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What are the Yorkshire Dales Rivers?

In our recent article about the main Yorkshire Rivers and how they can lead to flood damage, we mentioned that several of them originate as Yorkshire Dales Rivers, on high ground before flowing through the Yorkshire Regions towns and cities. In this article we focus on those Yorkshire Dales rivers, many of which are famous in the region (in fact giving their names to many places too).

You can see on this map of Yorkshire Dales Rivers which also shows the local National Parks in Yorkshire – including the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and Peak District National Parks:

Yorkshire Dales Rivers Map and Guide
Yorkshire Dales Rivers Map

What River Runs Through The Yorkshire Dales?

As you can see, the three main rivers flowing through the Yorkshire Dales are the River Swale, River Ure, River Nidd and River Wharfe. The Swale and Ure combine to become the River Ouse, just to the west of York. All of these rivers collectively fall under the responsibility of the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, who are a charity who help to protect and improve those rivers and their catchment areas, which are significant.

As you’ll see below, several of these Yorkshire Dales Rivers come from other streams and becks in the region. Some of these stats are courtesy of the List of Yorkshire Rivers page on Wikipedia.

Here is a guide to each of those Yorkshire Dales Rivers:

The River Swale in Yorkshire – Guide

  • Overview – the River is the most northerly of these Yorkshire Dales rivers and flows from the North West, merging with the Ure to form the River Ouse which ultimately flows into the Humber Estuary near Hull in East Yorkshire. As you might expect, it is where Swaledale gets its name from which is a popular tourist location.
  • The Source of the River Swale – is located at the Confluence of Birkdale Beck and Great Sleddale Beck. A ‘confluence’ is where two bodies of water (becks, streams or rivers) join together to form one single flow / channel of water. As you can see from the map above, there are many for the Yorkshire Dales Rivers.
  • The End of the River Swale – the River Swale terminates at the River Ure west of York.
  • Locations on the River Swale – the main towns on the Swale are Catterick and Richmond.
  • The River Swale Length – is 117.8 kilometres or 73.2 miles long
  • River Swale Waterfalls – there are many, especially towards the head of the river, but some of the main ones are Wain Wath Force, Catrake Force, East Gill Force and Kisdon Force.
  • The River Swale Catchment Area – is 1,363 km² or 526 square miles. A river catchment area is basically the size of the area from which water flows into the river, as you can see the numbers are significant. The Yorkshire Dales itself is 2,179 km² or 841 square miles, which puts into perspective the catchment area. Clearly, the larger the catchment area, along with the amount of rain that falls etc will contribute to the amount of water flow.

Yorkshire Dales Rivers, streams and becks
Yorkshire Dales Rivers, streams and becks

The River Ure in Yorkshire – Guide

  • Overview – the River Ure is South of the Swale (which eventually flows into the Ure) and is the main river in Wensleydale, which unlike the other dales, is not named after the Yorkshire Dales rivers.
  • The Source of the River Ure – is located at Ure Head near Abbotside in Richmondshire
  • The End of the River Ure – at Cuddy Shaw, west of York where it’s renamed the River Ouse!
  • Locations on the River Ure– the main places on the Ure are Hawes, Aysgarth, Wensley (which gives the name Wensleydale), Middleham, Masham, Ripon, Boroughbridge and Aldwark.
  • The River Ure Length – is 119 kilometres or 74 miles long (the longest on this list!)
  • River Ure Waterfalls – there are many waterfalls on the Ure but by far the most famous is Aysgarth Falls (see picture below) which is a cascade of falls which have been a tourist attraction for many years.
  • The River Ure Catchment Area – is 914.6 km² or 353.1 square miles.

Yorkshire Dales Rivers - Aysgarth Falls
Yorkshire Dales Rivers – Aysgarth Falls

The River Nidd in Yorkshire – Guide

  • Overview – the River Nidd is South of the Ure, like some of the other Yorkshire Dales Rivers, it gives its name to the region of Nidderdale. Interestingly, it has dams along the route which form three reservoirs at Angram, Scar House and Gouthwaite, which are popular Yorkshire tourist destinations in their own right.
  • The Source of the River Nidd – is located at Nidd Heads on Great Whernside a fell in the dales
  • The End of the River Nidd – is at Nun Monkton, west of York where it meets the River Ouse.
  • Locations on the River Nidd– the main places on the Nidd are Lofthouse, Pateley Bridge, Glasshouses, Knaresborough (see picture below) Killinghall and Cattal
  • The River Nidd Length – is 94.54 kilometres or 58.7 miles long
  • River Nidd Waterfalls – the Nidd is less known for waterfalls but perhaps the most notable is the Nidd Falls, upstream from Lofthouse which is a picturesque spot.
  • The River Nidd Catchment Area – is 516 km² or 199 square miles.

River Nidd - Knaresborough, Yorkshire.
River Nidd – Knaresborough, Yorkshire.

