Paddling at Chester Weir
The Chester Weir is a river feature steeped in history. This Grade 1 listed structure was originally built in the 11th Century in order to channel water through a water mill to generate power for the Dee Mills*. Although it is not used for power any more, is still very important to this day, allowing environmental health data to be recorded through Salmon stock monitoring, and by blocking tide and flow to allow for the thriving tourist centre on the river in Chester just upstream.
The Weir has a diagonal sloping drop-off of around 3 metres, and a series of steps known as the Salmon Leap, which are designed to aid fish migration up the southeast side. These features have been used by paddlers for recreational whitewater paddling for over 50 years, and in the right conditions, present a safe and fun learning venue. Paddlers often enjoy paddling down the steps and surfing the waves that can appear below each one. Although this is generally a safe venue for white water paddling, users should be aware that the Weir can become dangerous when high river levels or tides create fast flows.
This is a white water feature and approaching by boat should only be attempted by, or under the guidance of, those with significant knowledge and experience of white water paddling.
Hazards/What to look out for:
Hydraulics and stoppers -When the river level is high and flowing, the Weir can become very hazardous, creating dangerous stopper hydraulics that can hold objects and people in place by the recirculation of currents. In these flows real care should be taken to avoid the Weir. Portage can be done on the South bank where there is a canoe access point just downstream of the Salmon Leap
Water Quality- This section has variable water quality. Click the link to see our page on water quality advice.
Tides - This feature is affected by tides is subject to tidal flooding. Failure to check the tide can either leave you with no white water since it will be mostly covered up, or if the tide has flooded over the top, far more than you bargained for as the huge volume of tidal water drains back over the Weir. A tide of 9 metres in Liverpool is enough to reach the top of the Weir 1hr later. More than 9 and it will flood upstream and create fast flow and powerful hydraulics at the weir when the tide retreats. Tidal info here.
Underwater structures- The steps of the salmon leap are made up of underwater concrete walls. They slow the water down and make small and safe drops in low water, and waves in high water. When they create waves there is significant force going into the underwater ledges which can cause injury to paddlers who find themselves below the surface. This is another reason why extreme care should be taken in high flows.
Accessing Chester Weir:
Most paddlers access Chester Weir by paddling to it from one of the car parks further upstream such as Sandy Lane, but you can put on right there if needed. Once done, use the canoeists portage point downstream to walk your boat back up and paddle back on the flat. There is also an old wall lining the salmon leap which can be used to walk back up for more laps of the steps.
Minimum equipment needed for low-moderate water levels:
Your chosen craft (kayak, canoe or SUP) and paddle
Clothing appropriate for the conditions- dress as if you're going to fall in!
Personal flotation device (buoyancy aid)
white water specific helmet
Shoes with decent grip. It gets very slippy!
Mobile phone (easily accessible and waterproofed)
A team of at least 2 other paddlers with suitable knowledge, paddling and rescue skills to look out for each other.
For more info on staying safe on white water and the equipment needed, consider taking part in a BC White Water Safety & Rescue course.
If you're new to white water kayaking, or just not sure if this paddling venue is for you yet, one of the best ways to access a fun and safe adventure here is to join us for a Chester White Water Session (in inflatable kayak) or a Whitewater Kayak Lesson (closed cockpit kayak) with one of our qualified river professionals.
* Visit this site for more Chester History. http://chester.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Dee_Mills
This photo shows the Chester Weir Canoe Slalom race of 1975. View this shot and more at https://www.canoeingphotos.com/
Dee River Kayaking Paddle Guides Safety Notice
These pages are designed to offer a comprehensive guide to places to paddle, local hints and tips and how to help keep yourselves safe whilst enjoying our beautiful river.
It's essential that all paddlers acquire the knowledge, skills and equipment necessary to paddle safely. These guides are designed to be helpful to paddlers but can not be used as a replacement to these fundamental requirements.
To find out more information about safe paddling, consider any or all of these options:
Visit the Go Paddling Website for helpful articles on Paddling Safely.
Book a bespoke private lesson with one our instructors to get you started.
Find your local paddling club to access social trips and peer mentoring.