Canoe Days Out

Devon - River Exe - Exeter Ship Canal - Exeter to Turf Locks & return via Exeter Ship Canal

This page was submitted by Kevin Balding (E-mail this submitter)
How to get there - From the M5 Leave at Junction 30, take the A379. Leave the A379 at the second exit into Rydon Lane. At Countess Wear Roundabout take the second exit onto Bridge Road, NOTE YOU CAN NOT TURN RIGHT INTO THE CAR PARK(Look out for the Car park on the right just after the Stone Bridge over the Exe and before the Lifting Bridge over the Canal. continue to the end of bridge road (Be aware there is a Speed Camera after the Lifting Bridge) at the end of Bridge Road go all the way around the roundabout and back into Bridge Road Just after the Swing Bridge turn left into the Free Car Park.

Get a map with driving directions to start (enter the postcode of your starting point at A)

Suggested Launch Site - River Exe then Canal - As you enter the car park the exe is on the right, there is a wooden fence with a gate in it, the gate opens onto a grass slipway down to the river Exe.

Canal then River Exe - This trip starts with portage to the canal. Go out of the car park and turn right just before the lifting Bridge. There is a cycle path. Follow this to the canal. Just past the point where the cycle path joins the canal, there is an area with low vegetation to launch from (watch out for two iron rods sticking out of the canal bank)

General Description - The River Exe was Navigable into Exeter Quay until Countess Isabella De Fortisbus enlarged existing fishing wears to prevent passage to Exeter thus diverting trade to Topsham. The Exeter ship canal was constructed to again provide ship access into Exeter Quay.

The canal is maintained by Exeter City Council check their web site for charges.

The Route: 7.1 Miles paddling distance.

The River is tidal throughout this route, and flows quite quickly (3mph through some stretches).

I paddled this route on Friday the 5th September 2009

Starting at low tide (Mid Day) I did a circular trip down the River Exe, returning via the Exeter Ship Canal. The route can easily be reversed depending on whether the tide is coming in or going out so that you will not be paddling against the current.

At low tide going downstream you simply follow the course of the river, stay towards the outside of the bends until Topsham to find deeper water. After Topsham the river flows between mud banks. The course of the river is marked by Navigation buoys. After a sweeping right hand bend with navigation poles, you will see two red buoys with the Turf Lock and Hotel directly in front of you.

Use the landing stage to exit the river (portage). To find the easiest place to enter the canal walk towards the Turf Hotel up the path keeping Turf Lock on your left. After the second (Inland lock gate) follow the stone entrance to the lock past the turf Hotel. Where the stone ends there is a small slipway into the canal.

The Turf Lock hotel provides good quality food and drink. Check their web site for opening times which vary through the year.

Paddle the canal until you come to the lifting bridge and swing bridge. Just after the bridges there is an area where the bank is not overgrown which allows for exit onto the cycle path. More portage. To your right the cycle path forks, follow the left fork to the main road. Turn left after about 50 yards. On the left is the entrance to the car park where you started.

Flora and Fauna.:

This trip provides two very difference landscapes, the tidal river with its mud flats is home to many species of water birds (Ducks, Swans, Cormorants, Herons and Egrets etc), fish (mullet dart off just in front of your canoe) and mammals. There are often seals between Topsham and the Turf locks. I saw and photographed one on this trip!. The Canal offers an entirely different habitat with birds (Ducks Swans Cormorants and Kingfishers), Fish: Roach Rudd Bream and Pike.


Shallows in the Exe. Three bridges crossing the canal but no difficulty getting under these with appropriate care. Portages: 2 both about 200 yards.


Tide check the tide times so that you are travelling with the flow of the Exe.

Mud Flats, these are silt and the mud is soft and deep in some places, stand on the mud and you will sink up to mid thigh. Wakes from boats using the river. The canal is a ship canal and is approximately 15 feet deep.

Comments on this trip

John Duncan
20 Oct 2015
Is there anywhere nearer the weir in Exeter to launch into the RIVER and then return up the CANAL I did a return trip on the canal from the city centre a few weeks ago and fancy a slightly different trip.


ECC Exeter Ship Canal
The Turf Hotel
Tide Times

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The last trip loaded was Great Haywood to Great Haywood (Circular Route) on the River Trent / Trent & Mersey Canal by Peter Robinson