The Bolton Strid: The Most Dangerous River In The World?

Bolton Strid looks deceivingly calm on the surface.
Bolton Strid looks deceivingly calm on the surface.

River Wharfe flows for 65 miles from the confluence of Green Field Beck and Oughtershaw Beck at the Yorkshire Dales National Park to meet River Ouse near Cawood. It forms the natural boundary between North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire, and snakes along the floor of the Wharfedale Valley. The river not only provides water for domestic, commercial, and irrigation purposes, but it has also been dammed for the production of hydroelectric power. The river currently supports large-scale farming, but from the 17th to the 19th centuries it supplied water to the lead mines. It also supports tourism that has opened up the otherwise rural economy of Wharfedale. Every year, hundreds of tourists arrived from across the country to experience the natural environment and engage in social activities along the banks of the river. More than 200 species of birds have been sighted along the river valley including stonechat, common sandpiper, and golden plover. The river provides a habitat for signal crayfish, but the few white-clawed crayfish are under threat from pollution and overfishing.

The Lethal Bolton Strid

The Bolton Strid is a narrow section of the River Wharfe in Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire, England. It is a picturesque stretch that appears modest and calm. This section of the river is so narrow that visitors can jump from one bank to the other. The stretch also seems shallow that tourists are often tempted to swim or take a curious dive into the water. The locals even believe that the name “strid” was derived from “stride.”

However, beneath the calm waters lie death traps that have claimed lives or left horrible memories to those that were lucky enough to survive. The Bolton Strid is narrow, not because the water flows off course but because the river changes orientation and begins to flow vertically instead of horizontally, resulting in deceptively deep and powerful river currents. Deep caves and tunnels create a void where people and debris are trapped. The strid has claimed lives for centuries, but it is still a popular destination for hikers and adventure seekers. In 1998 a couple died while taking a walk along the river bank when the water level rose by over five feet in less than a minute, and in 2010 a young boy died after he slipped and fell into the river. These incidents have given the river its perilous reputation. 


More in Environment