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River Crossing Instruction Page

Sample Activity

Below is River Crossing, an example of an activity that we support and you can find in the DIY Team Center.  Become a member to gain unlimited access to ALL of our activities, facilitator training, Team Workouts, Leadership Workouts and Weekly Wakeups!


This is a complex activity that has many different purposes and reveals many behavior patterns. 

  • It develops support (emotional, content and physical) within the group.
  • It helps clarify communication and decision making skills.
  • It helps groups to examine how and why leadership shifts during planning and completion of task
  • It shows how balancing planning activities with execution helps groups solve problems.

The exercise is a very good metaphor for a ‘goal’.  At the beginning, each person has the same perspective of the goal – get to the other side.  As the participants move into the river their perspective changes dramatically as they may not be able to see an obstacle in the way, or even figure out how to move forward.  The way to get to the goal changes, as there are many bumps in the way and groups that persevere, plan, communicate, and support each other are the most successful.

Included in the instructions below are:

  • Detailed instructions
  • Storyline
  • Tips and tricks from professional facilitators
  • Dynamics to watch
  • Debriefing questions
  • Variations


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This video is using the materials from our Boardwalking Kit.  However, use you can use the River Crossing kit with the same setup and execution.

Full Video, with notes, for River Crossing

What is included in the activity materials?

This is an activity that is included in our kit.

  • Three Planks: two 4’ and one 5’ in length
  • 10 Mouse Pad ‘Rocks’
  • Two 20’ lengths of rope
  • Several Blindfolds

Below are instructions and additional information that will be helpful for you to run your activity!


Activity Setup

  1. Be very careful about the setup of this activity and be sure to do it before the group arrives. 2x5_001_withdimensions_cropped
  2. Place the 20’ ropes at either end of the playing field, 20’ apart.  This is the river.  Set up the mouse pads (rocks) according to the diagram below.  If you change the setup, be sure the activity is solvable and that there is only one solution. 
  3. See larger diagram on page 9 for distances. 


You have managed to guide your group through a treacherous swamp and have one last fast-moving river to cross.  You can see a few rocks in the river on which you can balance some planks of wood you found.  It appears that if you are careful, you just might be able to make it across.  If you fall off the planks, you might be able to be rescued, but surely not without injury.  To make matters worse, you just heard something in the swamp behind you – you had better get across the river fast!


Your group was on an overnight retreat; camping on several small islands next to the ocean.  In the night, the tide came in and stranded some group members on the different islands.  You look around and find a few planks of wood on the main island where most of you slept.  It looks like the tide is still rising so you had better hurry or you will be swimming!

Safety Concerns

If anyone is blindfolded, be sure the team is taking care of that person and coaching him or her while moving


Activity Execution

  1. Read the Storyline to the participants, if it fits. 
  2. Give them a time limit to get started, if you want to create time pressure.
  3. Participants will start balancing the planks on the rocks.  There is such a small difference in length that it will not be obvious to them which plank to use and which way to go. 
  4. The entire group must cross the river at once, which means that the participants must take the planks with them as they go.
  5. During the activity, the participants will discover that it is not possible to reach some rocks directly from others (see the third and fifth moves).  Make sure you set up the rocks correctly to ensure this occurs. 


  • Blindfold and/or silence participants who fall into the river as well as make the group start over.  Blindfolding creates an entirely new aspect to the activity, as each blindfolded person must be led across the planks.
  • For larger groups you can place one member on each one of the ‘rocks’ and they must be rescued along the way.  Use the alternative storyline if you like this variation.  Expect this to take longer.
  • Anyone who steps off the plank and into the river can no longer be used as a resource and is silenced.

Dynamics to Watch

  • Too much time planning and not enough executing.
  • Does the group realize that their perspective changes as soon as they step onto the ‘plank’ and into the river?
  • Watch to see how the group communicates before they begin and how that changes in the middle of the river.  Compare the structure and how that affects communication, leadership, etc.  In the beginning did they plan in a circle?  How did things change when they were lined up on the planks? 


Potential Questions:

Below are some generic questions to help you with some ideas of how to take the group from the activity to life application.  If you have used this activity and have suggestions, please comment below!

  • What was the biggest problem experienced during this event?
  • What did you first think of the exercise and what do you think about it now?
  • What kind of support did you find was helpful during the activity?
  • If you were blindfolded, how difficult was it for you to participate?  Did you feel supported?
  • Do you find you need similar support at work or at home?
  • How can you apply what you learned during this activity on a daily basis?

Tips and Tricks

  • The ‘planks’ come rolled up.  Put them in the sun for a few minutes before the activity to help them lay flat and look more like ‘planks’.
  • This activity is fairly complex.  Use one or two easier activities before beginning.  Also, do not begin this activity late in the program unless you are certain you have time to finish.
  • Each ‘plank’ is good for roughly 5 people.  If you only have 10 people, only use one 4’ and one 5’ plank.
  • Do not allow the group to ‘ferry’ people from one shore to the other.  Make them move into the river together.  You may have to emphasize that they may only stay on the shore for a very short time and give them a time limit of 3 minutes.  This will also force them to balance strategy with action.
  • Be very careful about the set up and make sure the ‘rocks’ are the correct distances.  You will need roughly 10 minutes to set up, so the activity is perfect to run after a break.
Map with Dimensions

Map with Dimensions

Map without Dimensions

Map without Dimensions

If you have questions, comments or suggestion, write it below.

One Response to River Crossing Instruction Page

  1. TonyParker1 June 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    great idea, i love indoor team building activities everyone always has a good time.

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