Ford (crossing)
A ford is a shallow place with good footing where a river
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 or stream
A stream is a body of water with a current, confined within a bed and stream banks. Depending on its locale or certain characteristics, a stream may be referred to as a branch, brook, beck, burn, creek, "crick", gill , kill, lick, rill, river, syke, bayou, rivulet, streamage, wash, run or...

 may be crossed by wading or in a vehicle. A ford is mostly a natural phenomenon, in contrast to a low water crossing
Low water crossing
A low water crossing provides a bridge when water flow is low. Under high flow conditions, water runs over the roadway and precludes vehicular traffic...

, which is an artificial bridge that allows crossing a river or stream when water is low.

The names of many towns and villages are derived from the word 'ford', for example Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

 (a ford where ox
An ox , also known as a bullock in Australia, New Zealand and India, is a bovine trained as a draft animal. Oxen are commonly castrated adult male cattle; castration makes the animals more tractable...

en crossed the river: see the Oxford coat of arms), or Stratford
Stratford is a place name found in many English-speaking countries. It derives from the Old English words stræt and ford...

 (a ford on a Roman road
Roman road
The Roman roads were a vital part of the development of the Roman state, from about 500 BC through the expansion during the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. Roman roads enabled the Romans to move armies and trade goods and to communicate. The Roman road system spanned more than 400,000 km...

). Similarly, the German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 word Furt (as in Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main , commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2010 population of 688,249. The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010...

, the ford of the Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

, Ochsenfurt
Ochsenfurt is a town in the district of Würzburg, in Bavaria, Germany. It is situated on the left bank of the River Main, here crossed by a stone bridge, 13 miles south from Würzburg by the railway to Munich, and at the junction of a line to Röttingen. Pop. 11,600...

, synonymous to Oxford, Schweinfurt
Schweinfurt is a city in the Lower Franconia region of Bavaria in Germany on the right bank of the canalized Main, which is here spanned by several bridges, 27 km northeast of Würzburg.- History :...

, a ford where swine crossed the river, and Klagenfurt
-Name:Carinthia's eminent linguists Primus Lessiak and Eberhard Kranzmayer assumed that the city's name, which literally translates as "ford of lament" or "ford of complaints", had something to do with the superstitious thought that fateful fairies or demons tend to live around treacherous waters...

) and the Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 voorde, (as in Vilvoorde
Vilvoorde is a Belgian municipality in the Flemish province of Flemish Brabant. The municipality comprises the city of Vilvoorde proper with its two outlying quarters of Koningslo and Houtem and the small town of Peutie...

, Coevorden
Coevorden is a municipality and a city in the northeastern Netherlands. During the municipal reorganisation in the province in 1998, Coevorden merged with Dalen, Sleen, Oosterhesselen and Zweeloo.- Population centers :...

, Zandvoort
Zandvoort is a municipality and a town in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland.Zandvoort is one of the major beach resorts of the Netherlands; it has a long sandy beach, bordered by coastal dunes...

, or Amersfoort
Amersfoort is a municipality and the second largest city of the province of Utrecht in central Netherlands. The city is growing quickly but has a well-preserved and protected medieval centre. Amersfoort is one of the largest railway junctions in the country, because of its location on two of the...

) are cognate
In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. This learned term derives from the Latin cognatus . Cognates within the same language are called doublets. Strictly speaking, loanwords from another language are usually not meant by the term, e.g...

s and have the same meaning.

Towns such as Maastricht
Maastricht is situated on both sides of the Meuse river in the south-eastern part of the Netherlands, on the Belgian border and near the German border...

, Dordrecht
Dordrecht , colloquially Dordt, historically in English named Dort, is a city and municipality in the western Netherlands, located in the province of South Holland. It is the fourth largest city of the province, having a population of 118,601 in 2009...

