Chasing The Dee Bore

The River Dee, Flintshire/Cheshire
March 2nd/3rd 2006

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Most people are aware of the mighty Severn Bore, but few people are aware that many other rivers in the UK also have their own tidal waves rolling upstream. In comparison to the wall of water which hammers up the Severn during high spring tides, the bores on many other UK rivers are much smaller. However, when witnessed in person, they're an astonishing spectacle that need to be seen to be believed. One of the largest tidal bores in the UK, after the Severn, occurs on the river Dee, on the Flintshire-Cheshire border. Straddling both England and Wales, the Dee Estuary narrows rapidly into the straight, man-made channel of the lower Dee. The tidal section of the River Dee is approximately 16km, from the Dee Estuary, to a large weir in the centre of Chester (although at very high tides, salt water can overrun the weir and continue upstream). The Dee Bore itself, however, can not travel further than the weir. In fact, by the time it reaches the city of Chester, the bore resembles nothing more than a small heave in the water surface.

To really appreciate the bore as a relentless wall of water, you need to witness it somewhere between the Dee Estuary, and the main river bend at Saltney, where the man-made channel reverts to the original river configuration. There are many viewing locations, which essentially can be anywhere along the channel, as public footpaths line its entire length. However, there are two very popular viewing locations, both of which have been highlighted on the map below.

Maps copyright Ordnance Survey, 2006.

Viewing from both bridge locations is very easy, with parking easy to find if you're choosing to race the bore upstream from the Connah's Quay road bridge, to the footbridge in Saltney. Tide times are crucial when deciding what time to view the bore. As a rule of thumb, the bore will reach the Connah's Quay bridge anywhere between 1hr 45 mins and 2hrs before high tide at Liverpool. However, it's vital to realise that weather conditions, wind directions, and river levels can all affect this time, so make sure you turn up early. The bore then takes about 30 minutes to travel upstream from the Connah's Quay bridge to the Saltney footbridge, giving chasers plenty of time to travel between locations.

The Dee Bore wave can vary in size, and tends to become smaller as it travels upstream. Beneath the main Flintshire bridge (just visible at the top-left of the main map above) the wave is estimated to reach between 4-5ft in height. However, by the time it reaches the Saltney footbridge, 2-4ft would be a good estimate. Whether a large wave, or simply a heave in the water surface, its still impressive to see what happens when river and tide do battle!

For photographs and video of the March 2006 Dee Bore, please read on.

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