I realized there were a few things I hadn’t considered.

Dangers of Creek Wading: Central PA Version

1.  Know depth of creek bed and strength of current

Obviously, wading in a creek with a strong current is dangerous.  This creek had a mild current, but keeping C in arm’s length was important, as she didn’t have on a life vest and any slip on wet rocks could be problematic.   The water was shallow, though did go up to my knees occasionally (and that’s her belly button height).  Knowing to look for the occasional deep spot was a requirement.

2. Have a plan for exiting the creek bed.

Another thing that I hadn’t considered (because I know the trail) but that I would certainly pay attention to for an unknown trail would be keeping an exit open and/or knowing how far up the sides of the creek bed the trail is.  Sometimes you can scramble up a bank, but knowing there the openings are and how to get back to a trail is a factor to consider if you are unfamiliar with the area. Tucquan has paths on both sides of the creek, and you can get up out of the creek bed at any time.

3.  Keep an eye out for Beaver Dams

Beavers can be dangerous, and they prefer creeks for building their habitat.  Beavers can be violent when threatened and are actually quite vicious in a fight.  Avoid confrontation, and walk away from both the Dam and the Beaver.  Beaver Dams are, in the long run (from what I read) beneficial to water quality but in the intermediate vicinity (drinking from a creek near a beaver dam) it can cause a few less than pleasant side effects including tularemia and giardia.  Since beavers defecate in the water, avoid drinking water near beaver dams.   More information from the experts here.

4.  Don’t drink the water

In addition to beaver dams, there are natural and human contaminants in the water that may or may not cause illness.  It’s safest to teach your kids not to drink the water, and instead pack it in for your day hike.  If you want to drink the water, make sure you are testing and/or purifying before making your decision.  Kids should be taught to follow this rule without fail, as creek waters are in danger of pollutants from farm run off, beaver dams, and other potential sources that could cause sickness.

5.  Animal Hazards

There are a few venomous snakes that can be found in PA Creeks, the copperhead being the most common in Central PA.  Check out which snakes are venomous in your area.  The PA Herps site is a great resource for PA, and you can search for those spotted by county.  Outside of Pennsylvania, you have your own set of creek dangers. . . Feel free to add them in the comments at the bottom of the page, and I’ll provide more information here.

tucquan glen kidsOur hike turned into a wade, with the kids walking, splashing, and laughing.  It was a great modification to our planned hike.  We only went a quarter of our planned distance (wading takes longer than hiking), and we loved every second!



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About Laura Boniello Miller

Laura Miller is a internet marketing professional and a mother of two. Her interests include sport climbing, bouldering, reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She believes that playing outdoors is integral to health and well being, and that if your kids aren't dirty, they haven't had enough fun.