Access Rights and Agreements

Access by Right

Informal Agreements

Tidal Waters

Still Waters

Access by Right

Freshwater navigations

Free navigations

On free navigations the public have a right to navigate without the need to purchase a licence. Unless there is a tow-path to which the public have access, there is no public right of access to or from the river except at recognised public launching sites. As a general rule of thumb, only the channel which is covered by water at the time of passage is considered to be part of the navigation.

Licensed navigations

A licensed navigation is one for which the navigation authority issue licences to individual craft without which they may not be used on the waters under that authority's control. Local Byelaws or Acts of Parliament empower the navigation authority and failure to comply with the regulations is an offence.


Many of the canals of Wales are controlled by the British Waterways Board (BWB) which issues licences to craft for the use of the canal system under their control. WCA/BCU members, are licensed to use the BWB canals in Wales, subject to any regulations that BWB make from time to time. Not all canals are owned by BWB and access to canals not in the BWB system can only be obtained by permission from the canals' operators.

Tidal waters

The tidal portion of a river is generally owned by the Crown, and presumed to have a public right of navigation over it. However, the general rule does not hold everywhere. Smaller streams or tributaries may not be regarded as navigable and the public right may not hold for them. Occasionally the bed of the river may be transferred by the Crown to private ownership, and in such cases the right of navigation may (but not necessarily) have been extinguished. Tidal waters are defined as those areas where the river is subjected to the "influence of the ordinary tides". On all tidal rivers the Ordnance Survey records a 'tidal limit' which may be taken as a good indicator of the actual limit of influence. The land above the high water mark is owned either by an individual or an organisation. There is no right of access to or from the tidal section above the ordinary high-water mark.


River Grading System

River Alwen (grade 1-3, one portage)

River Conwy (UNSIGNED) (12 km, grade 2 to 5)

River Glaslyn (UNSIGNED) (2 km grade 5)

River Lugg (grade 1 - 2, some weirs)

River Lwyd (grade 2-3)

River Ogmore (grade 2 - 4, weir portages)

River Teifi (grade 2 - 5)

River Tawe (Grade 3- 6 + Numerous Portages)

River Tryweryn (8 km, grade 2 to 4)

River Twrch (Grade 3 - 5+ Numerous Portages)

River Usk (UNSIGNED) (grade 2 - 4)

River Wye (UNSIGNED) (grade 2 - 4)

River Alwen (grade 1-3, one portage)

From: Blaen y Ddol

To: Cefn Rhug

Time of Year: 1st January until the 17th October.

Minimum water levels must be present before taking to the water.

Agreement Details

River Conwy (UNSIGNED) (12 km, grade 2 to 5)

From: A5 road bridge

To: Penmachno road bridge (Above Conwy Falls)

Time of year: October 1st to February 28th.

Conditions: Dependant on water levels on gauges.

Signing in procedure at Conwy Falls Cafe, Betws y Coed.

Maximum of 36 people in one day and maximum group size of 6.

River Glaslyn (2 km grade 5)

Access to the gorge in keeping with the original agreement is unlikely to create conflict. The National Trust and Welsh Canoeing Association are working together and are seeking technical advise from the Environment Agency as to water levels which create an environmental safeguard to allow all users of the gorge to enjoy their chosen recreation in a sustainable manner.

River Lugg (grade 1 - 2, some weirs)

From Presteigne, is a free navigation.

River Lwyd (grade 2-3)

Time of year: close season agreement, contact access officer for further details.

River Ogmore (grade 2 - 4, weir portages)

Time of year: close season agreement managed by Bridgend Canoe Club; contact club for further details.

River Severn (grade 1 - 2)

From Pool Quay, Welshpool

Time of year: year round. River has a right of navigation from Pool Quay to the tidal waters.

River Teifi (grade 2 - 5)

Year round access in Llandysul town only - contact canoe centre.

River Tawe (Grade 3- 6 + Numerous Portages)

From Source to Playing fields above Pontardawe Inn, Pontardawe.

Time of Year : Closed Fishing Season only 18th October - 28th Feb.

