GUIDE TO THE RIVER DART
(River Dart below Totnes)
NAME OF RIVER: Dart.
WHERE IS IT?: This is the bit beyond where the current river guide finishes!
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: From the section above...
1. Continue trip beyond Totnes (as already described on site).
2. Steamer Quay car park - signposted in Totnes. Pay and display car park by Totnes Rowing Club. Slipway + steps.
3. Stoke Gabriel car park. Follow signs to the river. Pay parking.
4. Galmpton Creek. MDL (boatyard) have a car park and if you are discreet they may not notice you slipping in by a ruined slipway. Don't try to go into the boat yard. They will charge at least 15 quid!
5. Kingswear slipway. Follow road as if you are going to use ferry to Dartmouth but at the last moment take a small turning on the left. A little slipway will appear between two houses. Watch out for fast currents and the ferry. No parking so need to drop off boats and park at Kingswear Marina (2 a day).
6. Dartmouth slipway. This is where the Higher Ferry comes in and out. Need to park on street or in town. Drop boats off first. At mid tide when the ebb or flood is running well the ferry kicks up waves big enough to surf a sea kayak on.
7 . Dittisham: either by the pub, follow the road all the way down to the water, drop off and find parking. Can park at foreshore until high tide OR follow signs to Dittisham sailing Club where there is a small car park abd launching across the foreshore.
8. Look at the map. The western shore has a couple of places where the road comes down to the water. No parking but if you have someone doing a shuttle...?
APPROX LENGTH: 8 miles by the shortest route (cutting all corners) from Totnes to Dartmouth (next to the sea).
TIME NEEDED: Takes me 2 hrs in sea kayak without stopping and 3 hrs in longish white water boat (Master).
ACCESS HASSLES: Technically Dart Harbour should charge but they have never bothered me or anyone else for some years. Keep a low profile!
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Tide tables. It can be done at any tide level but its easier if you are going with the tide.
GRADING: Estuary conditions.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: On spring tides with strong winds expect waves up to 1m (1.5 in F7+) which are steep and breaking.
Fast tides (4 knts which is as fast as most people can paddle)on springs can sweep you past your intended destination.
Ferry boats are restricted by their draught and will not try to avoid you. Stay clear. Chain ferry at Dartmouth can't stop!
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Can be paddled in either direction depending on which way tide goes.Some people like to start at the sea in a busy port (Dartmouth) and paddle up increasingly wooded steep hillside fringed river unttil reaching trendy, alternative Totnes.
Equally: begin in the heart of the Devon countryside and finish at the sea.
Leaving Totnes (the usual way is downstream) the river is straight for a mile and then begins to meander. Scenery is good. The river widens at Bow Creek and more river traffic will be seen. The next section is wide (up to a mile) and can be rough. There is a river side pub at Dittisham (6 miles and river right). After passing through the narrows below Dittisham - fastest tides here, with whirlpools at times!) the river is much narrower than before all the way to Dartmouth. The Higher Ferry is the first landmark - keep clear of the front but play on the surf waves behind. Then comes the Lower Ferry. You can get out just below the Lower Ferry at a hidden, tiny slip on river left.
Alternatively continue on to the mouth of the river. Look right to Start Point (3 miles). Waves up to 4 metres every day as the tide squeezes past and throws up pressure waves! Look left to follow the coast to Brixham and Torbay.Stunning views. In times of flood with a spring tide ebbing and strong southerly winds, standing waves of 3-4 metres can form here. Some people have surfed them. Good risk of being washed out to sea though.
OTHER NOTES: I love this section - especially in the winter when it is deserted except for seals and dolphins and birds.