River Thames London Boat Blog

The Tidal River Thames

The River Thames in London flows both ways!

This is not technically correct it always flows from source to mouth, but because it is actually tidal all the way from the sea to Teddington where the first lock can be found it does flow in as well as out!

The tide is effectively the rise and fall of the sea (river) caused by gravitational forces as the Earth spins – more here: Tide explained on Wikipedia

As the tide out at the coast rises and falls it affects the rivers and in London actually causes a 5-7metre twice daily rise and fall. As you can imagine this is a large amount of water to be removed and added which results in some very strong currents downstream with the flow and then upstream when the tide is rising.

This has a huge affect on all that surrounds the river, both visually and on navigation. The amount of water affects what the fixed walls, buildings and piers look like and the change of direction of flow and strong currents controls navigation and boat movements.

Example images of the tidal affect on the appearance of London’s landmarks

The tide affects the speed the London Party Boats and Thames Passenger Boats can travel on the river. When going with the flow of the tide they can travel faster and when against the tide often around half the speed. This is obviously not a problem if you are in a speed boat, or Jet boat, but slower vessels travelling larger distances can have at least double the journey time, and of course increased fuel costs, all as a result of the tide.

Above Teddington lock all is peaceful with a steady predictable and controlled flow where the tide has no affect, it is only below the lock where it can be more interesting. Where the wind is against the direction of the tide the water is whipped up causing it to be a little bumpier – fine on the larger Thames boats, but no fun in a small sailing dinghy! Swimming in the river is therefore obviously not advised particularly when the tide is flowing at it’s strongest.

The tide can also be useful – when one of the last remaining Concorde’s had to be relocated from Hammersmith to Scotland a barge was brought up the river through London using the low tides to navigate under the bridges. This feet of planning was only possible over 2 separate tides for both the inbound and outbound journey!

Due to the tide the River Thames in London is a diverse and ever changing exciting location – untamed by human activity right in the heart of the City.

This entry was published on 16/05/2008 at 12:19 pm. It’s filed under Filming on the Thames, River Thames, Thames Passenger Boats and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “The Tidal River Thames

  1. I am floating down the Tidal bit of the Thames, on a Lorry Innner tube on my 40th birthday in a weeks time for Charity from Richmond I am allowed to go as far as the Houese of Parliment I have a safety boat and done my research.

    I have know people to swom it at low tide but although it is possible it is increibly dangerous now as there are so many boat services.

    Even on a Sunday I am likley to stop at Vauxhall as some of the boats simply go to fast to stop.

    In addition the currents are very unpredictable and even at Richmond you can go with the tide but not against it.

  2. Loretta on said:

    How interesting, sorry to react nearly a year after your exploit but hope it went well!

  3. I would like to know where i can read about the law regarding swimming beyond the houses of parliament, do you have any information that might help me.

  4. Daniel on said:

    Distance between Tower Bridge and the North Sea?? Impossible to find ! 50 km?

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