23+ Thames River Facts. The Second Longest River In The United Kingdom

Ritwik Bhuyan
Feb 27, 2023 By Ritwik Bhuyan
Originally Published on Jan 07, 2022
Fact-checked by Niyati Parab
The River Thames flows from the Cotswolds to the North Sea
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.8 Min

The River Thames (also known as the River Isis in some parts) is the longest river in England and the second-longest river system in all of the United Kingdom.

The River Thames flows through southern England, including London, and is around 215 mi (346 km) long. The river flows through Oxford (this is the place where the River Thames is called the Isis), Henley-On-Thames, Reading, and Windsor.

The River Thames flows from the Cotswolds to the North Sea. During the Roman Occupation, the River Thames was named Tamesis, which means dark water.

The source from which the river originates is marked with a stone near Kemble.

The area near the River Thames (the land on the banks) is made up of rolling hills and farmlands in some places and buildings where the river reaches urban areas like London.

The width of the River Thames is different in different places; it is around 60 ft (18.2 m) wide at Lechlade and around 18 mi (29 km) at Whitstable and Foulness Point.

The flow of the River Thames increases as the water flows through England, and the speed increases as the tributaries add more water to the body of the river.

The main tributaries of the River Thames are at Reading, Buscot, and Kingston. The combination of these tributaries adds about 2,219 million gal (8,399 million l) of water to River Thames daily.

This river has seen hundreds of years of history of Britain, the good times and the bad times, the rise and fall of many kings, the downfall of dynasties and queens, prosperity and destruction, and the rise of democracy. The river was also a witness to the devastating Second World War as well the current wave of Brexit.

Fun Facts About The Thames River

Let's learn some fun facts about the River Thames!

  • The name of the river, as many believe, comes from the Sanskrit word 'tamas', which means dark, as the color of the river is always dark and cloudy. The river was known as Tamesa or Tamesis in ancient times. Many also believe the name Thames comes from the ancient Roman word tam, which means wide. The name Isis means water.
  • The River Thames is home to 75 non-tidal bridges, 47 locks, and 29 tidal bridges. The River Thames is considered a tidal river from Teddington onwards. At the Thames estuary, the tidal range is 23 ft (seven m). The tidal region of the Thames is home to 50 shipping terminals.
  • A frozen Thames was recorded as early as 695 CE. That is the earliest recording of the freezing of the River Thames.
  • It is said that the River Thames carries around 330,693.393 t (300,000 mt) of sediment from the source to the river to the North Sea.
  • In 1843, the first underwater tunnel crossing the River Thames was built. This tunnel is now used as the East London Rail Line. Jumping to the present day, there are now around 17 tunnels crossing the River Thames.
  • At 1,230 ft (370 m), Waterloo Bridge is the longest bridge in Central London. This bridge is also on top of the Thames.
  • In the Second World War, during the Blitz, pilots used the Thames river to navigate safely at night. It was a guiding point that was instrumental in the war.
  • There are more than 200 rowing clubs in existence along the Thames. This shows how popular the river is for rowers, especially in London.
  • The River Thames is quite popular as it has been featured in many movies and shows. You will also find descriptions of the river in books. Some books where the river has been mentioned are 'Alice in Wonderland', 'Three Men in a Boat', 'The Wind in the Willows', and in many novels by Charles Dickens. The river has also been featured in many Hollywood feature films, including 'Indiana Jones'.
  • The longest riverside walk in Europe is found along the Thames. The Thames Path is about 184 miles (296 km) long; it starts in Gloucestershire and ends at the Thames Barrier. Now you might be wondering what the Thames Barrier actually is. The Thames Barrier is the second-largest movable flood barrier in the world. It was designed to protect Greater London from flooding caused by storm surges and high tides coming from the North Sea. Flooding has always been a problem and a threat along the river, and this barrier helps to protect London from catastrophe.
  • You can easily see the tides from London Bridge. You will be able to see a difference of 23 ft (seven m) between high and low tide at London Bridge. If you don't remember what London Bridge is, maybe listen to the nursery rhyme once again?
  • There are multiple crossings along the Thames, around 200 of them. There are small wooden footbridges on the Upper Thames river area, and there are bigger ones like Tower Bridge. Tower Bridge, one of London's most iconic structures, is a drawbridge that can be opened and closed using an electro-hydraulic system to allow river traffic to move about.

