River Guides

Classification Guide


Suitable for first race experience. Limited experience in a WWR is necessary. Rapids are typically straightforward with easy rescue.


Rivers requiring more understanding of whitewater and control of the WWR in rough conditions. 


Rivers require more understanding of whitewater and more accomplished skills in a WWR boat. Lower levels are typically intermediate, with the conditions becoming more testing and critical at higher levels.


Courses require a high level of skill and conditioning to safely navigate. International courses will typically be of advanced level.


Map reference for club site is SE120380, there is like a footbridge across the river below the road bridge and it also has a square blob next to the bridge.

Start is usually opposite cemetary, Grid Reference SE100400

Finish is usually at the club site but can be where the canal goes over the river after a railway bridge Grid Reference SE120380. Where the alternate finish is used paddlers continue to the canal, paddle back along it and either walk the 200 yards or so back to the club site or are picked up by car

Nene (Whitewater Course)

The whitewater course at Northampton on the river Nene is a fully pumped artificial facility. It is only suitable for wavehoppers due to one of the drops being harsh on the back end. It is a great course to try out wildwater racing, either in a normal whitewater boat or a wavehopper.


NEWBRIDGE (SX712708). Between Newbridge and Holne Bridge the Dart makes a large loop just over three miles long which gives this section its common name. It is a good grade 3 at normal winter levels. Numerous natural drops together with some remoteness mean that this section is not suitable for novices. Access at Newbridge is from the car park on the left bank above the bridge. A road follows the river’s left bank for about 1 mile as far as the confluence with the R. Webburn, after which emergency egress should be on the right bank.


A Regional Classic race run from from Tutbury to Marston Weir. In 2003 it took Peter Keron 10min 27sec, whilst the slowest junior completed the race in just over 20 min.

It is a staightforward course but when shallow you need to look ahead for lines which avoid beaches. The last 200m or so is dead straight from a bridge to a simple concrete weir, with the finish about 50 m below the weir.The weir is best taken left of centre, this route will avoid most of the large standing wave which can give a pronounced lift at the front causing the stern to be tilted down risking hard contact with the concrete sill.


Usk – Very high water

A Racing classic. The river Usk rises in the mountains of south Wales to the west of Brecon. It flows generally west to east past Sennybridge, Brecon, Crickhowell an Abergavenny, then turns south before Raglan to enter the Severn estuary at Newport.

The river rises and falls faster than the larger nearby river Wye, big water levels will often require paddling shortly after rain. If water levels are excessively low, it is preferable to paddle the Wye (30 mins away) as this is navigable even at very low levels.

  • Access at Talybont on Usk – 51.901497, -3.277181
  • Access/Egress at Llangynidr – 51.874913, -3.232930
  • Egress at Crickhowell – 51.856458, -3.142425

Flood agreements are in place – whenever the river is above the line on the gauge it is ok to paddle at any time of year. Access agreements are in place for winter months. See http://webcam.wyeuskfoundation.org/navigation/index.php for details.



River Dee is one of the classic WWR division A races, the Serpents Tail and Town falls being the highlights.

Downstream of the put in waves take you under a road bridge and past the Chain Bridge Hotel towards the famous Serpent’s Tail. In high water the approach to this is impressive, with ‘play’ stoppers and big surf waves all over the place. The Serpent’s Tail itself is perfectly named, with all the water disappearing into a narrow channel on river right.

The middle section (from below serpents tail to above town falls) is suitable for entry level paddling at low water levels. The Dee can get very continental in nature in high water with big wave chains and stoppers throughout the course.


River Mersey – Races start below the weir.

The Mersey is a useful training river, as it carries a reasonable flow at almost all times, and there are no access difficulties. For introducing novices, it makes a good combination with the Irwell at Burrs, which is shorter and has better bank access. The Mersey follows it up with slighty easier water but a longer course. Both these race courses can be paddled at practically any level, even if there has not been recent rain. River levels can be found by ringing the Rivercall service run by the EA (0930 107702), select option 3. (this is a premium rate call, but the information is brief and to the point so it’s not expensive).


A short race with bags of small chop and plenty of resistance to pull on.The secret is to use plenty of rotation from the lower back and hips and concentrate on your boat speed. Adapt to keep it running.Essentially there are only 2 moves, the 2nd and 3rd weirs, but bends toward the end of the race and some of the steeper waves sections are critical. The key is also to hit the very short slow moving sectionsvery hard, but they too seem to blend in with the scenery. Don’t you be the one to finish with loads of energy saying “I wish I had tried harder”!

Tay (Grandtully & Stanley)

The Tay is a classic wildwater racing venue. A very wide river it produces highly European style whitewater at high water levels, with very long wavelengths.

The main rapid is at Grandtully, this is a popular canoe slalom training site and is accessible year round. The classic section access is either at Aberfeldy for a 10 minute warm up section, or from the SCA access point below the first rapid.

Suitable for intermediates at lower water levels, advanced level at higher water levels.


The Tryweryn is a great resource for Wildwater racing as it is one of the very few quality rivers that are available through the summer period. The upper site and lower (usually referred to middle section) part of the river are very different in character. The top site is steep, quality international standard water, below the last feature – chapel falls the character of the river is much flatter slower and easier water.


Artificial course, suitable for introductory sprints. A great training asset in Glasgow.

