What Is The Source Of The River Thames?

River Thames near Thames Head.

Flowing through the southern region of England concentrated in London, River Thames is not only the longest river wholly in England but also the UK's second longest river after River Severn. River Thames is 215 miles long and flows through the city of Oxford (where the river is known as Isis), the town of Reading, the town of Henley-on-Thames and the historic market town of Windsor. River Thames's lower reaches are known as the Tideway, a term derived from the fact that the river has a long tidal range extending to the Teddington Lock. The river rises in Gloucestershire at Thames Head before flowing into the North Sea through the Thames Estuary. River Thames drains the entire region of Greater London.

The Source Of The River Thames

Although the Thames Head, a site in Gloucestershire, is traditionally identified as the origin of the River Thames, the claim is, as of yet, a disputed one. Thames Head lies close to the town of Cirencester and the village of Kemble. The Source is elevated at the height of 360 feet above sea level. However, the Ordnance Survey and the Environment Agency claim that the Trewsbury Mead is the legitimate source of River Thames. Other sources claim that the Seven Springs, found in Gloucestershire about 11 miles further north lies the real source of River Thames. River Churn, whose source is officially the Seven Springs, is a tributary of River Thames joining the Thames at Cricklade. As the Seven Springs lies further from the mouth of River Thames than Trewsbury Mead, its adoption as the actual source would mean that the River Thames is the UK's longest river.

An Overview Of River Thames

Despite the length and breadth of the Thames, the river's discharge is lower than both the Severn and the Tey in Scotland which both have smaller drainage basins to the River Thames. There are about 45 navigation locks located along the course of River Thames together with accompanying weirs (a low dam). The River catchment extends through a significant portion and a smaller portion of the Southeastern and Western regions of England respectively. The River Thames is fed by a total of 38 tributaries that are all named and comprises of more than 80 islands.

As the Thames contains water ranging from freshwater to near-seawater, the river's habitat is very biodiverse. The river also comprises of several neighboring Sites of Special Scientific Interest, the largest site being what remains of the North Kent Marshes which cover an estimated area of 13,460 acres. River Thames claimed the world's largest environmental award, known as the International Riverprize, in the year 2010 with a grand price of $350,000.


The River Thames derives its name from Tamesas, which is a Brittonic Celtic name. There is a possibility that the name might have meant 'dark' or 'darkness' or even 'dark gray.' The origin of the name is shared by many other rivers found throughout Britain such a the River Tamar, located at the border between Cornwall and Devon. There are many other rivers known as Tame that is found in North Yorkshire or the Midlands. River Thames lends its name to three informal areas: the Thames Estuary, the Thames Valley, and the Thames Gateway.

Human Activity On The Thames

At present, the river features several sailing and rowing clubs as it is very navigable using such vessels. Canoeing and kayaking are also an everyday activity that takes place on the river. There are significant events that happen on the Thames every year such as the Boat Race and the Henley Royal Regatta. The River Thames has been previously used for rowing and canoeing during the Summer Olympic Games of 1908 and 1948.


More in World Facts