The River Ford


This is the river ford.
This is the river ford on drugs.
Okay, it’s the river ford in a flood. You can’t actually see the ford at all, but it’s under there somewhere.

Most of the time, the river ford looks like this.
It’s perfectly safe to drive across. I do it every day….and night. I often drive across it late at night in the dark after such things as high school football games where I am indentured selling hot dogs.
It’s only a problem if you make a bad decision and end up like this.

But hey, you wanted a new car anyway.

Or not. (My SUV was, in fact, totalled. Water in the engine and all the computery stuff in vehicles these days. The adjuster estimated 17,000 in damages. This happened over a year and a half ago, before we even finished the house.)

I’m a lot better at judging the river ford now. Experience is a great teacher. I don’t cross it if I’m the least bit leery.
You can drive across the river ford without a 4-wheel drive. It has a rock bottom. You won’t get stuck. When the river is low, as it is much of the year, people even drive across it in regular cars.
Sometimes when it’s a little higher, a truck or SUV is better. I remember when I was a little girl driving across it with my parents in their sedan. My father never had a truck.
Silt “islands” move around when there is a flood.
I really like how the river ford is laid out since the last flood. A bunch of silt moved over so that when the ford is low, there is quite a bit of silt to drive on and not so much river. Once across, we are on the hard road. There are a couple of houses over there and everything. Civilization!
It’s our closest access to a hard road. Our farm borders the river.
Driving out the other direction, we go over the hill more than two miles on a rock-based road before we reach a hard road.
(Hard road means it’s blacktop. Though actually, the rock-based road is the true “hard” road, trust me.) Sometimes in the winter, we can’t get out either way.

The swimming hole is near the ford–you can just barely see the rope (hanging from the tree that leans toward the river on the right bank in this photo) that the kids love to swing on.
There is a deep spot there and it’s a popular place in the summertime. There used to be a swinging bridge. Back in the old days, it was necessary for the population that lived in the area then. School was on one side of the river, the church and a gasoline plant on the other. The swinging bridge got a lot of use. It was still around when I was a kid and it scared me to death. (Have you ever walked across a swinging bridge?)
Have you ever driven across a river? If not, would you?


  1. Kathy says:

    In the middle of Texas, the hillcountry,there are many places where you drive through water on small country roads. They are called low water bridges. Most are cement, imagine huge flat top culverts. When I was in college, we would go there to wash our cars. Being free and all. You never drove across though when the water was very fast. A friend from the dorm took her ity bity car and it washed off into the creek. Good days back then, fond memories. Wishing you a low river winter.

  2. Dett says:

    Oh, I definitely would! But I don’t think that our car is really made for it 😆

  3. KateS says:

    Here in Illinois boonies we have wooden bridges. One lane only – gotta park and wait for any other ‘traffic’ to go by. When we were young and foolish hitting them at 60 plus mph and seeing how hard we could make them shake and shiver was what passed for fun. :shimmy:

  4. Shelly says:

    I would just be real careful, if instinct said no then I wouldn’t drive across it.

  5. KImL says:

    Only once, but I wasn’t driving – I was in the passenger seat praying! You’re stories and pictures sure make me homesick!

  6. Christine says:

    Yes, I’ve done the swinging bridge and I hate them. With a passion. I’ve also crossed a river. Er, well I’d consider it more of a large creek. There was a place we called Rocky Ford all the kids used to hang out there in the summer. There was a huge swimming hole and a giant rock for sunbathing.

    I kid you about living somewhere where they know how to build bridges but I’d love to live as remote as you do. It’s a homesteader’s dream.

  7. Carol Langille says:

    I have crossed a river ford before and in bright, sunny dry weather, it’s wonderful! But….
    My sister lived across a creek in rural Missouri…an old farmhouse with a low water concrete slab bridge. No problem until it rained. The bridge disappears under swirling, muddy and debris-filled water. One winter, their chimney caught fire and they called the fire department. It had flooded and the narrow bridge was under water….the firemen had to get out of the truck and find the bridge on foot then ‘walk’ the truck across to keep it from leaving the bridge. They made it because that’s what the Heros of rural fire departments do…just like the big city fire department heros…they make it work. Thank God!!
    My sister and her family moved from that particular farmhouse to one that wasn’t reached by a tempermental creek!

