How To Use Wood To Improvise Small Bridges

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Pablo Edronkin

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It is very easy to use wood to build expedient little bridges to cross small ravines and water streams.

In the realm of exploration and survival it is important to know how to use all available resources, be them natural or not. You should never left anything behind or discard it because you don't find an immediate use for it.

And many of the things that could make our life easier in the wilderness are already there and ironically, make things harder for the unwise and unprepared. For example: trunks from fallen trees, broken branches, stones in the ground and so on; all of them can be used successfully in a variety of different projects.


A fallen trunk after it has been cleansed and prepared to serve as an expedient bridge in a dense forest.
A fallen trunk after it has been cleansed and prepared to serve as an expedient bridge in a dense forest.

Maybe our central European readers find this difficult to understand because in those countries wilderness enthusiasts are for the most part accustomed to a "tidy nature" of sorts left after tails and paths have been constructed and taken care by park rangers and municipal authorities or offices of all sorts. However, in places that are really wild there are few trails - if any - and are cleansed only from time to time - if at all. These trails usually get covered by dead animals, stones fallen from above, mud, fallen trees that oblige you to make detours, etc.

But things get really interesting there when you have to cross a small ravine or water stream hidden by vegetation, or a small river that it is otherwise so insignificant as not to appear in any map but deep and wide enough to force you to wade it waist deep.

In these cases anyone can take advantage of all those precious natural resources littered all over the place in order to build small dams and bridges that will ease the pain and lessen the dangers implicit in such crossings. The most important rule that you have to respect if you are considering such a feat is that you have to make your bridge exaggeratedly solid if you wish to cross over safely at all times and expect to find it in a year or so, after the snow season, the monsoons, sand storms and such climatic events. Of course, these techniques may also be used after some natural disaster like an earthquake, tsunami, avalanche, etc. has destroyed or washed away a "true" bridge.


A modest bridge built after the original one was destroyed during a forest fire.
A modest bridge built after the original one was destroyed during a forest fire.

The simplest way to build any such bridge is to take advantage of what nature has already done for you: ravines, cliffs, water streams and so usually receive from above a lot of things like huge stones and big dead trees that often get stuck in such a way as to allow you to make a true bridge using them with very little effort, perhaps with the addition of a few rocks or trunks, some cleansing (rotten bark could get very slippery), some filling, but little else.

If you would like to construct something more complex you will have to do really a lot of work. Not difficult, but long and extenuating, because what has been placed in one spot by natural forces may weight a few tonnes, and if you plan to do a similar work… well, you will have to strain yourself.



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