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4x4 Off Roading ›› Driving ›› Along River beds

Offroading in River Beds

You are going to need one of the popular 4x4 vehicles to tackle a deep ford or a few feet of fast flowing river - not a family saloon.

Nonetheless, the Environment Agency recently reminded 4x4 drivers about driving through rivers and in riverbeds.

You should always drive 'slow and steady' through a ford. Generally, you will need enough speed to create a small bow wave, and:

Important: As a rule, you should avoid reversing along the river bed (especially if doing so means the vehicle tailpipe will be under water).

In severe cases, you might actually feel the water lifting the car. If so, your immediate response should be to open the doors.

You may be able to retrieve a vehicle once it's finished floating downstream. But... it's not going to be cheap!

Environment Agency Warning

Not all 4x4 drivers are aware of the legal proceedings of getting caught driving along a riverbed. Another section offers some expert offroading driving hints and tips - especially for beginners.

A recent news article showed photographs of people driving on a stretch of river in Shropshire. Furthermore, the Environment Agency received damning information from members of the public about the incident.

As a result, a representative from the fisheries technical specialist department expressed concerns. He wanted to discourage drivers against conducting these types of off-road driving activities.

What Harm Does it Do?

This kind of activity falls outside the realms of 'Byways Open to All Traffic' (also known as BOAT). But, the harm that 4x4 drivers may be doing by driving in rivers and river beds is often misunderstood and underestimated.

In short, driving along a river bed can crush ecology. It is reasonable to expect that some fish may swim away (e.g. large salmon and trout). But, smaller species will struggle to escape.

It gets worse:

One of the most serious consequences is fish being less able to spawn later in the year. Furthermore, churned up sediment is going to smother the river bed - and harm the small creatures that thrive within it.

These two factors account for an essential part of the food chain for large aquatic wildlife living in rivers around the United Kingdom.

Penalties for Driving in Rivers

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act or civil proceedings for trespass, anyone found driving along a river could be subject to criminal proceedings.

The Environment Agency issues special permits for carrying out work around rivers. In general, they only issue them at certain times of the year - usually when doing so will not interfere with fish spawning activities.

Yes, UK driving rules and regulations allow people to drive through a ford. But, you should not be driving along a river bed. You can report incidents of people driving in rivers to the police or to Crimestoppers at 0800 555 111 (anonymously).

Note: The owner of a riverbank also owns the area that leads up to the centre point of the river. Hence, you need permission from the owner to enter the river - and from both owners to cross over the centre point.