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Public-images-osm logo.svg ford
Ogle County IL White Pines State Park Fords3.jpg
A small part of a highway where a waterway runs over it. Show/edit corresponding data item.
Rendering in OSM Carto
Group: highways
Used on these elements
may be used on nodesmay be used on waysshould not be used on areasshould not be used on relations (except multipolygon relations)
Documented values: 3
Useful combination
Status: de facto

A [W] ford is a small part of a highway where a waterway runs over it. A ford can be both constructed (e.g., with concrete) or with the natural creek-bed. It can apply to vehicle roads, or to foot, bicycle or horse paths. Unlike flood_prone=*, a ford is usually safe to cross when covered in water.

Distinct from a bridge which goes over the waterway, or a culvert where the waterway goes under the highway.

How to map

  • Use a single node ford where a highway crosses a waterway that is mapped as linear stream without riverbanks
  • Use the way-method for larger streams with mapped riverbanks

On a node node

The stream and highways should share a node where they cross marked with ford=yes.

On a way way

The highway should share nodes with the riverbanks where it crosses them and also a node with the waterway=stream where they cross. Split the highway between the riverbanks and apply ford=yes to this segment (in addition to all other information pertaining to the highway).

If the approach (up and down to the riverbank) to the ford is much different from the ford itself, it might make sense to split the way and tag them appropriately. (incline=* might apply for example).

You should not tag ford=yes on the waterway node, when used on the highway way.


Tag Description

General purpose value

Ford near Lower Merripit.jpg


See step-stone bridge on Wikipedia

Stepping stones 3.jpg

ford=boat A boat provided for crossing. See the more common tag route=ferry.

Useful combinations

  • surface=* Common values include concrete, asphalt, gravel, dirt, etc.
  • depth=* Normal depth you might encounter. Probably deeper during flood or when raining heavily. Perhaps even set to 0 for fords that are dry most of the year.
  • layer=* Should be same as crossing road. That is not set in most cases. You are both on the highway and in the waterway, and not separated logically as a stream under a bridge would be.
  • tidal=yes Whether the ford is within the tidal range. You can expect the water level of fords within the tidal range to move up and down with the tide.


Occasional fords

If a ford should be avoided because it is impassable or unsafe to cross most of the time, the short section of highway that crosses it should be mapped with access=no and a value of highway=* denoting the lowest importance (ie. track or path).

See also