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What are the Main Yorkshire Rivers?

There are numerous Yorkshire Rivers which flow across the UK’s largest county running across across the Yorkshire countryside and through our major towns and cities. They are a big part of why those cities are there in the first place as historic settlers grew around those local locations.

You can see on this map of Yorkshire Rivers which can cause flood damage:

Yorkshire Rivers Map
Yorkshire Rivers Map

Here is a Yorkshire Rivers list, from North to South, then East to West:

  • The River Swale – flows from the North West, merging with the Ure to form the River Ouse
  • The River Ure – South of the Swale, flowing near Ripon before flowing into the Ouse
  • The River Nidd – South of the Ure flowing past Harrogate before also joining the River Ouse
  • The River Wharfe – south of the Nidd, past Ilkley and Wetherby before joining the Ouse
  • The River Aire – past Skipton area before passing through Leeds to merge with the Ouse
  • The River Calder – flowing near Halifax and Huddersfield before joining the Aire and Ouse
  • The River Don – flowing near Barnsley, then through Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster
  • The River Rother – which joins the River Don at Rotherham (hence the name!)
  • The River Ouse – famously flows through York before flowing to the Humber Estuary
  • The River Foss – York’s second, and smaller river, which joins the Ouse at York city centre
  • The River Derwent – flows through the North Yorkshire Moors to join the Ouse by Selby
  • The River Hull – which flows straight down through Hull into the Humber estuary

As you can see from the list and the map, a lot of the rivers start out as Yorkshire Dales Rivers, we’ll look at that more later to explain why it’s important regarding Yorkshire Rivers flooding.

As you can see from both the Yorkshire Rivers map above, and the notes after, a lot of the Rivers flow eastwards into the River Ouse, which then in turn flows into the Humber Estuary on the East Coast of Yorkshire. You can see this on our more detailed article about the River Ouse, including a River Ouse Map. We have also written an article on ‘Yorks second river’ the River Foss.

That list is by no means the full list of Yorkshire Rivers, there are other smaller ones, many of which flow into the larger rivers across the county. You can understand why they bring both beauty / scenery to the local region but also risk of flood water damage in Yorkshire, including in York where our main office is based.

Rivers in York - Flooding. Ouse and Foss, Yorkshire.
Rivers in York – Flooding. Ouse and Foss, Yorkshire.

Why is York so Prone to Flooding?

There are reasons why, of all Yorkshire Rivers, the River Ouse in York is famous for flooding:

  1. As we showed above, a lot of rivers flow into the River Ouse in York and these rivers combined cover a very large geographical area, in particular a lot of rain that falls in the Yorkshire Dales (which gets a lot of rain at high ground) eventually makes it way through York through the city centre. This brings us onto the next point…
  2. The city is built up around the river, channelling the river water through the city in very prominent locations. It is not unusual for the city centre in York to flood several times a year. However, in some respects, although it can look bad many of the riverside properties which are regularly affected are flood resilient and the homes and businesses by the River Ouse in York are used to flood clean-ups.
  3. Because of what we said in (1) above, the rain falls on hills in the Yorkshire Dales and around, because it is relatively fast moving (downhill) the water does not absorb into the ground as much and flows into streams and rivers around, converging on the River Ouse. Combined with that, some of those areas don’t have large amounts of trees to both slow the flow and absorb the water. The amount of farming in those areas contributes somewhat too, for the same reasons.
  4. York has two rivers that converge near to the city centre, namely the River Ouse and the River Foss (now famous for the Foss River Barrier). Not only does this mean a lot of water but also what happens in one river can affect the other. This most famously came to a head in the notorious York Boxing Day floods of 2015. Unfortunately the barrier, which was built in 1988 failed. This caused hundreds of houses to flood close to the city centre. Since then, it has been repaired and improved.
  5. Finally, as we said earlier in this article, several of the Yorkshire Rivers, including the River Ouse in York flow into the Humber Estuary. Because this is tidal, at high tide the water can push back and slow the flow of water out of the River Ouse. The further away you get from the less the affect bit it does impact it.

Yorkshire Dales - Rivers and Streams
Yorkshire Dales – Rivers and Streams.

We do a lot of water leak detection in York as well as water damage repairs, and many of those properties are in close proximity to the River Ouse. That said, the interesting thing about York is that, although it floods and hits the news headlines as doing so, it is not always as bad as people suggest. A good example of this is from a recent story on York Press, whereby they commented that a national newspaper had mentioned that the entire city of York was flooded, when in actual fact it was a relatively small area. Needless to say, people were not happy!