Conditions: No out of season spate runs.No access to or from the water river right at 1st Road Bridge in Abercraf. Contact Local Access Officer for information before paddling. Mark Frohwein:01792 865 395.

River Tryweryn (8 km, grade 2 to 4)

From: Llyn Celyn Dam

To: Bala

Time of year: Top 2km year round, lower section Dec. 1st - Feb 28th

plus selected tour dates throughout the summer.

The river is a managed facility and kayaking is available year round (from Llyn Celyn-Bala) when the dam is releasing. Please check at the centre for event details/code of conduct on the day of your paddle. Information about releases can be found at

Water Information Line 01678 520826

River Twrch (Grade 3 - 5+ Numerous Portages)

From Ystrad Owen

To Tawe Confluence.

Time of Year : Closed Fishing Season only 18th October - 28th Feb.

Conditions: No out of season spate runs. Contact Local Access Officer for information before paddling. Mark Frohwein:01792 865 395.

River Usk (UNSIGNED) (grade 2 - 4)

From: Sennybridge

To: Tidal Waters

Time of year: October 18th to 1st March; year round spate agreement.

Conditions: Permission must be obtained before paddling. No canoeing on Brecon Weir.

River Wye (UNSIGNED) (grade 2 - 4)

From: Newbridge on Wye

To: Glasbury

Time of year: 18th October - 15th March; year round spate agreement.

From Glasbury to Hay on Wye there is a permissive agreement all year, while from Hay on Wye to the tidal waters, the Wye is a free navigation.

Informal Access Agreements.

Rivers described as having informal permissive agreements can be used by canoeists under ad hoc arrangements. While there are no formal agreements the arrangements can in some cases be long-standing. In general, access permission is obtained from specific owners or is implied as there are no objections. In some cases this is all year round but in general the access permission is only granted during the closed angling season. By their nature the arrangements on these rivers are not fixed and may vary within a short period of time. For some rivers, printed information may be available. In all cases, the WCA's Local Access Officer (LAO) should be contacted for current information.

Artro, Vyrnwy, Tanat, Banwy, Clywedog (Llanidloes), Twymyn, Upper Severn (above Newtown), Sawdde, Gwaun, Gwili, Taff, Mellte, Ely

These agreements are dependant on the goodwill of partners and canoeists adhering to the following terms of reference:

  • Canoeing takes place in the closed fishing season (Contact the WCA or local access officer for advice). Canoeing may be possible in the fishing season through consent of riparian owners and subject to river levels.

  • Canoe in small, discreet groups ( Ideally, 3 - 4 persons).

  • Observe the country code.

  • Be courteous to landowners and obtain consent before crossing private land.

  • Do not paddle in low water - it devalues the experience of canoeing and may cause environmental damage.

Tidal Rapids

A number of tidal rapids can give whitewater conditions dependant on tides. Care should be taken when paddling to and from these sites, as well as when you are playing on the rapids themselves.

Important sites are:

The Bitches (St Davids),

The Swellies (Menai Straits)

Four Mile Bridge (Anglesey/Ynys Mon)

Stanley Embankment (Anglesey/Ynys Mon)


Opportunities to canoe on stillwaters, lakes and canals are varied in Wales. The following sites are either sites where informal activity can take place or sites that are managed and may charge for launching or car parking.

North Wales

Llyn Trawsfynydd, Llyn Geirionydd, Llyn Gwynant, Llynau Mymbyr, Llyn Padarn, Eirias Park, Gresford Flash, Marine Lake, Llyn Tegid, Llyn Clywedog, Llyn Vyrnwy

South East Wales

Llangors Lake, Cwmbran Lake, Llandegfedd Reservoir, Usk Reservoir Pontsticill, Cwmbran Lake, Llyn Cosmeston, Llyn Cyfartha

South West Wales

Llys y Fran, Llyn Lliedi (Swiss Valley), Llyn Llech Owain


Shropshire Union Canal (Llangollen Branch), Shropshire Union Canal (Montgomery Branch), Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, Neath/Tennant Canal,Coedgwilym Canal (Clydach)

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