At the top of the Exe Estuary, the River Exe and Exeter Ship Canal link the estuary to Exeter Quayside. This waterway is steeped in history and is a fantastic place to watch wildlife. This guide is aimed at visitors using watercraft in the river and canal area, and outlines how to make the most of your visit whilst undertaking activities safely and with respect to other visitors and wildlife.
Canoe and Kayak Loops
The Canoe and Kayak Loops are a series of self-guided circular canoeing and kayaking trails on the river and canal. There are two loops which can be paddled from different access points and in different combinations.
Head down the river and back up the canal and join up loops for longer trips. It takes most people 5-6 hours to paddle each loop and the complete circuit from Exeter Quay to Turf Locks and back is 17km, which can take a full day.
To cross between the river and canal and avoid weirs and lock gates, it is necessary to carry craft overland. See map for routes and locations of access points (look out for way marker posts with a canoe symbol).
Plan a safe trip
Activities undertaken at the river and canal can be hazardous and are undertaken at your own risk. Follow the code of conduct when visiting.
- Check conditions beforehand via weather reports, river levels and tide tables
- Make your own assessment of dangers based on your knowledge, experience and the conditions
- Let someone know your plans and expected return time
- Carry a suitable means of communication for emergencies
- Carry the relevant safety equipment, e.g. personal flotation device
- Be visible: make sure lights are used at night
- Only use recognised public access points and landing places, keeping access clear at all times
- Watercraft should keep well away from anglers – pass quietly by the opposite bank.
Do not exceed the 10 knot speed limit within the river and 5 knots within the canal.
Watch out for wildlife
The whole of the Exe Estuary is an important site for wildlife, including Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Protection Area (SPA). During winter, tens of thousands of birds depend on the Exe to rest and feed on their long migratory journeys from areas as far away as Siberia.
There are a number of Nature Reserves along the river and canal which provide feeding and resting areas for these protected species.
To make sure the site can be enjoyed by future generations please:
- give wildlife a wide berth and pass quietly – disturbance can affect their survival
- avoid areas where birds are feeding, resting or breeding, keep to the main river channel and avoid entering the reed beds of the Nature Reserve
- avoid lingering in river pools or below fish passes on weirs (where migratory fish rest)
Although they are quiet, non-powered craft such as canoes, kayaks and paddleboards can cause disturbance. Enjoy
watching the wildlife but keep at least 100m away.
Contact details for further information
Exe Estuary Management Partnership
- Exe Estuary Officer: Phone 01392 382236
Harbour Authority (River and Canal Office)
- Office hours: Phone 01392 265791
- Out of hours emergency: Phone 0845 351 1060
- For general information: visit exeter.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/sport-and-leisure/waterways/
- Natural England – Devon office: Phone 0300 060 3900
- Injured marine mammals (BDMLR): Phone 01825 765546
- SEDHRP Mitigations Officers: Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Custom House Visitor centre: Phone 01392 271611