GUIDE TO THE RIVER WHARFE
(Ilkley to Otley)
NAME OF RIVER: Wharfe
WHERE IS IT?: West Yorkshire. Ilkley To Otley. Map: Os Explorer 297 Lower Wharfdale and Washburn Valley.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put In - Numerous places available in Ilkley. Easiest at Stepping Stones River Left GR: SE 133 483 (Multimap). Parking for up to about 6 cars so try to leave more cars in Otley where there is ample parking. Take out - Otley, Just after Road bridge before weir on River Left, SE 201 459. Parking at Public Toilets adjacent to weir on River Left on B6451. If you cant park there, try the road on the river right down from the Cafe at the bridge in Otley. Access on river right is via small steps described in the water level indicator.
APPROX LENGTH: 11km From Stepping stones To Otley.Add 2 Km if starting from middle of Ilkley
TIME NEEDED: Approx 3 hours(done in Just under three open boating alone)
ACCESS HASSLES: As far As I know, no negotiated access exists. I have met literally dozens of fishermen who have all been friendly. I have never been challenged over access. In fact, while getting out in Otley, I returned to get my boat to find an nice old lady Guarding it for me! She was worried someone would steal it!
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Don't paddle when low, as for the rest of the wharf it will too shallow in places to get down and no fun. For a gauge, when you go to Otley, first stop on the river right and look for the steps into the river just down from the Cafe at the bridge(good Cafe!). Count the steps. 9 showing is a good level. More than 10 is probably too low. Less than 9 is getting high, 4 or less is tanking and will require some thinking.
GRADING: 2 (with one almighty weir that would be 4+/5-?)
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: A whopper of a stepped weir at Greenholme Farm. GR: SE 165 474. You hear it before you see it. Get out to inspect/portage River Left. I have never run it. Folk probably have but I've only ever been near it alone in my Prospector and quite frankly I didn't fancy it at the time!. Easy portage river left (Note! Reported in March 2021 that there are "barb-wires fencing and dozens of private no entry signs at the traditional portage on the north bank around the Greenholme Weir") . Grade 2 immediately below Weir that will be a scrape in low to mid water.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: This trip lends itself more to the Open Boater than kayaker although it would still hold interest for the novice kayaker. This is a good easy stretch of river with seemingly no access problems and plenty of interest. I have done this several times getting in at either Bolton Bridge or Just below the giant canoe gobbling G5+ weir at Addingham on Old Lane. Here it is described from the stepping stones in Ilkley as that is the easiest access in Ilkley. To link this to a trip from above Ilkley, there are only a few small g1 and g2 rapids between Ilkley and the Stepping stones described here. You can put in below the stepping stones or above and shoot them. If you do shoot them, make sure you pick a gap big enough to get through! Don't pin! At higher water it is just one river wide wave to bob over as the stones wash out. Between here and Otley, apart from the giant weir described above, you will find numerous small rapids up to grade 2 that provide pleasant touring and a fine trip to get into journeying. I have seen numerous Red Kites that are starting to migrate up river from the Harewood area. Tons of other birdlife too. This would be a great trip for introducing novices to river journeying or just enjoying a pleasant river trip with no access issues! A rare beast indeed.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Matt Bibbings, Eric Peterson