GUIDE TO THE RIVER TEES
(Tees Barrage International White Water Centre)
See new official website here.
NAME OF RIVER: Tees Barrage International White Water Centre. If you want the real River Tees, click that link.
WHERE IS IT?: In Teesside. Follow the signs with a kayaker on from the A66.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: The Centre is at NZ460191. See below.
APPROX LENGTH: Technically infinite due to the conveyor belt! The long course is 300m and the short course is 95m.
TIME NEEDED: Until your arms drop off or they turn off the water!
ACCESS HASSLES: You have to pay!
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Levels are now controlled via the four massive Archimedes screws and change significantly depending on whether they're running, 2, 3 or 4 screws and whether both short and long courses are running or just one or the other.GRADING:2 - 3+.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Acid Drop (the last rapid on the long course) is very sticky at certain levels and the final drop on the short course would be counted as a notable rapid on any river!
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Nestling in the (ahem!) beautiful surroundings of Teesside is the Tees Barrage International White Water Centre. Here there is an artificial white water course, similar to the one at Nottingham but with the added bonus of water instead of sewage! The Centre is at Stockton-on-Tees, off the A66 just upstream of the A19 Tees Flyover. It is well sign-posted so you shouldn't have too many problems finding it. The introduction of the barrage has led to the Tees being quite clean (upstream of the barrage anyway!) and so you are unlikely to get ill from it (I've spoken to only two people who've got the river icks there) - I myself have never had any problems from it.
The running times of the course used to depend entirely on the height of the tide, however the upgrade changed all this with the introduction of the Archimedes screws which can now pump water whenever they wish. Upon reopening, times were 5-8pm Tue-Fri and 9-5pm on weekends. These may change - check the website for current times. There are also changing rooms, a cafe and a (much improved) canoeing shop on the site and they do boat hire too. Adult costs (Sept 2011) are £15 for the full day or £8.50 (£7.50 BCU-affiliated club member) for the last three hours.
At the entrance to the long course there is a lovely surf wave, which you can stay on all day long - hand surfs, paddle twirls the lot! The wave changes according to the flowrate - on two screws it's nice and glassy, but washes out with more water.
There's then a few small riffles before the first "proper" playspot, known as Happy Eater. It's very friendly and varies a lot depending on the volume of water. It's still a little shallow on two screws, but surfing, flat spins, etc are possible and deeper moves like cartwheels and loops may work in very short boats. When the volume cranks up, so does the depth, allowing most moves to those who can playboat! Eddy service is good on both sides, with a channel bringing you back round on river right.
A small wave with widened eddies follows, before the second notable playspot which used to be known as "Cruncher". Again, it varies depending on water levels and has good eddy service thanks to the pool formally known as Valentines and the river right channel. Most moves should again be possible, depending on levels.
Going round the corner, the course feels more like a grade three river with a series of small rapids in quick succession.
Below the bridge you come to the final rapid - known as "Acid Drop." This can vary from absolutely nothing to the most horrible, sticky, messy trashing spot known to man - all depending on water levels. If you're in a short boat with all four screws running and no water going down the short course, you could be in there sometime!
Then it's simply a matter of paddling to the end (avoiding the massive wave train if the short course is running!) and paddling up to the conveyor belt to run it all again!
The short course is on the right at the top of the conveyor belt and is opened by means of a river-wide hydraulic ram. It starts with a slope down onto a wave who's character varies depending on the level of the ram and the water volume.
Going under the bridge, there's a sticky hole which has playing potential and a wide pool to paddle back round in or eddy out before the final drop.
There's then a small stopper before the main event - a large sloping drop with a wall of water to meet you at the bottom and a wave train which will try and push you into the concrete walls opposite.
The short course has been designed to take up to 14 cumecs of water, which would make it the most powerful section of artificial white water in the UK. To date I've only paddled it on half that flow and that was pretty powerful! I'll be interested to get a full-flow run done!
OTHER NOTES: The course was rebuilt using the rapid-block system, meaning it can be altered relatively easily. As such features may change over time as the employees fiddle around with the set-up!
The TBIWWC's YouTube channel can be found here.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Original guide by Mike Redding, rewritten after the 2011 upgrade by Jim Pullen.