Trent (Stone)

Rapids at Stone

The Stone River Race Course is located on the upper Trent at Stone in Staffordshire. It is held on a 3.5km stretch of the river between the Darlaston Inn (located on roundabout at junction of A34 and A51) and Stafford and Stone Canoe Club (located just off the A34 by the shell garage roundabout in Stone).
The river is an easy grade 1 consisting of a swiftly flowing current that sweeps round numerous tight bends (some more than 180 degrees!) and finishes down the slalom course at Stone. Access to the start is obtained from the lower pub car park via steps to the water located under the road bridge (just ask the landlord for courtesies sake), and the finish is located by the canoe club with easy access from the public car park there.

It is a suitable site for beginners and access is allowed at all times.

A good training site which allows paddling back up the river if you don’t
have a car shuttle available.

Trent (Holme Pierrepont Whitewater Course)

An artificial whitewater course on the Trent at Nottingham. A sprint course and ausefule resource for whitewater paddling in the summer months when natural whitewater is scarce in the country. The bottom “Daleks” section is suitable for beginners, the main course is suitable for intermediate paddlers. Risk of injury and boat damage is low in the case of a capsize, making it a good facility to test your paddling. The course is very boily, which is a common characteristic of artificial courses – however the course surges less than most courses.


The River Nith flows east from the hills of South Ayrshire, then south through the towns of New Cumnock, Sanquhar, Thornhill and Dumfries, some 64km to the Solway Firth. Much of the river is of slack water with occasional falls of Grade I, mainly in the lower section. However, for a stretch of about 12km the river runs through the Drumlanrig Gorge and here its fall is more pronounced. In this section alone the fall of the river is about 250m and the river flows over a series of rapids, which can be as difficult at Grade V in high water. For its last few miles, after the town of Dumfries, the river flows into a tidal estuary. The Nith is a relatively short river with a small catchment area and hence it rises and falls fairly dramatically. The river is certainly at its best after heavy rain and it can be in condition at any time of the year. For most of the length the river valley is used by the A76, which is the main Dumfries

  • Cumnock trunk road and allows easy access to the river at various locations.

Irwell (Burrs Centre)

The Irwell at Burrs is a good introductory race, with full bank access. The nearby Mersey follows it up as a training venue with slighty easier water but a longer course. Both these race courses can be paddled at practically any level, even if there has not been recent rain. The Irwell comes up and down quite fast. River levels can be found by ringing the Rivercall service run by the EA (0930 107702), select option 3. (this is a premium rate call, but the information is brief and to the point so it’s not expensive).

Derwent (Matlock)

This is a very popular regional race that provides a long but interesting course. The start is located adjacent to the car park of the Square and Compass at Darley Bridge north of Matlock and finishes down stream immediately below the slalom course at Matlock Bath. The course length is 7 km. The Derwent has unrestricted access from Artist’s Corner car park to the bottom of the slalom course (the Derwent Dash course), access for the race section is only granted for the race and other sections have no access.


Whilst the Wye is not used any more for racing (there used to be a popular descent race in the autumn), it is a good piece of training water.

The long training run section is from Builth Wells to Boughrood. Park in the pay and display car park in Builth, egress is on river right upstream of the bridge. Parking is in the School parking area. There is now access immediately above Hell Hole to give a 20 minute paddling section to Boughrood.

  • Access at Builth Wells (1hr 15-1hr 30) 52.150193, -3.402732 car park (pay and display)
  • Access above Hell hole (20-25 mins) 52.076424, -3.305421
  • Egress at Boughrood 52.037571, -3.270673 (school car park open access at weekends)

Live water level is available, any water level near the red marker is a good level. Conditions are more testing when the gauge is under water. http://webcam.wyeuskfoundation.org/conditions/gauge1.php

Avon (Stratford)

The Avon race at Stratford is curently advertised as Grade 1/2. Well,that was true in the winter when we recced it, but come April it’sbasically flat water with a dead easy 5ft weir and some interestingswirly bits at the bottom. It’s an ideal entry level race and safe ashouses for first timers. We hold it on the weekend of the ShakespeareFestival, so we get loads of casual spectators.


Leven footage 1:50

A short (6 minutes) section of whitewater fed by Windermere in the Lake District. A series of drops and rapids. This was the site of the “Leven Test” a time trial where the results were adjusted for weather and water conditions. Competitors would be awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze “Dipper” badges depending on their adjusted time.

Not a race venue any more, but a site that is used by the British Team for training when visiting the lakes.

Tees (Barnard Castle Sections)

Abbey Rapids Sprint Course

The Tees is a great ww venue when there is a good level of water, however it can be subject to rapid rise and fall of levels. A series of open rapids lead to the gorge section, a series of steep drops the largest of which is Woden Croft – a trickly left hander with a rock guarding the exit of the rapid. Below the gorge the nature of the river changes with it flattening out becoming wider and less fast flowing. At good water levels a wide range of route opportunities with medium size choppy waves across the whole river.

The lower Abbey Rapids sprint sector offers more all weather capablity, with the river channeling in between large rock shelves at lower levels.

Not suitable for beginners, the nearby North Tyne and Tees barrage offers better lower level opportunities.

Tees (Barrage Whitewater Course)

A short sprint course suitable for introduction to WWR. Recent additions of water pumps allows for longer duration operation of the course.

North Tyne

A favourite for introduction to wildwater racing and more experienced paddlers. A classic race with a number of easier rapids in the early sections, followed by the more difficult gorge section to finish. Often twinned with the Tees as part of the Tour de North.