Canoeing and kayaking

Canoeing is popular in and around Nidderdale AONB. Its dramatic landscape provides a wide variety of conditions encompassing both reservoirs and natural rivers. This landscape offers opportunities for canoeing, kayaking and rafting for all abilities, from the casual recreational paddler to the competition-avid.

The Washburn Valley

Located at Blubberhouses, on the A59, midway between Harrogate and Skipton lies the River Washburn. This is the most important dam release site for canoeing in England. The National Governing Body, British Canoeing has an arrangement with Yorkshire Water for the dam at Thruscross to be opened to provide spate water for organised experienced White Water Canoeing, Kayaking and Rafting both for recreation and competition to take place. To avoid the water released going to waste, it is caught again in Swinsty and Fewston reservoirs. 

From time to time the surface of Thruscross reservoir located at the head of the Washburn is opened for canoeing and kayaking.

In both cases, dates and times and other information is available online by searching for 'Washburn Valley Canoeing'.


Scar House reservoir is available to both organised groups and individuals via the owners of the nearby How Stean Gorge. How Stean have equipment for hire, transport, and a camp site. Scar House being an upland wild place, safety and coaching supervision is necessary.

Glasshouses Mill Dam is available for children and beginners by arrangement with Bewerley Park Outdoor Centre.

The River Nidd below Pateley Bridge is dam controlled by Gouthwaite Reservoir and is little paddled. The lower reaches from Hampsthwaite and Killinghall through the Nidd Gorge to Knaresborough High Bridge are often paddled by recreationalists but beware of weirs.

Rivers Ure and Wharfe

The Ure is well paddled from Mickley down through West Tanfield to Sleningford and then on to Ripon. At Sleningford there is a riverside camp site and parking available with both White Water and Flat Water to suit both experts and beginners.

The Wharfe too is well paddled from the A59 at Bolton Abbey down to Ilkley, Otley and beyond.

General information

It should be remembered that water level on rivers and reservoirs can quickly rise and fall without warning and the water can be cold with waves in windy conditions. All rivers have weirs across them at strategic intervals. Some are old, previously used to divert water into a mill water wheel, others more modern and used for flood management. Most can be got over or around but not in all water conditions and not everywhere.

Canoeing is a great way to observe the flora and fauna of rivers. Otters, voles and birds such as herons and dippers can be observed at close quarters. But please respect the environment.

The AONB rivers and streams teem with fish of all kinds. Hence they are popular with both coarse and game fish anglers. Please respect them also.

Photo Credits: 

Images: Kayaking and canoeing on Scar House Reservoir courtesy of Paul Harris.