Canoeing - the River Wye

The River Wye has been used for navigation for many centuries. In the past the Wye was an important commercial waterway. Today boating on the river is mostly canoeing and rowing, with some passenger sightseeing boats operating around Symonds Yat.  With slow running waters, the River Wye is perfect for beginners to canoe and kayak, although its fast rapid waters at Symonds Yat guarantee to excite the more experienced water enthusiast.

Below Bigsweir Bridge the Wye is tidal and can be very dangerous.  Inexperienced canoeists are advised to avoid this stretch and should on no account travel below Chepstow, as currents in the Severn Estuary are extremely dangerous.  The river is at its most dangerous when there are strong currents, high water levels or cold weather.  Don’t take risks and never underestimate the power of the river. The Wye is a fast flooding river, which can rise after heavy rain at a rate of over 30cm an hour.

A public right of navigation exists on the Wye upstream to Hay-on-Wye but this does not give a right of access to the riverbank other than at accepted public sites; you must get the permission of the landowner before launching and landing canoes.  Permission is also needed to camp or picnic on the banks or neighbouring fields.

Depending on the stretch of water you canoe, you may be lucky to see otter.  In other areas you may see peregrine falcons catching pigeons above their cliff ledge haunts. However, you can commonly see kingfishers, herons and dragonflies.  As you travel down the valley, particularly between Kerne Bridge and Bigsweir, you pass through a predominantly wooded landscape.  Most of the trees you will see growing along the riverbank are either species of willow or alder. Both are important habitats for birds and bats.  Between July and October you will notice an abundance of pink flowering plants growing tall on the riverbanks.  This sweet smelling plant is Himalayan Balsam, an attractive but invasive nonnative species that is threatening other plants and has to be controlled.

It is possible to hire a canoe from many of our members and most offer guidance and instruction.  We also recommend that you download Perfect Paddling, A Canoeists Guide to the River Wye published by the Environment Agency and the Wye Valley AONB


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