(Tavistock Canal)

NAME OF RIVER: Tavy...sort of. This is a canal which flows from the River Tavy, opened in 1805. The fact that it flows was enough for it to be included!

WHERE IS IT?: On west Dartmoor, flowing from the main River Tavy at Tavistock. A small fast flowing canal joining Tavistock and Morwhellam (on the Tamar). Take out at Morwhellam (see below).

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Tavistock, joining the canal from the large car-park in the centre of town. The journey can be started closer to the tunnel by joining from a small side road 2 miles out of Tavistock.


TIME NEEDED: Unknown. Best tell someone where you are going...

ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown whether this is permitted. Proceed with caution.


GRADING: Flat but flowing.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The last 1 1/2 miles are underground through a small tunnel bored into a hillside. Headtorches needed! Helmets too due to low ceilings.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Initially a 4-5 yard wide and 2 feet deep canal. Fairly fast flowing, but it is possible to paddle against the flow.

Two miles from Tavistock the canal goes over a small aqueduct, and then curves round to enter the hillside in an 8ft wide tunnel. Paddling is possible, but it is easier to push off the tunnel sides. Helmets and torches are advisable, and note trhat there are metal gates at both ends of the tunnel, so make sure the exit gate is unlocked before you enter at the top end.

After approx 1 1/2 miles the canal emerges above Morwhellam. It can be followed down through 2 small weirs and 2 more tunnels into a large stilling pond. From here the inclined plane once used to lower barges to the Tamar 200ft below can be seen. The water disappears through a pipe to a generating station and then into the Tamar. Exit. A portage onto the Tamar is possible but very strenuous. Alternatively leave vehicles on the road to Morwhellam. A small road off to the right halfway down the hill leads to the canal.

Further info and pictures

OTHER NOTES: No idea if this has been paddled since the 1980's or indeed if it is still possible.

This canal is of historical interest. Try for some useful info.

If you've found your way here searching for more 'conventional' canals, unfortunately these aren't usually included in this website. This one was included as it's unusual and flows strongly. Try for detailed canal guides.

Luke and Stu (2008) ...'We put in near Wheal Crebor farm, parking up a small unmade track across the road from the sewerage works, easilydriven in a FWD car when it was quite damp, take the left track! All the people we met on the way were happy to see us! Very low bridges, you'll have to get out at a couple and carry your craft around them. The tunnel could be a major hazard, I think that it might be impossible in a kayak as a stretch of the roof is shored up with a modern concrete structure, we had to lay down in our canoe to get through, I suppose that you could get out, swim and get back in, but it is a rocky hole in the ground with a brisk flow of water going through it! There may also be water draining into the tunnel at varying rates through the air vents and the mines that intersect the tunnel, dependant on recent rain fall?? We also encountered a slight blockage of debris in the tunnel, it's as dark a place as you'll ever encounter. Check the gates are open! I doubt you could turn or paddle back up, its really narrow in places! We had an out board motor and it was a proper game getting back up! Canoeing the tunnel is an awesome thing to do, but be careful!'

CONTRIBUTED BY: Simon Dawson,, also Luke and Stu.