I've crossed at least one creek where someone had drowned. Swelled by
spring run-off from the glaciers above, the swiftly flowing creek knocked
the hiker off his feet and carried him downstream, never to be found.
By the time I crossed the same creek in September, the flow was much less
(though still required a bridge), and my only indication of the treacherous
spring flow was the picture of the hiker tacked up at the trailhead.
The most obvious place for hikers to drown is at creek crossings, especially
in spring. When in doubt, don't hesitate to ask the ranger beforehand
whether they think a particular creek may be passable. Keep in mind that
even if they do say it is, it's still your responsibility to gauge your
ability and aversion to risk. When you reach that crossing and it seems
iffy, don't be afraid to just turn around. People do stupid things and die
all the time; why should you be a victim, just because you happened to
spend months planning this great vacation and took precious time off from
work to do it. Turning around is sometimes the hardest thing to do, but
it keeps you coming back for more.
Assuming that you think the creek is passable, I recommend trekking poles
for helping probe the water to see how deep it is, and for balance if
the flow is relatively light. Tevas are a good idea to prevent your
shoes/socks from getting soaked. You can tie your boots together and
drape them from your neck.
Return to Hiking Hazards.