Articles - Canoe & Kayak Guide to the Loop section of the River Dart

Surfing it up on the brilliant loop.
Surfing it up on the brilliant loop.
Canoe & Kayak UK Editorial - Posted on 04 Oct 2011
The Loop (New Bridge to Holme Bridge/Dart Country Park)
The middle Dart or the Loop as it's more commonly known is one of the most popular runs in the UK. Its fun rapids, mellow nature and beautiful surroundings make it justifiably loved. It’s an ideal river to cut your whitewater teeth on and has a real sense of adventure for canoe clubs and groups. For experts it offers some fun paddling and some great little playspots. As the level gets higher these play spots get better and better and in super-high water the Loop become a roaring freight train of big wave trains, holes and fun.Tripple Falls on the Loop section of the River Dart

The Run
Launch your boat from the slabs at the bottom of the steps at Newbridge and then head under the bridge and away. There is a fun little play-spot within sight of the start. In low to middle levels you can surf around in here and maybe even hit the odd cartwheel. But in high water it becomes a fantastic wave hole with a big breaking pile.

Down stream the river bends to the right and there is another low shelf that forms a shallow sticky hole. There are big eddies on river left at most levels. From here it drops away in a series of easy red-and-run rapids, mainly wave trains but with a few boulders thrown in for good measure. Eventually you’ll come to a small rapid with a big eddy on the river left, where a road comes close to the river, just before the river turns right. The eddy-lines here are pronounced and great to practice tail-stands. Around he corner lays another fun boulder rapid, which then leads down in to some grade 2 water before the River Webburn enters on the left. Where the flows of the two rivers converge is also a good spot to practice eddy-line move and it’s a favourite haunt for squirt-boaters. In certain flows, right where the Webburn drops in forms a small hole that is good for practicing sins in.

By now you should be nicely warmed up because the first of the bigger drops approaches. You’ll see an island appear in the middle and an obvious eddy beneath a cliff on river right, just above the right-hand chute. This signals the Washing Machine. Run the right hand chute as close to the island as you can for a clean run down a green tongue or head over the middle of the ledge that forms the Washing Machine and boof for a few more thrills. In high water the lines stay the same but the hole becomes a huge beastie that can give a fun ride if you’ve the coconuts to drop in. Below the river opens out a bit and this is a popular lunch/brew stop for groups. In high water a great surging surf wave can also form in the middle of the flow.
More fun rapids follow until you’ll finally reach a narrower section with some high granite out crops on river left. If you’re so inclined these have seen many a paddler clamber up and then perform a super-hero sea launch, with varying degrees of success. From here the rivers flattens out until you reach a large pool on a right hand bend. This signals Lover’s Leap, probably the best rapid on the run. It’s named after a steep cliff at the bottom of the rapid, where, legend has it, love torn lovers would throw themselves off in to the icy waters below. Enter on the right and negotiate your way down this short but fun rollercoaster ride until you finally avoid the cliff at the bottom and eddy out in the large pool on river right. When playboats were longer it was all the rage to ferry back out in to the flow above the cliff and then dip the stern until your boat was perfectly splatting the cliff, surfing vertically on the pillow wave before sliding off and rolling back up.

Below here is a long section of fun water that has a few play holes and wave trains depending on the water level. Eventually the river take a significant turn to the right and don a rocky rapid and this signals the approach of Triple Falls. This varies depending on the level. In lower levels it is three small rapids, the top one being the most ‘fall’ like, but in high water they all blend in to one bug stonking series of big waves and holes. The best thing is that there is a path the runs along the river right back, so you can yomp back up and do it again, and again. A great little play hole forms at middle levels, with eddy service on both right and left and it’s not uncommon to find paddlers queuing here to take their turn. Things calm down a bit from here on in and after a section of bimbly water you’ll come to the Spin Dryer. This is basically a fast green tongue of water that slams in to a rocky outcrop at the bottom with a large swirling eddy of doom on the river right. Stay middle right and be ready to low brace of the cushion wave if you have to and you’ll be fine.

From here it’s a fun section of wave trains down until you go under the bridge at Holne. Many people choose to take off here, but we recommend continuing down the next short section to take out at the River Dart Country Park. You do have to pay a small fee to park there but it’s worth it, A: for the fact that it keeps the narrow road at Holne clear of parked cars and B: the section down to the park still has some fun features to paddle including the fearsome Holne Weir and the purpose built Anvil play hole just before the take out. It’s a brilliantly fun run for all abilities and we guarantee that once you’ve run the Loop you’ll return again, and again and again.


Grade: 3
Get in: New Bridge car park.
Get Out: Take out at the River Dart Country Park
Levels: Check the rock ledge on river left at New Bridge. If the water level does not reach the ledge, then it’s is low and the Loop will be a scrape. If most, or all of this, is covered then the river is at a medium or high level. If water is flowing through all three arches on the bridge at New Bridge and the ledge well under water, it's very high and you’re in for a fantastically fun ride.

Check out our other great online paddling guides HERE

Have you paddled the Loop, tell us your experiences in the CK forum

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