, and Utrecht
Utrecht (city)
Utrecht city and municipality is the capital and most populous city of the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation, and is the fourth largest city of the Netherlands with a population of 312,634 on 1 Jan 2011.Utrecht's ancient city centre features...

 also formed at fords but the ending tricht, drecht, or trecht is derived from the Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word traiectum, meaning "crossing". Similarly, in Slavic languages, word brod
-Places:Brod is a common Slavic toponym, meaning ford. It may refer to the following:* Brod, Bosnia and Herzegovina, a town and municipality in Republika Srpska* Kostinbrod, a city in Sofia Province, Bulgaria* Tsarev Brod, a village in Shumen Province, Bulgaria...

 comes from the linguistic root that means "river-crossing" or "place where river can be crossed". Although today "brod" in Croatian language literally means "ship", Slavonski Brod
Slavonski Brod
Slavonski Brod is a city in Croatia, with a population of 59,507 in 2011. The city was known as Marsonia in the Roman Empire, and as Brod na Savi 1244–1934. It is the sixth largest city in Croatia, after Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, Osijek and Zadar. Located in the region of Slavonia, it is the...

 in Croatia, as well as Makedonski Brod
Makedonski Brod
Makedonski Brod is a town in the central part of the country, on the south-eastern part of Suva Gora, western Karadžica and south-western Dautica mountains. The town is the seat of Makedonski Brod Municipality.-Geography:...

 in Macedonia
Republic of Macedonia
Macedonia , officially the Republic of Macedonia , is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991...

 and other place names containing "Brod" in Slavic countries are named after fords.


A ford is a much cheaper form of river-crossing than a bridge
A bridge is a structure built to span physical obstacles such as a body of water, valley, or road, for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle...

 but it may become impassable after heavy rain or during flood conditions. A ford is therefore normally only suitable for very minor roads. Most modern fords are shallow enough to be crossed by car
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

s and other wheeled or tracked vehicles (a process known, fittingly, as "fording"). The problem about fords is that they overflow in wet weather.

In New Zealand, however, fords are a normal part of major roads, such as along South Island's main eastcoast State Highway 1. As most inter-city domestic passengers travel by air and as much cargo goes by sea, long distance road traffic is low and fords are thus a practical necessity for crossing seasonal rivers. In dry weather, drivers become aware of a ford by crunching across outwash detritus on the roadway, and a Bailey bridge
Bailey bridge
The Bailey bridge is a type of portable, pre-fabricated, truss bridge. It was developed by the British during World War II for military use and saw extensive use by both British and the American military engineering units....

 off the main line of the road to carry emergency traffic during high water.

At localities where the water is shallow enough, but the material on the riverbed will not support heavy vehicles, fords are sometimes improved by the provision of a submerged concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

 floor. In such cases a curb
Curb (road)
A curb, or kerb , is the edge where a raised pavement/sidewalk/footpath, road median, or road shoulder meets an unraised street or other roadway.-Function:...

 is often placed on the downstream side to prevent vehicles slipping off, as growth of algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

 will often make the slab very slippery. Fords may be also equipped with a post indicating the water depth, so drivers may know if the water is too deep to attempt to cross. Some have an adjacent foot bridge so pedestrians may cross without getting their feet wet.


A road running below the water level of a stream or river is often known as a "watersplash". It is a common name for a ford or stretch of wet road in some areas, and sometimes also used to describe tidal crossings. They have become a common feature in rallying
Rallying, also known as rally racing, is a form of auto racing that takes place on public or private roads with modified production or specially built road-legal cars...

 courses. There are enthusiasts who seek out and drive through these water features recording details such as wave created, position and access on dedicated websites.

There are many old fords known as watersplashes in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, examples are at Brockenhurst
Brockenhurst is a village situated in the New Forest, Hampshire, England. The New Forest is a national park and Brockenhurst is therefore surrounded by woodland that attracts thousands of visitors all year round. The nearby towns surrounding Brockenhurst are Lymington and Lyndhurst. Brockenhurst...

 in Hampshire
Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England in the United Kingdom. The county town of Hampshire is Winchester, a historic cathedral city that was once the capital of England. Hampshire is notable for housing the original birthplaces of the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force...

