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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. Edit or translate this description.
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
Documented values: 3
Useful combination
Status: in use

A [W] ford is a small part of a highway where a waterway runs over it. A ford can be both constructed (eg with concrete) or with the natural creek-bed. It can apply to vehicle roads, or to foot, bicycle or horse paths.

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
ford=yes General purpose value
Ford near Lower Merripit.jpg
ford=stepping_stones 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=* Obvious values here would be concrete, paved, sand, gravel and mud 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.


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Deprecated tags

If you know places with this tag, verify if it could be tagged with another tag.
Automated edits are strongly discouraged unless you really know what you are doing!

The way way should carry the importance of the road (e.g. highway=tertiary), thus ford=yes is used to provide further details. When ford=yes is used on a node node, don't use highway=*.

See also

  • Proposal (never voted on)
  • flood_prone=* unlike fords are likely to be dangerous to cross if there is water across the roadway.
  • intermittent=* used to indicate that a waterway (river, stream, etc.) does not have a permanent flow, so the ford may also be dry at times.
  • bridge=low_water_crossing is a low bridge which is engineered to carry vehicles above water at low flow levels and survive submersion at high flow levels. (see bridge values)