GUIDE TO THE RIVER CRAKE
(Coniston Water to the Sea)
NAME OF RIVER: Crake.
WHERE IS IT?: It flows out of Coniston Water in the south Lake District, aimed in the general vicinity of the sea.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: This is a 'source to sea' trip!
Start on Coniston Water and head down the lake until it becomes the river! Put in at Blawith Common (SD 2868 9036) (signposted on the road up the lake, layby beside the road) and portage a few hundred yards down to the Lake. There is a car park beside the Lake nearer Torver, but this involves a longer paddle along the lake.
Jon Green...'The carpark at Brown Howe (SD 291 910) is now a pay and display!!! Makes the 5 minute carry from Blawith Common a little more attractive!'
Takeout at Spark Bridge or at Greenodd Petrol Station (SD 3148 8269) where the Crake reaches the sea. Ask permission for parking at the latter spot.
APPROX LENGTH: 6 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2-4 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: There used to be an access agreement, but this is currently under review by CE, so expected a definitive statement shortly after you see Santa in Hades.
People have been ignoring the previous agreement and paddling this lake-fed river year round with few hassles over the last few years.
'Access and Egress points:
The River can be accessed via the southern end of Lake Coniston.
Spark Bridge - There is public access to the river at the village green.
Public footpath River Right between the a5092 and a590 bridges at Greenodd.
Please Note, 'Bobbin Mill' rapid immediately upstream of Spark Bridge is continuous Grade 3 and it is not possible to Inspect from the bank or portage this rapid due to private land on both banks.
As always please be aware of local residents when parking and changing in a respectful manor.' - Ian Adey (Local Access Advisor)
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: It's quite reliable as it's lakefed. Difficult to tell the water level...as the getout is tidal, and you start on a lake. Much of the river itself is on private land. Perhaps the best spot to judge the level is at Spark Bridge. If all rocks are covered in the rapids below, it's high. If it's nearly out of it's banks , it may be dangerous as barbed wire fences line the banks for long stretches of the trip.
There's an online EA gauge for the Crake at Low Nibthwaite - I have the calibrations as Low: 0.5m, Medium: 0.6m, High: 0.9m - Jim.
GRADING: Grade 2 and easy grade 3. The grade 3 is hard to inspect or portage.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Some weirs. Trees. Canalised banks. Low bridges in high water.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Once on the lake, paddle south until you find your way to the gap in the reeds. From the end of the Lake, the river drifts through reeds and then widens again into a large pool. After it narrows again, the water begins to pick up speed, and you just shoot down the gap between the trees. Most of the river is like this. It is flat for about a mile until small rapids appear.
The first significant rapid (easy grade 3?) appears when the river enters an s-bend near trees and drops away steeply. There are a few rocks to avoid but this long rapid eases through it's course.
After this, it's mostly fast grade 2, with a bits of 3- in higher water levels. In highish water, it is a good giggle with a few good/easy surf waves The biggest problem is trees.
Now and again there are natural weirs (more like small steps).
The second harder rapid is near the village of Spark Bridge. Bimble down until you get to a man made diagonal weir (may be hidden at high levels), where the river turns left. The river then steepens and goes under a metal bridge around a long right hand bend. At high levels you may need to duck under the metal bridge. Directly below is a steep grade 3 rapid with a choice of routes...left, right or straight down the middle in high water! You are then at Spark Bridge. Get out river right after the bridge if you want to finish here.
Alternatively, continue downstream on progressively easier rapids until the river becomes tidal just above Greenodd and the main Barrow road. Some old guidebooks describe a grabby tidal weir here, but I've never seen it. Get out on river right at the Petrol Station.
OTHER NOTES: We take first-timers down this, as it starts off very easy and ends up with a nice rapid. You just have to keep them out of the trees.
A pleasant river with plenty to keep you interested. For some reason, Terry Storry slates the trip in 'British Whitewater'. We found it perfectly pleasant and interesting for paddlers of all experience...see what you think.
Nick Mortimer...'Just got off the Crake 14.30 1 November 2004. First day of agreed paddling. We were 4 paddlers. No problems. No trees. Enough water. Got off before the sea as tide was in! There were some construction workers fettling the bank at Greenodd. There was another pair of paddlers on river. Probably with same idea, paddle first day of agreement. Found a lake use only kayak, probably some tourist driftwood from summer numpties. Got in where agreement asks, Brown Howe Car Park, with toilets. Paddle down lake only 15 minutes in short boats. Proper free car park with only 30 meter carry to lake, rather than 5 minute carry to lake from Blawith Common laybys.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Ian Fairclough and Mark Rainsley, also Mark Davies, Jon Green, Nick Mortimer and Ian Adey.
We met a very helpful Coniston ranger type guy who had a nice chat with us, warned us about some of the local landowners being very annoyed and calling the police about people breaking access agreement. He
was very helpful and pointed us in the right direction to access the river.
To do so correctly there's a natural beach on coniston that you can get on
at. Don't go through the reed beds - they're a SSSI so should be avoided.
We parked in the first layby after Water Yeats, I don't think this is
necessarily the best or closest but there's an easy path to the river, quite
On the 28th January 2007 there were a couple of tree hazards, Firstly a
large tree has fallen from river right across the river. It blocked the way
completely forcing us to portage on the bank. A farmer noticed us doing so but didn't comment possibly as he saw the tree too. There were tractors parked by the tree so that may go shortly - it was fairly fresh. As far as we could tell its been blown over by the wind.
Secondly under one of the bridges near the end of the river there's a fallen tree blocked up against the bridge supports, with enough speed you can boof over the lowest section however as time progresses the tree may gather more parts and start damming the river. The tree isn't hugely thick so could be cut through if you took the tools with you. It's in an area that isn't really suited to a portage which could be an issue.
As far as I know the access agreement has not changed. Sorry if this is only a small detail to change but would save anyone who is wanting to know about access to the Crake a few phone calls.
Upper half of the crake, after 2 small drops approx 600m after the first
diagonal weir, after a tributary next to a farm (sorry description is rather
sketchy) there is a fallen tree covering the entire river. In high water
there is no way of avoiding it. A portage is a must as someone is going to
injure themselves badly, as to portage there are only a few small micro
eddys. Get out walk through a farmers field and enter again just above where the river takes 2 courses through trees. Stay river left. All was well after this.
Approximately 200m downstream of the usual get out at Spark Bridge a large tree trunk is blocking over three quarters of the river. Most of the river flow goes under and through the strainer. There is a small clear passage on far river left. The apparently clear passage on river Right is not clear! Easy portage on river left if you stop well before you see the strainer!
Approach with great care as it appears as you round the first bend in the lower section of the river. I will be trying to recover my boat as soon as the water level drops off a bit, if anyone else gets it sooner please contact me on the phone numbers written in the boat.
I think I read this boat has now been recovered and returned? Please correct me if I'm wrong.