, Wookey
Wookey is a village and civil parish west of Wells, on the River Axe in the Mendip district of Somerset, England. Wookey is often confused with its sister village Wookey Hole which is perhaps best known today for the Wookey Hole Caves...

 in Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

 and Swinbrook
Swinbrook is a village on the River Windrush, east of Burford in Oxfordshire, England. The village is in the civil parish of Swinbrook and Widford.-History:...

 in Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....

. Some of these are being replaced by bridges as these are considered to be a more reliable form of crossing in adverse weather conditions.

The Dean Ford in Kilmarnock
Kilmarnock is a large burgh in East Ayrshire, Scotland, with a population of 44,734. It is the second largest town in Ayrshire. The River Irvine runs through its eastern section, and the Kilmarnock Water passes through it, giving rise to the name 'Bank Street'...

, Ayrshire
Ayrshire is a registration county, and former administrative county in south-west Scotland, United Kingdom, located on the shores of the Firth of Clyde. Its principal towns include Ayr, Kilmarnock and Irvine. The town of Troon on the coast has hosted the British Open Golf Championship twice in the...

, is significant as it is specifically mentioned in the deed
A deed is any legal instrument in writing which passes, or affirms or confirms something which passes, an interest, right, or property and that is signed, attested, delivered, and in some jurisdictions sealed...

s of this property, which was gifted to the local people. The ford has had to be maintained as a property boundary feature, despite several cars a year being washed away.

Not just a British phenomenon, some very spectacular versions of the watersplash feature can be found in diverse locations. Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 has the Gulf Savannah, and others may be found in Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 and Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

. They are also found on some Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

 backroads, where they are referred to as "underwater bridges". Indiana State Road 7
Indiana State Road 7
State Road 7 in the U.S. State of Indiana is located in southeast Indiana. It runs from northwest-to-southeast connecting the cities of Columbus and Madison.-Route description:...

 has such a ford near Dupont, Indiana
Dupont, Indiana
Dupont is a town in Lancaster Township, Jefferson County, Indiana, United States. The population was 339 at the 2010 census.-Geography:Dupont is located at ....

. It was an important location in Morgan's Raid
Morgan's Raid
Morgan's Raid was a highly publicized incursion by Confederate cavalry into the Northern states of Indiana and Ohio during the American Civil War. The raid took place from June 11–July 26, 1863, and is named for the commander of the Confederates, Brig. Gen...


Famous battles

Because in historic times a ford was often a strategic military point, many famous battles were fought at or near fords.
  • Battle of Xiaoyao Ford
    Battle of Xiaoyao Ford
    The Battle of Xiaoyao Ford, also known as the Battle of Leisure Ford, Battle of Hefei, and Hefei Campaign, was fought between the warlords Cao Cao and Sun Quan between 215 and 217 during the prelude to the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history over the control of Hefei...

    , 215-217
  • Battle of Jacob's Ford
    Battle of Jacob's Ford
    Jerusalem has been and is considered by many to be one of the holiest cities in the world. For this reason, Christians and Muslims fought for control of the Holy City over several centuries. Around 1095, Christians from Europe marched to the Holy Land to retake control of Jerusalem. By 1099, the...

    , 1179
  • Battle of Imjin River
    Battle of Imjin River (1592)
    The Battle of Imjin River was a battle during the Japanese invasions of Korea . It resulted in a Japanese victory.-The Retreat of the King and surrender of Hanseong:...

    , 1592
  • Battle of the Yellow Ford
    Battle of the Yellow Ford
    The Battle of the Yellow Ford was fought in western County Armagh, Ulster, in Ireland, near the river Blackwater on 14 August 1598, during the Nine Years War ....

