GUIDE TO THE RIVER TEES
(High Force to Wynch Bridge)
NAME OF RIVER: Tees.
WHERE IS IT?: In Teesdale!
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Start below High Force (NY880283); if you can get down that path without being shouted at or follow the other one a bit further downstream, see below. Take out at Wynch Bridge (NY904278) or a few hundred metres below. The road is some distance from the river on river left.
APPROX LENGTH: 2.5 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 1-2 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: The access for this section is controlled by the Raby Estate. They ask you to pay around £3 at the gift shop next to the High Force Hotel to be "allowed" on the river - paddlers should make their own decisions about this, but its is a small price to pay for hassle-free use of a quality section, even if it does grate with current access thinking.
Jim Wallis adds...'Last time we tried to get access at High Force (probably 5+ years ago now), we were told that our £3 only covered access to the river via the public footpath, which joins the river just round the corner and out of sight of High Force. They were wanting to charge us another £2 to use the tourist path down to the fall itself. Now £5 in access charges is pretty steep for a university trip, especially when we used to charge £5 all in for the day (to cover petrol, the AU paid for the bus), which is why to my knowledge there hasn't been an "official" NUCC trip since.'
Tim Wheeler adds...'The extra charge does apply, non paddlers are charged for walking down the path to view the falls. By accessing off the footpath you miss nothing other than the view.'
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: It's almost all paddleable in lowish levels, but it can take huge amounts of water and still be paddleable...indeed, there regularly are huge amounts of water in this river!
Use the EA gauge at Middleton here which is just downstream of this section. Calibrations are roughly:
Very High: 1.20m
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: This section high up the Tees is an excellent grade IV paddle in most water conditions, the get in for which is BELOW High Force!
The main rapid is the S-Bend (also known as, the 'Dogleg' or 'Salmon Leap Falls') which is class IV. In low water it is a twisting channel with a few drops in it (beware the vertical pinning spot on river left on the first drop). In high water it all gets much more entertaining and becomes much more continuous as opposed to pool drop with a variety of lines now available. It is generally not a bad idea to set up a few throwbags on this section.
Tom Trent adds...(21/2/00) 'One lad got tangled up a bit in an old throwbag after the second drop on the S-bends. It was underwater in the river right eddy. This was in December last year, but might be worth mentioning!'
A few hundred metres after the S-Bend is Low Force. Here there are two drops - the small Horseshoe Fall and the very photogenic Low Force - a fun 10 foot waterfall. The Horseshoe fall has a nasty towback and does hold swimmers, even in low water. I've also seen it mystery move Stunt Bats when in flood so beware. Low Force is great fun and I have run it in low water (easy) and very high water (long, long inspection, plenty of umming and ahhing and some unusually brown trousers!). In high water there is a lot that could go wrong. The normal line is off the fall on river right, but a harder line (grade 5?) is possible down the shoot on the extreme left. The get out is below Wynch Bridge after one final rapid. This is the footbridge in sight of Low Force. Carry over the field on the left bank to the road. Watch out though as cars have been broken into in the layby here.
Jim Pullen notes 'After years of chin-stroking I got round to running the river left-line. It never looks nice, but I've run it several times at various levels with no issue. It's known by some as the jacuzzi-shoot due to the tenancy to end up neck high in bubbly water!'
You can also carry on a few hundred metres downstream and run some more Grade 3 falls, a section worth doing if you've come that far.
Bob Evans adds....'In very high water levels two extra drops on the upper Tees become available. 1. Just before Salmon Leap Falls on river right a short narrow drop is formed. Get out river right before Salmon Leap to inspect. The drop is tight and bouncy but fairly straightforward and a fun III-IV. Carry boat back up to top and repeat! or walk back upstream on main river a few metres to allow ferry and line for salmon leap falls (Salmon Leap Falls is another name for the S-bend rapid). 2. After Low Force on river left, a more easily visible 2 metre drop forms at medium-high water levels. Shooting this drop is fairly straightforward with a deep enough plunge pool. Access is gained via a short climb after shooting Low Force.'
OTHER NOTES: Below here is a Grade 2 section with weirs.
Consider paddling one of the Tees tributaries if the river is really up, for instance the River Greta, Whorlton Beck or Eggleston Burn. Perhaps the best other whitewater sections of the Tees are either from Middleton in Teesdale or Whorlton Lido. If you're mad, consider Cauldron Snout.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mike Redding, Jim Wallis, Bob Evans, Tim Wheeler, Frazer Pearce, BUCC, Mark Rainsley and Jim Pullen.
The location is a SSSI and obviously they want to protect the area, while providing us with access to the white water.
As paddlers we need to be getting out just below Low Force as indicated and if you do want to paddle Wynch Bridge rapid then we need to be getting out at Scoberry Bridge.
We have also amended our Video River Guide to reflect this information.
Using all those hours worth of footage, we've tried to make some useful River Guide videos. Very much a work in progress, but thought someone may find them useful.
This is the link to the High Force to Wynch Bridge video