Canoeing and kayaking on the Thames


Can you canoe or kayak on the Thames?

Yes you can canoe or kayak on the Thames or use any type of craft on the non-tidal River Thames between Cricklade Bridge and Teddington Lock, and the short section of the tidal River Thames between Teddington Lock and the Port of London Authority’s boundary, including backwaters and marinas. You will need a licence, known as a Registration Plate, a grand name for a piece of paper 100mm x 120mm. The registration period is from 1st January to 31st December.

The Environment Agency are the Navigation Authority and are responsible for the maintenance and regulations on the non - tidal river and as such they issue registration plates. Non powered craft, for example any, Paddleboard, Kayak, Canoe, Dingy, Sailing Boat, Sailing Dingy or Rowing Boat must be registered and pay the appropriate fee and have valid third party insurance.

The fee for unpowered craft and this includes any inflatable boat including any Paddleboard, Kayak, Canoe, Dingy, Sailing Boat or Rowing Boat is £44.20 for the year expiring 31st December 2021.

If you own a Paddleboard, Kayak or Canoe or an inflatable Paddleboard, Kayak or Canoe you could consider joining British Canoeing. The fee is £45 but it includes Public Liability Insurance and a permit to use most of the UK’s waterways including the River Thames. You can contact British Canoeing at 0300 011 9500 or

Powered boats are defined as “Launches” The fees are based on the square area of the vessel, the full list of the charges can be seen here:

The huge increase in Paddleboard, Kayak, Canoe and Rowing Boat use in 2020 has been extraordinary, it is great seeing so many people enjoying the river. If you are new to the river we do ask you to remember a few simple, but important rules.

The “rule of the road” is the opposite to that on land. All vessels are expected to keep to the right where-ever that is possible. All vessels pass each other to the right. A Paddleboard, Kayak, Canoe or Rowing Boat can easily keep to the side of the river as their draft (the amount of water they need to float freely) is measured in a very few millimetres. The bigger the boat the deeper its draft and in most circumstances that will mean it has to stay closer to the middle of the channel. Many larger boats are slow to stop and need a lot of space to turn.

If you have a Paddleboard, Kayak, Canoe or Rowing Boat please try, as far as possible, to avoid straying towards the middle of the channel. For the person in charge of a larger vessel it can be difficult and disconcerting to have to sail between much lighter and smaller boats like a Paddleboard, Kayak, Canoe or Rowing Boat. If the larger vessel is, for example, a narrowboat the blind spot, the area that the helmsman can’t see in front of the boat, is measured in dozens of metres. A Paddleboard isn’t so bad because the user is usually standing up, but a Kayak, Canoe or Rowing Boat is invisible for a large area directly in front of an approaching vessel. This alone is a good reason to avoid the main channel as much as possible!

Larger vessels often struggle to find where to moor and when they find a suitable place it helps if smaller craft such as a Paddle Board, Kayak, Canoe or Rowing Boat keep clear of the area.

If you have a larger vessel you may well ask how do I find where to moor on the Thames? The answer to the question where to moor on the Thames is go to our mooring pages!

The contact details for the Environment Agency registration team are:

Telephone on 0330 159 1983 or email

Their postal address is:
Environment Agency boat registration team
PO Box 544
S60 1BY

Join our Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up-to-date with the latest news and events on the Thames.