    , 1598
  • Battle of Newburn Ford
    Battle of Newburn
    The Battle of Newburn was fought on 28 August 1640 during the Second Bishops' War between a Scottish Covenanter army led by General Alexander Leslie and English royalist forces commanded by Edward, Lord Conway. Conway, heavily outnumbered, was defeated, and the Scots went on to occupy the town of...

    , 1640
  • Battle of the Boyne
    Battle of the Boyne
    The Battle of the Boyne was fought in 1690 between two rival claimants of the English, Scottish and Irish thronesthe Catholic King James and the Protestant King William across the River Boyne near Drogheda on the east coast of Ireland...

    , 1690
  • Battle of Matson's Ford
    Battle of Matson's Ford
    The Battle of Matson's Ford was a battle in the Philadelphia campaign of the American Revolutionary War fought on December 11, 1777 in the area surrounding Matson's Ford . In this series of minor skirmish actions, advance patrols of Pennsylvania militia encountered a British foraging expedition...

    , 1777
  • Battle of Brandywine
    Battle of Brandywine
    The Battle of Brandywine, also known as the Battle of the Brandywine or the Battle of Brandywine Creek, was fought between the American army of Major General George Washington and the British-Hessian army of General Sir William Howe on September 11, 1777. The British defeated the Americans and...

    , 1777
  • Battle of Minisink
    Battle of Minisink
    The Battle of Minisink was a battle of the American Revolutionary War fought at Minisink Ford, New York, on July 22, 1779. It was the only major skirmish of the Revolutionary War fought in the northern Delaware Valley...

    , 1779
  • Battle of Cowan's Ford
    Battle of Cowan's Ford
    The Battle of Cowan's Ford was a battle in the Southern Theater of Cornwallis's 1780–1782 Campaign that eventually led to the British Army's surrender at Yorktown during the American Revolutionary War...

    , 1781
  • Battle of Assaye
    Battle of Assaye
    The Battle of Assaye was a major battle of the Second Anglo-Maratha War fought between the Maratha Confederacy and the British East India Company...

    , 1803
  • Battle of Blackburn's Ford, 1861
  • Battle of Kelly's Ford
    Battle of Kelly's Ford
    The Battle of Kelly's Ford, also known as the Battle of Kellysville, took place on March 17, 1863, in Culpeper County, Virginia, as part of the cavalry operations along the Rappahannock River during the American Civil War. It set the stage for Brandy Station and other cavalry actions of the...

    , 1863
  • Battle of Buffington Island
    Battle of Buffington Island
    The Battle of Buffington Island, also known as the St. Georges Creek Skirmish, was an American Civil War engagement in Meigs County, Ohio, and Jackson County, West Virginia, on July 19, 1863, during Morgan's Raid. The largest battle in Ohio during the war, Buffington Island contributed to the...

    , 1863
  • Battle of Byram's Ford, 1864
  • Battle of Morton's Ford
    Battle of Morton's Ford
    The Battle of Morton's Ford was a battle of the American Civil War, fought February 6–7, 1864.To distract attention from a planned cavalry-infantry raid up the Virginia Peninsula on Richmond, the Union Army of the Potomac forced several crossings of the Rapidan River on February 6, 1864. A II...

    , 1864
  • Battle of Rorke's Drift, 1879
  • Battle of Cut Knife
    Battle of Cut Knife
    The Battle of Cut Knife, fought on May 2, 1885, occurred when a small force of Cree and Assiniboine warriors were attacked by a flying column of mounted police, militia, and Canadian army regulars...

    , 1885
  • The Defence of Duffer's Drift
    The Defence of Duffer's Drift
    The Defence of Duffer's Drift is a short book by Major General Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton, published in 1904 when Swinton was a Captain. It appeared in the British United Service Magazine under the pseudonym, Lieutenant N. Backsight Forethought, who is the narrator of the book. The book is an...

    , 1900


External links

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