  8. Ang. says:

    There are a lot of creek fords here in western IL. I try to avoid them if I can but sometimes there is no way around them.

    It is said that before the levee system was put in you could walk across the Mississippi here. People would walk through shallow water from sandbar to sandbar until they reached the other side. Can you imagine?

    White Pines State Park in Oregon, IL has the river fords. We would take Sunday drives there when I was a kid. The fords were the best part of the whole park!

  9. MissyinWV says:

    🙂 I never have crossed a river ford or a swinging bridge! One thing is for sure, it looks worth it….it is just beautiful where you live…..

  10. Pete says:

    Yes, have done low water bridges, but mostly with bedrock for the bridge. Only one rope bridge, and plan to do no more!

  11. Sheila Z says:

    yes and yes. Grew up on a farm. Often crossed streams and creeks with tractors and wagons full of hay or chopped corn. No big deal. Just have to know the area and when it’s better to go to a coffee shop and shoot the breeze instead of trying to get work done when the conditions are not conducive to it. Makes some people think farmers are being lazy while they have to go to work every day and punch a time clock. Farmers, loggers, stone quarry workers, etc. know when it’s time to take a break while nature does it’s thing.

  12. KentuckyFarmGirl says:

    There is a place almost exactly like this in the Amish community. It too had a swinging bridge until a few years back when the county road crew made an alternate route and no one used it anymore. We used to love to go out there in high school and dare each other to cross the swinging bridge while the river was up. My mother would have tanned my hide if she’s have known I crossed it a couple of times!

  13. Cindy Kuipers says:

    I used to live on a farm that had a creek, about the size of yours, running through it. It would flood sometimes, too. WE always knew when it was safe to drive through, but the local college kids that partied on our road didn’t! They would knock on our door in the wee hours of the morning wanting to be pulled out.

  14. Box Call says:

    Yes and yes. Hunting in the mountains one year I was with a friend who took his van through a tributary of the Potomac River. It was deeper than he thought and the headlights actually went under the water that evening….why the engine did not stall and send us floating I don’t know but we were extremely lucky when we were younger (and dumber). Swinging bridges are a cinch if no one else is on it with you….sort of just get in the motion of the bridge and your steps and go….don’t stop, always go. With someone else on the bridge you just have to keep cussing and holding on to something. It sounds like you need what my friend’s girlfriend has: a creek car and a hill car. The hill car gets her up the hill and down to the creek; the creek car gets her to the “hard road” (I ain’t making any of that up either). Ah Country Life!

  15. heidiannie says:

    We have a creek close to us that has a ford and I’ve driven it many times- but not when the water is really high. I used to go to a camp in Webster Springs, WV when I was young that had a swinging bridge across the creek there. We used to lure older people out on it and then set it into motion- they used to think we were real wild kids!

  16. monica says:

    Yes, I have crossed open water–in the spring the ditches seem to flood, because the creeks are full. Water comes right up over the road. If it stays there for awhile and can’t drain off–the soil underneath washes out and leaves a nice place for a pothole to form.

    The real fun is when the Lake Erie freezes–people have been known to drive to Canada! There was about 100 people that had to get rescued by the coast guard last winter because the ice broke up. They were pretty stupid since they thought the ice wouldn’t go anywhere–to get on they had to use a 4×8 sheet of plywood to cross the open water. They are still arguing about who should foot the bill for that one!

    There have been wolves cross over the ice as well and now populate where they never used too. :dancingmonster:

  17. Hannah says:

    It flooded across the road to our house one day. We made it through. By the way, it’s my birthday!

  18. Double Trouble Ranch says:

    Interesting you should post this after many of us have already RSVPd to your party. Looking for us to back out? This just might be a good way to limit the number of attendees. We looked at property before and the directions said to “cross the creek” not until we reached the creek did we realize it meant drive through! Decided that wasn’t the place for us to live. Will there be a shuttle across the creek for us city slickers in pretend farmers wool?

