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Kayaking on River DartMany hundreds of people enjoy canoeing on Dartmoor each year, making it a popular destination for clubs from around the country.

Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) welcomes canoeists to Dartmoor who undertake their recreational activity in a responsible manner and continues to actively work with  Canoe England, riparian owners and fishing associations to facilitate access arrangements.  

The Authority has a duty to balance land and water-based recreational activities with the special qualities of national parks.  This is done through the promotion of codes of conduct via leaflets, website, information centres and the national park ranger service who are there to advise and assist the public.  No single recreational activity is considered more important than another.

The Authority follows the widely accepted and adopted position that there is no legal right to canoe on non tidal waters.  This is also the view held by the Environment Agency.  

However the Authority will continue to facilitate access arrangements with landowners and canoeists on Dartmoor rivers. We will also be looking at the potential to develop further canoeing opportunities within the national park as part of the implementation of our recreation strategy.  

Safety Advice for paddling Dartmoor rivers

  • never paddle on your own
  • paddle in small groups, keep together and look out for each other
  • make sure someone knows where you are and what time you are due back
  • ensure someone in your group is available call / meet police if a member of your party is overdue
  • canoe in daylight hours only (aim to be off the water at least 1 hour before dusk)
  • wear a buoyancy aid at all times
  • wear a helmet
  • keep away from weirs and sluices
  • make sure you are properly equipped for the water and weather conditions
  • be aware that rivers on Dartmoor can rise quickly after periods of rainfall
  • cover minor cuts and scratches with waterproof plasters before setting out
  • ensure that any abrasions received on or beside the water are washed under running tap water and covered with a waterproof dressing as soon as possible
  • avoid capsizing and try not to swallow river water
  • wear trainers or wet suit boots to avoid cutting your feet
  • wash hands before eating, drinking or smoking
  • do not drop litter or discard unwanted food – take your rubbish home with you
  • be aware of symptoms relating to waterborne illnesses such as Weil’s Diseases (Leptopsirosis) a bacterial infection carried in rat urine which contaminates water and river banks and leads to meningitis, jaundice and sometimes death.  If you do feel ill, particularly if you experience flu-like symptoms, tell your doctor that you have been canoeing

Abandoned or lost craft

Any abandoned craft which are reported to the Police have to be treated as an emergency and a search instigated. This often wastes valuable time and resources therefore, if you lose your boat and have safely come off the river please ensure the Police are immediately notified using the non emergency number 08452 777 444, providing:

  1. exact location - including river,
  2. canoe - colour make and type and any significant identification features
  3. canoeist details and contact numbers.

 Canoeist River Dart copyright Gordon Flower

Canoeing with Moor Care and Less Wear

As canoeing tends to be concentrated within short spells of time when the river conditions are right please make sure that you adopt the following code of conduct to ensure that canoeists continue to be welcome within the National Park.

Code of Conduct

  • Canoe only where there is are access arrangements in place
  • Use only permitted access and egress points and do not disembark at any other point, except in an emergency (not for lunch or to repeat any part of the river).
  • Take care when the ground is wet to minimise erosion to the river bank when entering or leaving the water.
  • Avoid sudden or excessive noise or unnecessary disturbance to bankside vegetation.
  • Show consideration for the local community and other National Park users when parking vehicles; do not obstruct gates and roads and avoid eroding the moor edge.
  • Keep away from banks where angling is taking place.
  • Canoe in small groups whenever possible and avoid loitering in pools if anyone is already fishing there.
  • Change clothing discreetly and with consideration for other users of the National Park.

Further Information

General and access enquiries:

Related Internet Links

Canoe England (external website, opens new window)
Dart Angling Association (external website, opens new window)
Environment Agency (external website, opens new window)

Dartmoor National Park Authority is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Page last updated: 23 Aug 2012