(Halton Rapids)


WHERE IS IT?: It flows down from the Pennines and Eastern Lake District towards Lancaster, beside the M6 for some way. This stretch is just outside Lancaster near junction 34 of the M6.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Coming up the river from the motorway or Lancaster, drive a couple of miles up the A683 until you see a little steep lane dropping down towards the river on your left. Negotiate this lane and at the bottom you will find a large former railway station; now used by Lancaster Uni Canoeing and Rowing Clubs as a Boathouse. Park in the large carpark here (SD 503645).

To get to the top of Halton rapids, either walk up the disused railway track for several hundred metres or more sensibly, access the river upstream of the weir beside the carpark and paddle up as far as you can get.


TIME NEEDED: As long as you need to play!

ACCESS HASSLES: The BCU LRA for Halton Rapids is Pam Green, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The old-style access agreement "permitted" paddling during the fishing close season and between 16th-31st March with written "permission" from the water baliff via the LRA. There are negotiations/payments currently being made to the landowners neighbouring the rapids for establishing shower and changing facilities on the North Bank see here for the latest updates.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Can be paddled at all times, indeed all year around. Look at the weir beside the carpark. If water is just flowing through the several metre wide gap in the centre, it's very low and rocky. Usually water is flowing over the centre channel, but when this is beginning to reach the top of the stone walls to the side, it's high. When water is flowing over all of the walls, it's very high. If the whole thing is a closed out bank to bank flow with dead sheep recirculating in the towback, it's in spate.

Rarely, the river floods the Boathouse! On one occasion we visited the Boathouse and found a tree left draped OVER the bridge.

Rob Byrne...'On the point of water levels, I think that it is best to...

a) Walk upstream on the footpath and look at the rapids from there, bearing in mind the height you're at and work out where not to go.

b) It's also a good idea to pick a marker on the water to gauge the levels; the levels can rise and it's worth getting out on the sandy banks a while upstream of the weir to save a trashing. In high water (ie. water flowing well over the ledges at the side of the weir) its also worth carrying down to beside the river and walking up as far as possible to save the paddling. I personally think that the best level is when water is a couple of centimetres off flowing over the ledge at the side of the weir; the holes are not too munchy, there are some good waves and it's possible to get onto the waves!'

GRADING: Grade 3. Grade 3+/4 in spate.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Stone ledges forming massive holes in spate. Weirs.

Hydro power intake above the weir - seriously dangerous if you're in the wrong place - see this thread 

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: You will have to carry/ ferry glide in order to reach the top of the rapid. You are not supposed to go as far as the top weir as it will interfere with the equipment there which counts fish. Put in at the first rock wall below.

Halton rapids is several hundred metres long and is formed by a series of large stone walls sticking out into the flow. In normal flows, it is an excellent training ground for novices and intermediates to whitewater. Plenty of small waves, eddies and holes to play with. Novices can practise at the bottom, more experienced paddlers can move upstream, etc.

Halton Rapids becomes more lively as the water rises and becomes remarkably powerful. The stone walls generate huge stoppers which need some dodging...they are almost certainly not playspots! In spate some epic surf waves appear but you cannot consider going near the stoppers...obviously for experienced paddlers only.

Below the rapids is another few hundred metres of flat water below the Boathouse weir. Make sure you get out on the left well above the weir. Although the weir is pleasant to play in at lowish levels (allegedly) paddling it, or paddling between this weir and the bridge just below is (ridiculously) strictly forbidden.

Pictures of Halton Rapids

You may wish to paddle on downstream into Lancaster and the Lune Estuary.

OTHER NOTES: There is plenty of river upstream which I have not paddled...anyone have knowledge of it?

Near Sedbergh is a classic section of grade 3 paddling.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley and Rob Byrne.