Swift Water Safety

Alluvial Fan and Roaring River - Spring Runoff
Rivers and streams in RMNP are flowing fast in spring and early summer


As spring transitions to summer and temperatures warm up in the Rockies, snow melts in the high elevation areas of Rocky Mountain National Park. Melting snow contributes to rising waters in rivers, streams, creeks, waterfalls, and alpine lakes throughout the park.

Rapid moving swift water is beautiful and inspiring, but it is also very dangerous.


How to Safety Enjoy Moving Water in the Park

When recreating in the outdoors, always use caution around any swift moving water. There are many great hikes to lakes, rivers and waterfalls in Rocky and these places deserve our respect.

Most people who find themselves in a swift water rescue situation had no intention of going into the water. The water is colder, deeper, and faster than you think. Even in bodies of water that appear to be very shallow, the current of swift moving water can cause someone to lose their footing and take an unexpected fall. It is very easy to slip and fall or to get your foot trapped by rocks or debris in the water.

Tips for Safely Hiking Along Moving Water:

  • Use caution along all river banks and the shoulder of all lakes and streams. Vegetation and rocks near water can be icy, wet, and slippery.
  • Stay on designated trails and enjoy the water from a distance.
  • Don't try to wade, swim, or dip your feet into the moving water.
  • If recreating in or near moving water, always use a PFD.
  • It is especially important to keep an eye on young children, who are naturally drawn to water.

What Should You Do When Hiking and there is Water Flowing Across a Trail?

Know before you go - Pay attention to the weather forecast and do some research on the trails you are planning to hike.

If you are hiking and come upon water flowing across a trail, stop and do not attempt to cross. It is best to turn back and try your hike another day. You do not know how deep or how fast that water is flowing.

Rushing water in mountain stream
Danger - Swift Water


Last updated: June 6, 2023

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