Flooding in York is often monitored by locals using data from the Viking Recorder river level monitoring station which is closest to the City Centre on the banks of the Ouse. On the subject of flooding in York, checkout our article showing York Flood Maps too.

River Foss Flood Barrier - York, Yorkshire
River Foss Flood Barrier – York, Yorkshire

Yorkshire Rivers Flooding

We’ve just mentioned about flooding in York on the River Ouse and Foss, but unfortunately, other areas of Yorkshire have suffered from flooding over the years, and ever more recently.

Here are a few examples of recent Yorkshire Rivers Flooding:

  • South Yorkshire Floods of 2019 – in November of that Year around a months worth of rainfall fell in a day, resulting in severe flooding in Doncaster, Sheffield and around including Fishlake which is a small village close to the River Don, having been relatively unknown before then, it became national news overnight. We ourselves helped a lot of people in Fishlake floods recover from their houses being flooded at that time, with extensive water damage restoration work in a number of houses in the area. Since then, the UK environment agency has invested in improving the flood prevention methods in the area, and as recently as this week (February 2022), despite new record river levels being set, the village faired far much better with minimal damage in comparison.
  • Snaith Area Flooding in 2020 – just a few months after the floods affecting South Yorkshire, including Fishlake, the area around Snaith (close to the River Aire) suffered major flooding, and like above, the area became national news. Places such as East Cowick, Hirst Courtney and Chappel Haddlesey were affected. This was another time that Yorkshire Rivers flooding hit the spotlight in the UK. Again, the Team at Rainbow Internaitional York and Yorkshire Coast were on hand to help.
  • Hull Floods of 2007 – perhaps the biggest flooding event of recent history affecting Yorkshire Rivers occurred in June 2007 when, along with other parts of the UK, the city of Hull was devastated by very severe flooding. It is believed that a staggering 7,000-to 8,000 houses were flooded and over a thousand buy businesses. Because of what we said earlier, with regard to the number of rivers that flow into the Humber Estuary and the tidal effects on the East Coast, Hull is one of the highest risk flood areas of Yorkshire and the UK. That said, since then, many millions of pounds has been spent improving the flood defences.

Yorkshire Rivers Flooding – Useful Resources

If you are interested in understanding more about Yorkshire Rivers flooding, here is a group of useful resources, provided by he GOV.UK website (Environment Agency), to check out to help that:

  1. Check Flood Risks for Yorkshire Rivers
  2. Check Flood Alerts for Yorkshire Rivers
  3. Flood Alerts Map for Yorkshire Rivers
  4. River Ouse Level in York – at Viking Recorder
  5. Levels for Yorkshire Rivers (and sea)

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
If you are in an area at risk of flooding, make sure you sign up for flood alert services provided by the Environment Agency and watch out for Weather Alerts from the Met office too.”

Leak Detection Team

We look at some of the places on the maps above in our article about Yorkshire River Confluences.

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 these associated water leak repair services.

Leak Detection Logo
Leak Detection Logo

What is a major river in Yorkshire England?

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There are many rivers in the Yorkshire region but the most famous major rivers include the River Ouse, River Swale, River Ure, River Nidd, River Wharfe, River Aire, River Calder, River Don and River Humber. Other Rivers include the River Derwent, Rother and Hull. Many of the rivers in Yorkshire flow towards the Humber Estuary near Hull and then into the North Sea on the East Coast of Yorkshire.

What river runs through Leeds?

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The river which runs through Leeds, West Yorkshire is the River Aire which flows from the West close to Skipton and Keighley before going through Leeds and onto Castleford. Beyond that it joins with the River Ouse near Goole before flowing into the Humber Estuary near Hull in East Yorkshire. This then flows into the North Sea.

How many rivers are in Yorkshire?

There are many rivers across Yorkshire, varying in scale and length, but if you just count the major Yorkshire rivers then there are 12 that fall into the main river catchment areas locally in the area. Many of these rivers flow through some of the biggest towns an cities in Yorkshire, including Leeds (River Aire), Sheffield (River Don), York (River Ouse) as they meander across the region. Mostly they head towards Hull and the Humber estuary on the Yorkshire coast into the North Sea.