Canoe Wales is the national governing body for paddle sport in Wales. We:

  • Represent the interests of our club and individual members
  • Advocate on behalf of the interests of the sport in Wales
  • Provide coaching and development programmes from local to international level
  • Stage national and international competitions.

Paddling in Wales

General disclaimer


From raging whitewater and powerful surf to glassy lakes and idyllic sea routes, it's Wales' range of destinations that make it such a great destination for paddlers from all over the world.

You can use this site to discover the country's very best canoeing and kayaking.

The descriptions in the guide section are based upon the situation found at time of paddling. Canoe Wales make no claim whatsoever that the rivers/waters described are safe in all or any conditions, or that the waters are suitable or safe for every canoeist.

 

The information on tides, weather, and surf come from sources that are independent of Canoe Wales. We cannot guarantee, and accept no responsibility for, the accuracy of their information and content.

 

The river guide and this website should not be taken as advice to trespass. Canoe Wales do not give permission for canoeists to use private waters and the existence of this guide does not confer a right.

 

The decision to paddle must be yours alone - if you are not sure, don’t paddle!

 

Canoe Wales is grateful to Chris Sladden for the use of his Guide Book.

 

The river descriptions are written from Chris’ Perspective, and are based upon his experiences at the time of paddling and writing the text.

 

Canoe Wales feels that this book is a classic guide and a compelling read in its own right. We have resisted the temptation to edit out the personal feeling of the text, because to do would lose some of the character and humour of the narrative. References to "I" obviously will refer to Chris as the text is for the most part left in his first person style of writing.

 

These descriptions are based upon the situation found at time of paddling. Canoe Wales and Chris Sladden make no claim whatsoever that the rivers are safe in all conditions and safe for every canoeist.

 

The decision to paddle must be yours alone - if you are not sure, don’t paddle!

Canoe Wales and Chris Sladden disclaim all responsibility for any injury or harassment caused to persons or property in this potentially dangerous sport.

 

CHANGING RIVERS

The rivers included in this guide (like any other rivers) change, sometimes dramatically, with time. Man causes many of these changes in the form of weirs, canalization, pipes, bridges and neck-high barbed wire fences. Where new roads or bridges are built, there is always the possibility of debris being dumped in the river.

 

Nature, too, plays an important part in the shape of fallen trees and floods which change the river bed. The guide is written in good faith. However, with the best will in the world, one cannot always account for the human factor. It is also possible that misunderstandings between Chris Sladden’s descriptions and the reader’s interpretation may arise. The message is clear: use the guide, but to avoid misinterpretation with unpleasant consequences, ALWAYS INSPECT BEFORE PADDLING.

 

If you do encounter problems or obstructions on a river then please inform Canoe Wales.

 

WATER LEVELS Water levels are of fundamental importance to the decision of whether to paddle or not. The decision not to paddle may be due to the river being either too low or too high.

 

Common sense must prevail. Too low, and the canoeing may be ‘scraping the barrel’ (or at least the bottom) making for tired arms and thin boats as you push yourselves into deeper water. Furthermore, a low level descent of the river may, firstly, be cheating the river and, secondly, cheating the paddler. I have seen paddlers getting off the Ogwen and Glaslyn at low, low levels and claiming that, firstly, the river is ‘not up to much’ and, secondly, probably kidding themselves that they are grade IV or V paddlers. Please also be aware that paddling at low levels can also be a factor in environmental damage.

 

Usually, as above, the rivers tend to be a less serious proposition when low. However, this is not always the case: for example, the Fairy Glen and Wnion have unfortunately proved lethal when at low levels, because of the increased pinning possibilities. Sometimes low levels give a false sense of security.

 

Conversely, when the river is too high, the grade, and thus the seriousness, may change out of all proportion to that described here. This does not apply only to the high grade rivers. For example, the Gwendraeth Fawr is, as graded, I to II and is an excellent learning trip. However, in major flood, the river changes course through trees and around bridges, and becomes almost unrunnable. The gentle and bubbling class II Clywedog Brook was the scene of my fracturing and dislocating my ribs when in major flood - certainly more than its normal grade.

 

Most of these rivers require a steady rainfall to bring them up to a typical winter level on which most of these gradings are based. A few runs - for example, the Haffes, and Nant Peris - require exceptionally heavy rain to bring them into condition. Fortunately, Wales has more than its fair share of rain. However, it is perhaps sensible to say that with many Welsh rivers (especially the white water ones) - no rain - no paddling.

 

It is difficult to give clear advice on water levels in every case. Gauges do exist but, more often than not, they are halfway down the run and difficult to inspect. Makeshift gauges are open to misunderstandings. The text trys to hint at good levels but, if you are paddling a flooded river, you should have the experience to judge for yourselves!

 

Grades often increase with rising water levels and the text uses a dual grading system to try and cover this. Some rapids are decidedly hard at a particular grade, yet not quite hard enough to be a grade higher. This has bee emphasised , firstly, in the text and, secondly, by occasionally using a + or - to make the point. For example, the Pontardawe Clydach is grade III to IV in medium to "high-ish" water, yet becomes a continual IV+ rapid in very high flows. It is graded (III+ to IV) to IV+.

 

The message is clear - inspect everything before paddling, and make your own judgments.

 

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