GUIDE TO THE RIVER EAST DART
(Postbridge to Dartmeet)
NAME OF RIVER: East Dart.
WHERE IS IT?: This trip is high up on Dartmoor, flowing between Postbridge and Dartmeet.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: There are two possible starting points.
Postbridge (GR 647788) is the higher access point, with good parking beside a National Park Information Centre.
The second option is a start at Bellever Bridge (SX 658774) which is a quieter spot and misses out the awkward first kilometre. This trip ends at Dartmeet (SX 672732), where the river joins the West Dart to become the main River Dart, just downstream of the get-in for the Dartmeet section.
APPROX LENGTH: 7 km approx.
TIME NEEDED: 1 - 2 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: Paddling the West Dart or East Dart is seemingly not liked by the National Park or local Environment Agency officials. Of course, they have no legal jurisdiction over the navigation of Dartmoor's rivers whatsoever.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: It is only canoeable in near flood conditions. Although this can undoubtedly be paddled lower, it should be saved for high water conditions; partly to bring the rapids in condition, partly because paddling at low levels might affect spawning beds.
All rocks should be covered at Postbridge. Most or all rocks should be covered at Dartmeet.
GRADING: Mostly grade 2 with harder grade 3 sections.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Remote in places.
Wire fences crossing the river not far below the put-in. Trees.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Shortly below Postbridge, a strand of barbed wire across the river makes for a dubious warm-up. In the following hundred metres you are then strained through some awkward tree branches and under a low footbridge whilst negotiating steep grade 3 falls. The river soon overcomes its poor start and eases to grade 2 rapids interspersed with small weir ledges. The last makes a notable stopper and is just upstream of Bellever Bridge. If what has been described so far isn't your idea of fun, this is a good place to start your trip.
The river now flows through open moor on one bank and oddly, dense forestry plantation on the other. The continuous rapids frequently reach grade 3- and once the plantation is left behind, the river has more gradient and some great waves and stoppers to thrash through. A second plantation is reached, again on river right. The river enters its steepest section now with fast and furious grade 3. The good news is that this pretty much carries on, although the river widens and loses gradient just above the end. In December 2002 a single tree had fallen across the river a hundred metres upstream of Dartmeet.
OTHER NOTES: This is good fun, but in similar conditions the bigger West Dart is much more exciting.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Simon Dawson, www.simondawson.com from his 80's notes, rewritten by Mark Rainsley.