The Loop, River Dart

The Loop, River Dart

The Loop is a section of the River Dart, Dartmoor.

It is perhaps the most popular section of whitewater for kayakers and canoeists in England. This section is preceded by the Upper Dart, and followed by the The Lower.


"The Loop" is named as such because of the shape of its meander, much like a loop of string.

This section's length is approximately 3 miles (4.8 kilometres), but to drive by car from start to finish is only 1.3 miles (2 kilometres) because of river and road geography.

This section is graded at 2, with three rapids rated at grade 3. In very high water, some of the grade 2 sections will become continuous and push towards grade 3.

Whitewater kayaking

List of Rapids

Most of the rapids have been named by watersports enthusiasts, and are officially referred to in guidebooks, such as "English White Water: The British Canoe Union Guidebook".

In order of each rapid, they are:

Newbridge rapid

The first rapid is Newbridge itself, a small wave formed before the bridge which can be played on at low-medium levels, washes out at high levels.

Top wave

About 50 metres from Newbridge is river-wide wave, which gets better with more water going over it. Very popular with playboaters, with eddy service on both sides, and a bankside walk back to the car park.

Many grade 1-2 rapids follow. The river splits, with a gauge on the island, following that the River Webburn joins. Here a seam between the two river currents form, allowing squirtboaters to practise their sport.

Washing machine

A 1 metre grade 3 drop, with a stopper and wave train beneath it. The lead in pushes you right past rock, but finally position yourself river left to get through without any hiccups.

In high levels the stopper holds boats and people, but lets go after a short time. Low-medium levels require little effort to punch through.

More rapids follow, along with seal-launch rock, a tall sloping rock which can be slid down.

Lover's Leap

This involves a 100m grade 3 rapid, which requires rock evasion and a final wave train which pushes you into the leap itself: a large undercut cliff-face. In anything but high flows this is easily avoided, but can still cause pinning potential with inexperienced paddlers.

Several wide and continuous rapids follow Lover's Leap. However just before the next grade 3 rapid, a small but sticky stopper appears without warning. This needs to be taken mid-river or you could end up being back-looped, or going over Triple-drop upside down or backwards.

Triple-drop aka Triple-falls

The most difficult grade 3 rapid on this section of the Dart. Luckily inspection, and if necessary portage, can be done on river right or left.

* The first drop is a half metre ledge. A pour-over type hole in low levels .

* Second drop is a big wave/stopper into a pool.

* The last drop is harder, requiring you to take the centre line followed by a move to the left or right, avoiding the centre which turns into a sticky stopper at most levels.

Each drop has small eddies on both sides of the river, and the pool after the third drop is flat allowing boats and people to be rescued at the river bank.

More grade 1/2 rapids follow before you reach the Spindryer.


At high levels this rapid can by tricky, especially if you take it river right, and end up in the fast rotating eddy that it's named after. If caught, a fast break-in is needed and possibly a surf across the wave that forms next to it. River left is the ideal place to aim for.

More small rapids follow.

Haystack rapids

The last notable rapid on the river before Holne Bridge, which works best in medium to high levels. Reasonably large but predictable breaking waves carry you 50-80 metres down to Holne Bridge.

Holne Weir

In medium to high levels this is a highly retentive stopper and should be treated with caution. Two chutes allow access through, and should not be missed. The lead-in is flat, and is easy to achieve. Portage on the bank is also possible.

Another small rapid follows, with the Anvil a rententive playspot.

Take out

Holne Bridge is the only take out, now that River Dart Country Park has withdrawn paddler support and the use of their facilities. It is recommended you park your cars somewhere other than the lay-bys near the bridge because of the overcrowding issues.

A feasible, though fairly long,alternative is to continue down the river to Buckfastleigh where in the winter there is ample parking. This section, the Lower Dart or just "Lower" is grade 2 with some flat sections.

External links

* [ BCU Dart Access]
* [ Official Dartmoor website] regarding Canoeing and Kayaking

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