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West Austwick by YDNPA

Water safety and swimming

Waterfalls, rivers and lakes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park are popular places for people to picnic beside, to paddle in and to swim. They’re popular venues for a variety of watersports including kayaking, canoeing, sailing and windsurfing.

If you’re planning to spend time by water or in the water it’s important to understand how quickly water conditions can change, how cold our water can be and the dangers of unseen hazards and fast flowing currents.

Visitors enjoying fine weather by water

Rivers and lakes can be extremely cold, deep and difficult to get out of. There may also be hidden hazards below the surface. Always check before you enter. If you find someone in difficulty in water in the Dales, call 999 and ask for Fire & Rescue.

Cold water shock

The effect on the body of entering water 15°C and below is often underestimated. This shock can be the precursor to drowning, especially if you enter water quickly and suddenly. Cold water can seriously affect your breathing and movement and the risk is significant year round in the Yorkshire Dales, as even on warm weather days, our waters can be very cold.

You can learn more about cold water shock by visiting the RNLI online here and the Royal Life Saving Society here.

North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service has a page dedicated to the dangers associated with open water and you can view that here.

Wild swimming near Loopscar

Underwater hazards

Waterfalls, rivers and lakes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park aren’t always clear, and it’s not easy to see what’s lying immediately beneath the surface or how deep the water is, for example rocks or other objects may be submerged and difficult to see. It’s also not easy to gauge how fast a water course is flowing. Currents in the Yorkshire Dales National Park vary, and can be very strong in some cases.

For all these reasons, tombstoning (jumping in a straight, upright vertical posture into water from a high platform, such as a cliff, rocks or bridges) is incredibly dangerous and can prove fatal. You can learn more about the impact of tombstoning on the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents website, here.

We also support the National Fire Chiefs Council’s ‘Be Water Aware’ campaign each year, which aims to raise awareness of the risk of accidental drowning.

Watch the Water Safety Partnership video featuring well-known Yorkshire Dales locations.


The Yorkshire Dales National Park provides a wonderful backdrop for watersports. Find out more here.

We would always recommend taking part in properly supervised watersports, having the right safety equipment and permission from the landowner. It’s worth knowing that over 98% of land and waterways in the Yorkshire Dales National Park is in private ownership.

Download our guidelines

To enjoy your day it’s important to follow the rules. Download our latest infographic here.

Multi Message Infographic May 2021
by NIc Draper Design