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Gordale Scar, Malhamdale Gordale Scar, Malhamdale. Copyright Paul Harris


The bones of the Yorkshire Dales were formed in water when tropical seas and giant river deltas laid down the rocks of the area millions of years ago.

Frozen water shaped the valleys and scraped clean our famous limestone pavements during the Ice Ages. In the thousands of years since, rivers have carved out their courses and lakes have come and gone. Throughout it all, the rain dissolves and shapes our limestone caves and pavements.

As well as creating our landscape, our rivers and lakes provide plenty of exciting watersports challenges. Upland rivers respond quickly to rainfall to produce some adrenalin-pumping white water. In contrast the lake of Semerwater high above Bainbridge in Wensleydale is a great place for canoeing, sailing and windsurfing. In the south of the National Park you will find Grimwith Reservoir, the largest inland sailing venue in Yorkshire. You can also sail on the smaller Embsay reservoir.