I just heard the term the other day and don’t know what it is. So what is ferrying

well …
… I will take a stab at it.

Ferrying in White water: You are somewhere on the river and you want to move somewhere else and not loose much ground at all. Typically done by pointing your bow upstream but with a small angle pointing towards the direction you are going.

Ferry angles in sea kayaking terms: Very similar to WW. So I am at point a and I want to get to point b (say a light house). The path that makes up this is not parallel to the current. So you set a ferry angle to compensate for this. Lets say I am pointing direct north and I see the lighthouse I want to reach. I know the current is flowing West. So instead of aiming for the lighthouse (direct north), I point the bow slightly East of north and start paddling.

hope it helps.


Did you try investigating?

– Last Updated: Aug-15-07 1:44 PM EST –



imagine yourself crossing a river with the current hitting you on the right beam. pick a point upriver and keep your bow fixed on this point as you paddle. this slight angle will correct and allow you to slide more easily across the river

The term is derived from old time river ferries which used the river current to go back and forth across the river without power. Two ropes crossing the river secured the ferry and prevented downstream movement. The 2 lines also allowed a ferry angle to be set so that the current striking the angled craft created a force vector that moved the boat “sideways” across the river.

There are 2 varieties of river ferries, the upstream ferry, described in the preceding posts, in which your bow points upstream, and the downstream, or back ferry in which you face downstream. In the case of a river ferry downstream movement is prevented or minimized by the paddler’s power using forward strokes for the upstream ferry and backstrokes for the back ferry.


– Last Updated: Aug-15-07 9:46 PM EST –

On a river, lifting the upstream edge helps you move sideways. In the right conditions you can get across a river without taking any paddle strokes -- just holding a stern rudder.

You set your boat at a slight angle to the current.

Then it becomes easy to traverse straight back and forth across the river. You don’t need fast water to do it. Slow water ferrying can be fun and it is good practice.

Slow water ferrying?
I think it takes a significant current to get the feel for this.

Might be the difference between a whitewater paddler’s “slow” and a flatwater paddler’s “slow”…

The ferry is an invaluable skill to have
I encourage you to practice, practice, practice the ferry until you’ve got it down on both sides, both upstream and downstream. I was on the UDR in April, just a foot below flood stage. Engineers had built a service road in the river to assist in the building of a new bridge. The road was submerged and there were no signs. If it had not been for a strong ferry…

You aren’t going to traverse the river as quickly, but I was able to get a good ferry going up on the Wisconsin river while waiting for the group to get ready.

I ferried back and forth from an island to the shore.

I did have to watch my angle, it was easy to get out of the groove.

agree absolutely
I was on an overnight trip years ago on the Big South Fork of the Cumberland when a thunderstorm split our large group up and forced it off the water in several different locations on different sides of the river. It rained like hell for about the next 36 hrs and the river came up about 5 feet. Some of the folks did not have a great deal of moving water experience (picture 18 foot tandem canoes carrying large coolers) and what was usually a Class I to II river (with 2 easily portaged class III rapids) now had large logs floating by and 4 foot standing waves everywhere. When we finally got going again and started to collect the outliers, some people found themselves on the wrong side of a torrent with (for them) unrunnable rapids just downstream of their location. Hiking out was too horrible to contemplate. It was absolutely vital for people to be able to ferry at least part way across that river without going too far downstream. Fortunately, everyone did.

You may never intend to run significant whitewater but you never know when you might round a bend on a familiar, gentle Class I river and find a huge strainer blocking your path. If you do, you had best know how to ferry.

Michael Jackson goes kayaking?