Geographical Facts About The Thames River

Whenever anyone talks about London, the capital of Britain, the Thames is mentioned automatically. This river is so iconic that it has its own identity. The river covers 5,502 sq mi (14,250 sq km) in area, while its length is 205 mi (330 km). It has a maximum depth of 65.6 ft (20 m).

  • The Thames is known to flow through several counties in the United Kingdom, which include Gloucestershire County, Oxfordshire County, Berkshire County, Buckinghamshire County, Wiltshire County, Surrey County, Kent County, and Essex County. Cities and towns that the Thames flows through are Oxford, Abingdon, Wallingford, Cricklade, Dartford, Gravesend, Lechlade, Reading, Windsor, Staines-upon-Thames, Walton-on-Thames, Kingston upon Thames, Teddington, Henley-on-Thames, Marlow, Maidenhead, London, and Southend-on-Sea.
  • The route of the river is quite complex. The source of the Thames is Thames' head. From there, the river covers ground to Teddington Lock for 140 mi (225.3 km). It then travels as an estuary to The Nore sandbank, where it covers a further 64 mi (103 km). It then turns to the open sea. The river has a total of 45 locks.
  • There are more than 190 islands from Kent to Oxfordshire along the Thames. However, only 45 out of the 190 islands are inhabited.
  • The second-longest river is only smaller in length than the River Severn, running through Wales and England.

Uses Of The River Thames

The water is used for cooling in electricity generating stations. Other uses are water for domestic purposes, industrial uses, and fish farming. Industries take cold water from the Thames and return the water after use. Machines are cooled by the water.

  • Most of the areas that the Thames passes through are farmland and rural areas. In dry weather, water is used for irrigation.
  • We already know 75 bridges cross over the non-tidal Thames, while 29 cross over the tidal Thames.
  • The Thames was once used to dispose of raw sewage. It became so polluted that the plan to dispose of the waste into the Thames had to be discarded in 1858. However, although the river has a history of pollution and severe smell, two-thirds of the drinking water used in London comes from the Thames itself.
  • Some famous bridges along the river include Westminster Bridge, Tower Bridge, and London Bridge.
Most of the areas that the Thames passes through

Facts About The River Thames Ecosystem

Although the Thames runs through urban areas and is polluted in some regions, it contains a lot of diverse mammals and other aquatic species.

  • At least 119 species of fish have been found living in the Thames estuary in the last 30 years. There are both freshwater and saltwater in the river, which help to sustain many kinds of fish. Salmon is the most commonly found fish in the river. Some other species found in the Thames are brown trout, bleak, roach, barbel, chub, dace, perch, pike, and flounder.
  • You will also be able to spot seals as far upstream of the river as Waterloo Bridge; the mammals go there for their breeding and nursing seasons. Gray and harbor seals are abundant in the region.
  • Bottlenose dolphins and harbor porpoises are also seen in the water of the Thames river.

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Written by Ritwik Bhuyan

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Ritwik Bhuyan picture

Ritwik BhuyanBachelor of Arts specializing in English

A skilled content writer, Ritwik holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University. He has refined his writing abilities through his past experience at PenVelope and his current role at Kidadl. In addition to his proficiency in writing, Ritwik has pursued his passion for flying by achieving CPL training and becoming a licensed commercial pilot. This diverse skill set highlights his commitment to exploring multiple fields. Ritwik's experience in the aviation industry has provided him with a unique perspective and attention to detail, which he brings to his writing.

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Fact-checked by Niyati Parab

Bachelor of Commerce

Niyati Parab picture

Niyati ParabBachelor of Commerce

With a background in digital marketing, Niyati brings her expertise to ensure accuracy and authenticity in every piece of content. She has previously written articles for MuseumFacts, a history web magazine, while also handling its digital marketing. In addition to her marketing skills, Niyati is fluent in six languages and has a Commerce degree from Savitribai Phule Pune University. She has also been recognized for her public speaking abilities, holding the position of Vice President of Education at the Toastmasters Club of Pune, where she won several awards and represented the club in writing and speech contests at the area level.

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