How to Locate Water in the Wilderness

We need water to survive. We can’t go without it for even a day. What would you do if you were out in the woods on a hike or camping trip and ran out of water? Would you know where to look to find more? What if you were in a survival situation after a disaster and your water supply was contaminated or ran low? Would you be able to seek out something to replenish it with? Ideally, you would be able to carry enough or store enough to last you for a long time, but that’s not always the case. It’s always a good idea to know where to look and how to find additional water sources when you’re out in the wild. Here are some things to look for to help you find water in the wilderness.

Watch for the Birds and the Bees 

Not the proverbial birds and bees, but the literal ones. If you see lots of insects buzzing around, like lots of mosquitoes, chances are – you’re not far from a water source.  Bugs tend to congregate near water, so that’s a very good sign! Also do a little bird watching – first thing in the morning is best – and look for flocks flying close together because they may be headed to a water source. If you can follow them, you will probably find a lake or stream somewhat close by. Other times you might see animal tracks of different kinds leading toward the same spot – usually water. If you pay close attention, the animals can often lead the way!


Chances are, if you live in a metropolitan area, or even in a smaller town, you don’t hear many of the sounds of nature like those who live a little more off grid. I know when we moved out to the country, after 10+ years of living in town, getting used to the sounds (or lack of them) was an adjustment. I am so much more aware now of the birds than I was living in a more crowded area. It’s the same with finding water. If you listen close enough, you might be able to hear a rushing river or a babbling stream close by. This would be especially helpful if you couldn’t see a body of water. You might just be able to hear it. 

Where the Green Grass Grows

If you’re looking for water, you want to pay attention to the vegetation in the area. Look for farmland, thick, tall grasses, or dense vegetation.  These areas will clue you in that some type of water source is near by. It might be a small brook, or a large lake, but something is providing water to these areas. The same goes for muddy spots – they are obviously close to a water source.  You can make a hole in a muddy place and watch as it fills in with water.  Be careful walking through tall grasses, though – as you might wander up on a snake or other wild creature who might feel threatened.

What To Do Once You Find Water

So you’ve found a water source, now how do you know it’s safe to drink? In a perfect scenario, you’d have a pure mountain stream to drink from, but we know that’s not always the case. This is one reason to have water purification tablets in your bug out bag, camping gear, or in your vehicle. You truly never know when you might need them.

It’s always better to err on the side of caution and treat whatever water you intend to drink or use. Even if water looks clean, it may not be safe to drink. It could have animal waste, blood, bacteria, or other things in it that you can’t see with the naked eye. Since you don’t know where the water source originates, it may have passed through some areas where chemicals have gotten into the water.  That’s why it’s always a good idea to treat anyway. Better to be safe than sorry.

If you are in a long term situation where you will frequently need more water, like after a natural disaster or if you’ve gone off grid on an extended camping trip, you’ll want to make note of the locations of water sources that you find. Mark down their coordinates, and mark them on a map. You never know if you will need them again, and you might be able to pass the locations along to others.

Finding water in the wilderness can be a little tricky, but if you know where to look, a plentiful water source could be just over the next hill.

What tricks or tips do you use to locate water in the wilderness?

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About Ms. Prepper

I’m Laura P, aka, Passion Prepper, aka, Storage Prepper! I’ve been homesteading nearly all my life and prepping for the last 6 years. I strongly believe our great country of America was built on self-sufficient families like mine and yours. Politics bores me, learning new stuff, getting outside and living life thrills me.

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