The River Wharfe in Yorkshire – Guide

  • Overview – the River Wharfe is South of the Nidd. Again, like others it gives it’s name to the Wharfedale area. Interestingly, along much of its route, it forms the border between North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire.
  • The Source of the River Wharfe – is confluence of Greenfield and Oughtershaw Becks at Beckermonds in the Craven district of North Yorkshire.
  • The End of the River Wharfe – is at Cawood, it meets the River Ouse at ‘Wharfe’s Mouth’
  • Locations on the River Wharfe– there are many prominent locations along the River Wharfe, including – Grassington, Hebden, Bolton Abbey, Addingham, Ilkley, Burley in Wharfedale, Otley, Pool, Collingham, Wetherby, Boston Spa, Thorpe Arch, Tadcaster, Ulleskelf and Ryther.
  • The River Wharfe Length – is 97 kilometres or 60 miles long
  • River Wharfe Waterfalls – the Wharfe is famous for two sets of waterfalls, firstly ‘The Strid’ near Bolton Abbey, a set of rapids and dangerous stretch of the river (see the video below!) where unfortunately there have been fatalities. The other is Linton falls, close to the village of Linton, near Grassington.
  • The River Wharfe Catchment Area – is 818 km² or 316 square miles.

The River Wharfe in Yorkshire – ‘The Strid’

The River Ouse in Yorkshire – Guide

  • Overview – perhaps the most famous river on this list, it is the only one which isn’t strictly one of the Yorkshire Dales Rivers but it is formed by many that are, and as we saw earlier, comes under the remit of the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust. There are several ‘River Ouses’ in the UK, including the River Great Ouse central England. It is also somewhat infamous for flooding, in particular causing flood damage in York over the years.
  • The Source of the River Ouse – the Ouse it is actually a continuation of the River Ure, from earlier on this list. That said, this is contested as some suggest it is at the confluence of the River Swale and Ure.
  • The End of the River Ouse – at ‘Trent Falls’ which is actually the confluence of the Ouse and Trent, which flow into the River Humber to form the Humber Estuary near Hull in East Yorkshire.
  • Locations on the River Ouse – include York (most famously) and also where or main local office is based, we do a lot of leak detection in York. Other places include, Bishopthorpe, Naburn, Acaster Malbis, Cawood, Riccal, Barlby, Selby, Hook, Skelton, Goole, Swinefleet and Ousefleet. To find out more about the city centre of York and the River Ouse, check out our article about York’s Main Bridges. We also have a really interesting article about the Viking Recorder river level monitoring station, located on the Ouse in York.
  • The River Ouse Length – is 84 kilometres or 52 miles long (actually the shortest on this list)
  • River Ouse Waterfalls – the River Ouse is not known for waterfalls, unlike others on this list. Mainly because it forms on flatter land (in the Vale of York) and continues that way until it reaches the Humber.
  • The River Ouse Catchment Area – is 3,315 km² or 1,280 square miles, easily the biggest on this list! This is in part because it is made up of catchments from other rivers on this list. You can see why it is famous for flooding, its catchment area is about 50% bigger than the entire Yorkshire Dales National Park!
  • We have more detail in our article showing the River Ouse Map, we have also written a separate article about the River Foss in York, which shows its route, source and destination.

To find out more about more places where these and other rivers meet, see our article on confluences. Plus, on the subject of flood damage in York on the River Ouse, checkout our article showing York Flood Maps

We are experts in dealing with flood water damage for people in the York and Yorkshire Coast area, so if you have been flooded, please contact our friendly team to arrange for help and guidance. We also deal with water leaks in Yorkshire homes and businesses. As you might expect, many of our customers get their water supply from Yorkshire Water who collects, treats and supplies water from some of the rivers of Yorkshire above to supply to their network of customers across Yorkshire. Here are the local areas we cover.

Top Tip
When looking to buy a house that is located close to a river or waterway, such as Yorkshire Dales Rivers, always check out your flood risk before you decide to buy the property. Check historical flood records.”

Leak Detection Team

We hope you found our guide to the Yorkshire Dales Rivers useful and informative. The whole area is very beautiful and the Yorkshire Dales Rivers help to contribute to that beauty. But as we have seen, they do carry risks so if you are exploring or visiting the areas, do please take care.

At Rainbow Restoration – York & Yorkshire Coast we are experts in Leak Detection and Water Damage Restoration, so if you need help finding a water leak or getting your property back to normal after a leak or flood, get in touch with our friendly local team who will be happy to help you with this.

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What is the Yorkshire Dales famous for?

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The Yorkshire Dales is famous for it’s stunning and varied scenery across the region it covers. Because of the large area it covers and the variety, including a number of picturesque towns, villages, rivers, hills etc – there is plenty of things to see. Some of the most popular attractions in the Yorkshire Dales include – Malham Cove, The Three Peaks, Aysgarth Falls, The Wensleydale Cheese Factory and more!

Which is the best part of the Yorkshire Dales?

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The best part of the Yorkshire Dales will depend on what you like as a person. There are rivers, lakes, villages, market towns, walks, hills and more. And so there is something to cater for a variety of people and preferences. Perhaps one of the most famous parts of the dales is Wensleydale which of course is famous for it’s chees (thanks in part to Wallace & Gromit!).

How many Yorkshire Dales rivers are there?

There are many rivers and streams across the Yorkshire dales, but if we are to count the major Yorkshire Dales rivers then there are 4 main ones, the River Swale, River Ure, River Nidd and River Wharfe. All of these rivers eventually flow into the River Ouse, past the city of York and eventually into the River Humber Estuary on the Yorkshire Coast south of Hull / Humberside across to Spurn Point and North of places like Grimsby and Scunthorpe.