  19. cranberry says:

    It would be a little thrill every day to cross into and through water, but insead of barn raising, why not get everybody together
    and do a skinny bridge raising? that way car no touch water and you can get home safely every single day, even when there is a lot of water! :woof:

  20. Ms E says:

    Yes, I’ve dealt w/creek crossings! Just be sensible about what the water is doing at the time and the height or your vehicle.

  21. trish says:

    I would only drive through water if my grandaughter was on the other side! lol I have never been on a rope bridge and I never will either. Great pictures!

  22. Barbara says:

    Wow. So sorry about your SUV!! So how do your kids get to school these days in high water?? Do they stay home? I wouldn’t worry so much about crossing it in the summer, but once I can’t see the bottom anywhere?? Um…no. I’m too much of a city girl,I guess. Plus, I kinda like my car.:p)

  23. Nita in SC says:

    Every waterway around here is salt water, so, NO! I don’t even drive through deep puddles.

  24. Estella says:

    Having lived most of my life in the country, I have driven across rivers and in high water across the road.

  25. M.J. says:

    I think the world’s scariest rope bridge must be the Carrrick-a-rede rope bridge on the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland. Here is a link to a good photo:

    Fortunately, it was closed due to high winds on the day we were there, and I didn’t have to reveal myself to be the supreme coward that I am!


  26. cake says:

    I’m from the Ozarks. River & creek crossings are daily events for alot of folks. One lane wooden bridges with no guard rails & raised ‘tracks’ to drive on another. Heavy rain makes for a fun commute! Never cross if you are not ABSOLUTELY sure it’s safe. Best go the long way & be late…..

  27. Eliza J. says:

    what is the name of the river? looks no bigger than one of the “cricks” that, when we were growing up, we had to drive through about a mile down the road. also that big old tree that had fallen across the crick upstream helped us get across to catch the bus when there were high waters to get to the then Newton Grade School or Spencer High School. a few times had to walk the mile back home…just couldn’t quite jump across that ditch full of water to get to the bus stop.

  28. Lisa Carper Stott says:

    Hi Suzanne!

    I just drove across there this morning. You may become my new best friend. I put in an offer on a trailer in Gay, WV. It’s about 13 miles from Harmony. I will be going back and forth to Roane Co. I needed to find the shortest-fastest route to 119. This is much shorter in miles if I can get across the river ford and up the other 3 creeks! I still am betting that the hard top is faster! I hope I get this place. it’s decent and I am tired of looking.
    I might have to call you up and see if I can get over the river!

  29. PetalzAndFinz says:

    I’ve done the river crossings and swinging bridges since we moved to WV. I can still remember the first time we saw a house that was only accessible via the riverbed. My mom and I kept looking at the house set back from the road and finally had to ask someone how they got to their house. Their driveway was right up the riverbed. Not just a matter of driving across the river, but actually driving along the river bed for a length–and that was right in town! We finally understood the meaning of the phrase, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”!

  30. Suzanne, the Farmer's Wife says:

    Yes, we used to have to ford the creek to get to Aunt Lily’s place in rural Tennessee.

    – Suzanne

  31. Joycee says:

    I was wondering if you all were getting the downpours over the weekend. We lived in Texas on the Guadalupe River when they had a 100 year flood in 1998 and the water destroyed many homes along the river. We were lucky, it came right to the edge of our garage before receding. Too close for comfort.

    • Suzanne says:

      We’ve had some rain in the past few days, but not too bad. Our house is way up the hill from the river, so flooding–at least for our house–is one thing we don’t have to worry about. Flooding can keep us from getting out, though, but that’s a whole ‘nother problem!

  32. Runningtrails - Sheryl says:

    I’m surprised you haven’t built a small brige there yet or even just a few boards, cement blocks or patio stones…

    • Suzanne says:

      The river floods several times a year so anything like that would be washed away. The place where the river ford is (which is where it is possible for it to be) is not part of our property, so we don’t have the right to construct anything there anyway.

  33. kj says:

    I think i would only drive across a river if I was in a 4-wheel drive truck. I have a very distinct memory of when I was very young on vacation with my 3 brothers and my parents pulling a pop up camper through Mississippi in a flood. The water was coming in the car and we couldn’t see the road. My father I’m sure was a little scared. I felt safe but boy it was definitely not something I would repeat.

Add Your Thoughts