(Halton to Glasson Dock)


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

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. Upstream of this spot is Halton Rapids.

There are many possible takeouts around Lancaster, but the last one is at Glasson Dock just before the river enters Morecambe Bay. Glasson Dock can be reached by following the A588 south of Lancaster.

APPROX LENGTH: 10 miles.

TIME NEEDED: Three hours?

ACCESS HASSLES: Latest BCU access advice (Nov 2009) for the Lune can be found here. The current BCU Access Advisor is Mike Sunderland (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as of 4th January 2009)

This section is mostly tidal, so there should be a Right of Navigation at all times. Between the put-in and Skerton weir access is allowed year-round due to another Navigation precedent, the precise nature of which I can't remember at present!

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Can be paddled at all times, indeed all year around. In very high water it might be a good idea to avoid this trip, as Skerton Weir becomes lethal and hard to portage.

It would be a good idea to coordinate this trip with a falling tide.

Andrew Clough (May 2004)...'This can be a really dangerous weir. A friend of mine got stuck in the bottom drop and his new glass fibre slalom boat was smashed into pieces whilst her was still sat in it by the force of the water!!! He was washed out after a while, where he was swept up onto the island some 100 foot below, still sat in the remains of his boat!

The first and second drops however can make good playspots. That said, they are still serious due to the large powerful stoppers and eddyless banks that make swimming a non-option. A bombproof and quick roll are a must for anyone playing here unless they like getting spanked and/ or drowning.'

GRADING: Mostly flat, some grade 1 rapids through Lancaster at low tide. One huge and dangerous weir.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Skerton Weir. Tidal conditions and mud flats towards the end.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: An unusual but enjoyable trip. The really keen may wish to do a full circuit using the Lancaster Canal to return (I did this just once, never was I to know the canal through Lancaster would be drained for repairs?).

From the bridge at Halton, flat water leads down to the massive M6 bridge. You then pass a Territorial Army base, and enter the outskirts of Lancaster. You pass under the canal viaduct and then keep right as you are looking out for Skerton Weir.

When you reach Skerton Weir, it is possible to get out on the right. Portage on river right. This weir is massive and usually consists of an evil series of pourovers, some landing onto concrete ledges, some into huge stoppers. In very low summer levels we have paddled this weir which then makes an enjoyable but risky grade 4-ish run, but it certainly isn't a playspot. Lancaster Uni Rowing Club suffered a tragic fatality here in the late 1980's.

Below, the river flows (at low tide) over easy riffly rapids past Lancaster Quay (a visit to the Maritime Museum would make a good interlude) and out into the estuary. The estuary is somewhat featureless but quiet and teeming with birdlife. You will know you have reached the end when the river opens out and the high seawall of Glasson Dock appears on river right. Don't miss it, the next stop is the Isle of Man!

You will probably have an annoying struggle through mud and a bit of a clamber to get your boat up to the Quayside.

Trevor Morton reports on his trip - 'A group of us in Canoes (and a C2) did a slightly shortened version of the round trip starting and finishing at Glasson Dock, choosing to put on the canal on the South side of Lancaster (January 2010). Although the weather was beautiful and crisp, there was up to 1cm of ice on the canal. This, while fun at first and hugely entertaining to passers-by, made progress rather slow! Paddling through Lancaster to the Aqueduct took us around 45 minutes. The portage down to the river (and a nice stop for lunch) is down some fairly steep steps. A short paddle takes you to Skerton Weir. We portaged river Right by carefully lowering the boats down the dry face of the weir although there looked to be other ways down on the bank. Once below the weir and through Lancaster, quiet estuary paddling eventually leads to Glasson Dock. As you paddle out of Lancaster, power lines appear in the very distance. Once under these you are approaching the end. We landed in the mud opposite the free car park in Glasson, marked (from the river) by yacht masts in the marina across the road. Whilst the car park is an ideal place to leave a car with an honesty box, beware the barrier- only an empty car roof rack will fit under.

The trip is best timed with a falling tide-aim to be at the Aqueduct and on the river shortly after High Water Lancaster, see here. The flow will be at its swiftest 3-4 hours after as the tide recedes and most likely as you approach the end of the estuary (but should present no problems).

My advice- pick a nice day when the temperature is above zero and wear wellies...'

OTHER NOTES: Halton Rapids are well worth a visit and Skerton Weir can form a playspot in its own right. Near Sedbergh is a classic section of grade 3 paddling.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, Andy Clough and Trevor Morton.