The River Taw

One of Devon's most Iconic Rivers

The River Taw, Devon

The River Taw rises high on the slopes of Dartmoor and together with its tributaries, the River Mole, Yeo and little Dart, runs north through beautiful rolling countryside down to Barnstaple and into the Bristol Channel.

At 45 miles long, the Taw is one of the larger Devon rivers. The Taw provides habitat for a wide range of animals and plants alike, resulting in many stretches of the river being protected as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The Taw estuary which forms part of the UNESCO Biosphere reserve is a fantastic place to spend the day watching the many different types of wading birds that can be found there. The number of wading birds, including lapwings, curlews and redshanks, can reach over 20 000!


The River Taw became immortalised in 1927 with the publication of Henry Willamson’s ‘Tarka the otter’. Since then, the name ‘Tarka’ is now synonymous with The Taw and Torridge district and is used as a badge of honour in that area.

The Tarka trail, at 180 miles one of the UK’s longest walking and cycling paths. Remember to keep an eye out for the kingfishers and Otters that have made the Taw their home and stop for a coffee at one of the numerous cafes along the trail.

Get involved on the River Taw

If you love your local river, understand how vital it is to you in your life and share our passion for keeping it healthy for you and your community, then there are many ways for you to get involved. Whether it’s helping on a river clean-up day, becoming a river scientist, going on a river walk or simply making a donation, working together we can help your river bring water to life for many years and generations to come. You can share your stories of the River Taw with us too – we’d love to hear them.

See how the River Taw has been vital to our community : Finch Foundry

This 19th century forge situated in Sticklepath is a perfect example of how water has shaped our history. At its peak the forge was a thriving business producing over 400 tools a day and vital for the local community, all this due to the immense power generated from the water wheels.

Now, Finch Foundry is owned by the National Trust and provides an fun and informative day out. For more information, visit:


Explore other rivers of the Westcountry...

From Roman times to the present day, Westcountry rivers have been an ever-present thread running through our communities, our culture and our heritage. Ever increasingly, we have come to realise how wonderful it is to spend time on, in or near a river and they are so often the backdrop to our fondest memories of days spent outdoors, being active and spending time with nature.