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England’s Killer Creek – The Most Dangerous Stretch of Water in the World

The Bolton Strid, a narrow segment of the River Wharfe in North England has a reputation that doesn’t quite suite its picturesque appearance – it is informally known as the most dangerous stretch of water in the world, with an alleged fatality rate of 100 percent for everyone unlucky enough to have fallen in it.

There is no official death toll for the Strid, but its deadliness is infamous not only in Yorkshire, but the whole of England, and judging by the literary references to its appetite for taking lives going back centuries, one would say that its reputation is well deserved. Part of what makes the Strid so dangerous is how calm and harmless it looks to the unsuspecting stranger, which is why there are now signs along its banks that read “The Strid is dangerous and has claimed lives in the past. Please stand well back and beware slippery rocks!”

Photo: Steve Glover/Flickr

In 1998, the death of a honeymooning couple believed to have drowned in the Bolton Strid made national headlines, but mentions of its deadliness can be traced back to the 1800’s, in the works of such writers as Gertrude Atherton, who wrote “there was no lonelier spot in England, nor one which had the right to claim so many ghosts, if ghosts there were,” in her short story, ‘The Striding Place’. Legend has it that the Strid claimed the life of the heir to the Scottish throne in the 12th century, and there is even an old saying inspired by this deceptively harmless stretch of the Wharfe River: “Wharfe is clear, and Aire is lithe; Where Aire kills one, Wharfe kills five.

The river Wharfe flows for 65 miles from the confluence of Green Field Beck and Oughtershaw Beck, and for most of that distance it is shallow and wide, about 30 feet from bank to bank, but the Strid is different. The otherwise wide river is suddenly squeezed tightly by the terrain to the point where the water is forced to flow vertically. This section is also much deeper and more turbulent than the rest of the river, and its depths are riddled with underwater caves and overhangs. Anything or anyone that falls or jumps in is sucked into the deceptively deep water and likely tumbled against the rocky walls by strong currents.

 

The Bolton Strid got a lot of attention online in 2016, when English YouTube vlogger Tom Scott featured it in one of his videos titled “The most dangerous stretch of water in the world”. In it, Scott acknowledged that there are many other turbulent and deadly waters around the world, but its the Strid’s deceptive appearance that makes it so deadly.

“Generally, you can see them coming but this is just an innocent-looking stream in the middle of the woods,” Scott said. “You can jump over it – and some people do. But if you miss that jump, it will kill you.”

 

The most recent tragedy i could find tied to the Bolton Strid dates back to 2010, when a young boy died after slipped off a rocky bank and fell in the water. Despite its infamous reputation, it remains a popular destination for hikers and adventure seekers.