(Cadover Bridge to Shaugh Bridge)


WHERE IS IT?: South Dartmoor, not so far from Plymouth!

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put-in is at Cadover Bridge (SX 556646) and this upper section finishes at Shaugh Bridge (SX 533637). Vehicular access to the put-in and take-out points is good, but these are the only places to join or leave the river. Sadly, there have been many break-ins to cars parked at Shaugh Bridge, so do not leave valuables in a visible position in your car.

APPROX LENGTH: Cadover - Shaugh Bridge: 3kms. Vertical drop: Cadover - Shaugh Bridge: 110 metres.

TIME NEEDED: At the very least two hours for the upper section...although local experts 'race' it in under 30 minutes...hardcore!

ACCESS HASSLES:  The land on both sides of the top section is National Trust property and they have no objection to canoeing as long as it does not cause disturbance or undue environmental impact. The river is only suitable for small groups. The fishing close season is 16th December until 31st March.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Water level is best judged at Shaugh Bridge; at low levels the lower section is very tight and technical, and the upper section pretty much unpaddleable. At high water levels both sections are exciting. In spate the upper section is extremely serious, and inadvisable unless you are carrying full whitewater emergency kit and know how to use it.

If most/ all rocks above Shaugh Bridge are covered, the river upstream will be extremely difficult; perhaps best left alone?

GRADING: The difficulty is directly linked to the water level...Grade 4 in low paddleable levels, continuous Grade 5 in flood, reaching Grade 6 in really high levels.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Very dangerous, with potentially lethal pin-spots, siphons, trees and stoppers. After heavy or prolonged rain the river can rise several feet in a couple of hours, and the speed and force of the water becomes colossal. There is usually wood and other debris littering the river, and this could form lethal obstructions on any of the numerous small drops. Inspection is not difficult, but because there are so many drops per mile you can get cold and tired trying to cover them all, and it will take you ages to complete the section.

Dr Paul (Nov 2006) ...'During winter of 04/05 it seems that something changed in the nature of 'the slot' ie the final hard rapid just below Dewerstone. It is well known that water sumps under the large rock, on river left, that guards the rapids exit. It has always been easy to run either a fully river right line or left line passing easily past the opening to sump. Over a short period of time several boaters, including Plym regulars ended up being forced dramtically right to left into the sump regardless of their initial trajectory, requiring extracation {or a scary swim through the sump in one case}. It seems likley that some smaller boulders have moved down onto the upstream side of the central rock, pushing most of flow hard left, regardless of water-level. This is potentially now a really serious issue as lots of timber can collect in this sump so make a thorough assessment before electing to run this drop and consider adequately protecting the sump.'

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The Plym at Cadover Bridge is an unimpressive flat, bouldery stream, but a little further on it enters a gorge and the volume and difficulty increase. The paddling becomes extremely technical, and the gradient is colossal. Below the Dewerstone the gradient begins to ease, and a little way below Shaugh Prior and the Meavy confluence it flattens off dramatically.

Cadover Bridge (SX 556646). Put in at the car park, which is right next to the river, having first walked a few hundred metres down stream to see what you are letting yourself in for. Just below the start are a couple of easy drops and rapids, followed by a flat section.

After this it gets hard, being extremely technical and steep and becoming ever more continuous. There is a serious danger of pinning in many places. In medium/high flow it is a fairly committing grade 4; in flood much of it is continuous grade 5 and very dangerous, with potentially lethal pin-spots, siphons, trees and stoppers. After heavy or prolonged rain the river can rise several feet in a couple of hours, and the speed and force of the water becomes colossal. There is usually wood and other debris littering the river, and this could form lethal obstructions on any of the numerous small drops. Inspection is not difficult, but because there are so many drops per mile you can get cold and tired trying to cover them all, and it will take you ages to complete the section. Hopefully this doesn't put you off!

Two falls to look out for are a long Grade 4 boulder garden which ends by feeding right under a big undercut rock, and a riverwide ledge fall with a shallow landing. But there is plenty more!

A detailed description is pointless. You will probably recognise the Pinball rapid which drops off to the right and is shortly followed by a sticky riverwide hole.

The last difficult 'slot' rapid is just downstream of the Dewerstone (SX 537638).

From here on the gradient is much less steep. Take out at the car park upstream of Shaugh Bridge.

If you attempt this section in high water levels, please take it seriously. Although only two miles long, it seems much longer and can take several hours to complete. Short boats are best and elbow pads make sense too. Expect to damage your boat, or yourself and you'll be in the right frame of mind. In an emergency the nearest houses are at Shaugh Prior; go downstream on the river right bank, then left at the road. Nearest 24 hour casualty department is at Derriford (SX 499595).

To summarise...

