GUIDE TO THE RIVER SWALE

(Hoggarths Bridge to Muker)

NAME OF RIVER: Swale.

WHERE IS IT?: The river flows down from the Pennines through Swaledale, towards Richmond. You'll be driving upstream, so from Richmond follow the A6108 turning onto the B6270. There is no section of this river further upstream because at the put-in, Birkdale Beck and Great Sleddale Beck join forces giving rise to the River Swale.

Anybody paddled any of the numerous Becks in the area?

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: If the waterlevel is decent then start at Hoggarths Bridge (NY871014) on the B6270 and take-out at Ivelet Bridge (SD933977 2km downstream of Keld). If the river is dog low then start at Wain Wath Force and take-out at Lower Kisdon, carrying half a mile back upstream to Keld via the footpath. The farmers we've met have always been really friendly. Don't forget the Honesty Box in the car park.

From Carol Haynes...'Ivelet Bridge;there is limited parking (room for 1 or 2 cars at most) but you get out onto the road directly - no fences etc.'

Jim Pullen...'Provided it's not too muddy you should be able to fit 3 or 4 cars amongst the trees on the left before the bridge.'

APPROX LENGTH: 4 miles.

TIME NEEDED: If you've run it before you can blast down to Keld  in under an hour and then repeat! Otherwise 3 hours+

ACCESS HASSLES: None, in my experience locals have always been friendly.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: The river rises and drops quickly. Heavy rain is needed and we've found the river at its best when the roads and fields are water-logged. Wain Wath Force is a good indicator. It is the easiest drop so if it looks scary, Keld gorge is best left for another day. As a minimum look for a river-wide curtain of water going over it.

There's now an excellent EA gauge positioned just before Rainby Falls at Park Bridge. Calibrations are roughly:

Scrape: 0.4m

Low: 0.5m

Medium: 0.7m

High: 0.9m

However, bear in mind the Swale rises and falls very quickly! During rainy weather this tends to update hourly, so look at the trend as well as the current level.

GRADING: Grades III, IV and V.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: This is mainly a waterfall run, and several of the falls are very serious indeed.

A description of the more serious drops follows. If you do them, you need to have the required skill and knowledge to find your own way down. Also, we don't claim that this guide is accurate or complete in any way and scouting plus carefully set up safety cover will be necessary.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: This section offers thrills galore for the adrenaline junkie. Swaledale and its limestone cliffs form a very beautiful landscape, but if you need this guide you'll probably only notice the view from the relative safety of the car!

The river is pool-drop style with grade III rapids linking the waterfalls. The most serious drops can be portaged. The best route over the drops will change with different water levels. With high water, some become easier as safer routes open up.

Wain Wath Force. The first drop and the one you see from the road.

Rainby Force. Grade V. A serious fall, whose landing is either hampered by ledges on the way down or directly onto solid rock. The runnable gaps are narrow and you really don't want to run the wrong line. If portaging try river left and consider a put-in on a small tributary to experience the thrill of its last rapid.

A big grade IV rapid. The water goes over a small initial ledge and runs across to the river left into a monster boil/rock combination.

Catrake Force. Grade IV. Two drops, followed a little later by another drop. Do view this triplet from below as you paddle downstream; they are magnificent. The river right eddy between the first two drops never ceases to entertain!

In high water playwaves bring you pleasantly to a footbridge. Don't stop here.

Upper Kisdon Force. Grade IV. Several variations are possible over this drop. The lip of the fall can be shallow in places and the boat may pivot over it. Get it wrong and your mates will laugh at the subsequent comedy :-)

Lower Kisdon Force. Grade V. The last and most serious fall on this run. Half the fall runs into a slot against the opposing wall and comes out through a long undercut. The rest goes over a double rock ledge. The ensemble forms an intimidating view.

In high water there follows several km of bouncy Grade III rapids until you reach the take-out at Ivelet Bridge. In low water get out at Lower Kisdon and walk back upstream to Keld on the barely discernible footpath river right, joining the Pennine Way.

Pictures of the Swale

Video of the first fall (1.3 meg, needs Windows Media Player)

Excellent video of the whole run by Bill Anderson

OTHER NOTES: Also consider starting at Whitsundale Beck if levels are high. There are several easier sections below this one.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Jay Sigbrandt (re-written Nov 2005) and Jim Pullen.

 

 

Community Forum Comments on this Article
Re: RIVER SWALE (Hoggarths Bridge to Muker) -- electricbarfbag
2015 Jul 29 11:44:39 AM
Did a run of the swale super early this morning, was about 0.8m. Just worth noting that a sizeable tree has fallen across the river a few hundred meters above upper kisdon. You can sneak around left but might be awkward in higher levels.
Re: RIVER SWALE (Hoggarths Bridge to Muker) -- SwaledaleMRT
2014 Feb 14 01:55:46 PM
Jim, agree - after watching the videos more closely the damage seems to be done in the pool rather than on the ledge. Think you need to hit the pool pointy end first (lean forwards as you suggest).....two incidents against the number of paddlers making the run without incident does perhaps suggest bad luck.

We certainly aren't suggesting folk don't get out there and have fun!
Re: RIVER SWALE (Hoggarths Bridge to Muker) -- Jim Pullen
2014 Feb 14 12:47:12 PM
"SwaledaleMRT" wrote:
Great to see the Upper Swale being so popular with paddlers.

Just a quick note of caution on Lower Kisdon Force. Swaledale MRT has just undertaken the second rescue of a paddler with spinal/pevic injuries after bouncing of the ledge in the middle of the drop. We think that the screams in the two videos below probably serve as enough of a reminder to get your line right....

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=255354627858782

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLjI3xRA ... e=youtu.be

Thanks once more to Swaledale MRT for the work they do.
However, it is hard to see from those vids what Andy and Jack got wrong. The line is one I've taken many times without the consequences they suffered, I can only guess they weren't leaning far enough forward upon impact, which resulted in the full force going up their backs?
Re: RIVER SWALE (Hoggarths Bridge to Muker) -- SwaledaleMRT
2014 Feb 14 09:55:38 AM
Great to see the Upper Swale being so popular with paddlers.

Just a quick note of caution on Lower Kisdon Force. Swaledale MRT has just undertaken the second rescue of a paddler with spinal/pevic injuries after bouncing of the ledge in the middle of the drop. We think that the screams in the two videos below probably serve as enough of a reminder to get your line right....

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=255354627858782

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLjI3xRA ... e=youtu.be
Re: RIVER SWALE (Hoggarths Bridge to Muker) -- Jim Pullen
2013 Nov 04 12:43:29 PM
Oh dear! Sorry to hear that Simon, but glad you got out ok!

On the right line, people tend to either go extreme right and drop of the ledge, or onto the bit that sticks out and auto-boof off. Sometimes, this second option is shallower than expected and the results are people slipping off sideways into the slot. I've seen plenty of people sub-out in the slot, but it normally spits them straight back out. Sorry to hear it decided to make a tasty meal out of you on this occasion!
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