1. Three easy drops.

2. Ledges! Ledges! Ledges!

3. Ledges! With boulders!

4. Boulders! Boulders! Boulders!

5. Portage!

6. Boulders!

7. Breathe!

OTHER NOTES: Consider continuing down on the easier but enjoyable lower section?

CONTRIBUTED BY: Written by Bill Mattos. Additions by Adam Box, Simon Westgarth, Dr Paul and Mark Rainsley.



Community Forum Comments on this Article
Re: River Plym - Cadover Bridge to Shaugh Bridge -- Simon Westgarth
2015 Nov 17 08:12:41 PM
Here's a guide book write up from the early 90's by John Allen. John recalls thinking the names were made up jointly by myself, Mark Potts, and possibly Bob Bowman from the Navy and around 1991/2 when we were paddling manically several times a week. Many of the names were name up to entice John's wife onto the run with less macho names being sort after. Sadly this tactic was not enough to have Penny on this fabled run, although she still styles the Upper Dart regularly over the autumn/winter season. What is really interesting is the tone of words still befit this classic & committing Dartmoor run, even after almost 25 years.

Guide by John Allan (


Distance]Crash, Bang and Wallop[/b], to a long pool and a sharp left hand bend. Here is a small easy boulder field. If you can't float through it easily then the river is too low!, and if you found this section too hard and scary, get off!! - This is only the warm up!!

After this the river flows steadily for approx 300m with small drops and rapids, until a series of rapids formed by slabs. The first of these, 'L' Plate, drops into a narrow chute and turns right to avoid a boulder, this is the sight of many a pin, or hiccup!

Primrose Falls is the largest single drop at 8ft and is normally shot on the left except in high water, when it is best to avoid the stopper.

After numerous slab type rapids Fourth Avenue, a large boulder field appears, this has an intricate route and often catches trees. Inspection recommended. At present a large tree after, on the left enforces a portage in high water.

The next boulder field has 2 obvious high boulders, Hell's Gate, followed by a long gradual slab.

The third major boulder field, Harbour rapid, must be followed round to the right into a small harbour, straight on has a potential for a bad pin. From the harbour awkwardly pull out to the left and drop down the boulders behind the main river line obstruction.

Continue for another 200m, with sustained difficulty, until the river veers right, with a small rocky island on the inside of the bend. Pinball Wizard follows and is a series of steep, boulder drops which slam you hard into several rocks, and then continues down through a narrow section with small cliff on right. Rest after the cliff.

Dewerstone Rapids, continue to the Dewerstone climbing area on the right.

Immediately after the Dewerstone, the river flows to the left and then after 150m, hard right. This marks the start of ‘The Slot’. Inspection recommended. Go down the long fast ramp, with stoppers, and take the narrow slot on the right complete with bruised knuckles. To go left risks an undercut boulder on the left bank.

From this point the river eases off, but is continuous grade IV. Get out on the left immediately after the footbridge.

For myself the warm up drops Crash, Bang and Wallop set the tone for this run, whilst 'L' Plate is an obvious name and yet unknown to myself for one of the drops leading into 'Primrose Falls. Trees often blight the exit on both 'Four Avenue and the (Hells) Gates. Harbour has become Little Harbour over the years, with a recent twist on 'Pinball Wizard being Plym Ball Wizard. Matters easy off when the Dewerstone Rock comes into view. The approach to the Slot being almost tree infested, whilst a significant change in 2008 at the Slot, means that half the river now cut under a river left rock to form a syphon and is rarely run these days.
Re: RIVER PLYM (Cadover Bridge to Shaugh Bridge) -- jmmoxon
2011 Sep 12 03:35:26 PM
There's another new tree blocking both channels on the run in to the siphon drop, didn't check any further upstream as we were climbing in the sunshine.

Re: RIVER PLYM (Cadover Bridge to Shaugh Bridge) -- jmmoxon
2011 Apr 25 08:49:45 PM
Climbing at the Dewerstone yesterday noticed a couple of new trees across most of river between there and the siphon.

Re: RIVER PLYM (Cadover Bridge to Shaugh Bridge) -- PAULB
2010 Nov 14 06:09:57 PM
Hi all went walking up the Plym valley today, stumbled across the official opening of the new footbridge at Shaugh. It looks like all the scaffolding/ netting has gone. Be careful in case there is any remnants in the river.
Re: RIVER PLYM (Cadover Bridge to Shaugh Bridge) -- jmmoxon
2010 Nov 08 11:24:00 PM
Had a couple of tree portages as it was dropping off today. There is an awkward branch in the middle of first pinball rapid & the tree pile (above) is now even bigger.

If there is big water watch out at Shaugh Prior as this scaffolding/catch nets could be interesting.#

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