The Most Dangerous Stretch of Water in the World

Mother Nature has a hungry mouth full of jagged teeth after all.

Knowing my twisted fascination with the macabre, my dear husband sent me a meme recently that discussed the Bolton Strid, a calm, bucolic looking little stream that tends to kill anyone who makes the mistake of falling in. It kind of made me think that perhaps Mother Nature has a hungry mouth full of jagged teeth after all. I had to find out more.

The first thing I came across was an article entitled, “Bolton Strid: The Stream That Swallows Anyone Who Falls In”. It described exactly why this pretty little stream in Yorkshire, England is so deadly. It’s enough to make your hair stand on end.

A number of dangerous elements come together in this accursed place. First of all, north of the strid, the body of water is called the River Wharfe. That river is 30 feet across. There are bridges up there, because no one in their right mind would attempt to walk across this deep, wide river. But then it curves around and enters the rocky area of the strid, and is forced to contort itself in unexpected ways.

Over the centuries, this rocky bottleneck seems to have made the river flow vertically through the rocks. So it looks like a narrow, jumpable, relatively calm stream, but in truth it is a deep, roiling destructive and all but invisible rapids that has managed to undercut the banks so deeply that the smooth, simple, slime-covered, sloping banks actually hide caverns and tunnels that most likely contain a lot of human bones. When you fall in there, you get sucked under, and quite often you never come out again. When you walk this slippery shoreline, you are walking above many an unseen grave.

The Bolton Strid has inspired legends and poems and stories. I’ve read several of them while researching this article. My favorite is the creepy short story, The Striding Place, written by Gertrude Atherton in 1896. It gave me the old fashioned willies, and made me think that Gertrude and I would have been fast friends. You can practically taste the glee with which she wrote this horror story. It was considered so disturbing in her day that she had a hard time getting it published.

This 2 minute video on Youtube will show you just how calm and navigable Bolton Strid seems to be. Heck, I’d try to jump it if I didn’t know what I know. It looks like a simple hop. But what horrifies me about it is that people have been dying here for centuries. If you know that, why are there no warning signs? Why no footbridge if you know people will be tempted to jump across? It boggles the mind.

Of course, I’ve never been there myself, and maybe the signs, at least, are just out of camera range. But it just seems like an extremely irresponsible oversight to me. Go figure.

Bolton Strid

Enjoy my random musings? Then you’ll love my book!


Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

7 thoughts on “The Most Dangerous Stretch of Water in the World”

  1. Ah, yes, the Strid. I chanced to read about it some years back. Some guys recently managed to kayak over it when it was running high and they are the first *official* survivors. There are signs and life jackets posted nearby, among the trees. I think the reason they didn’t put a bridge over it was they thought it would spoil the view, as it is quite a charming sight even if you know the backstory. Someone managed to get a couple or three images of what is purported to be the interior, by means of a tethered camera. It is indeed capacious in parts, but no bones. I would like to see them do a ground-penetrating radar view of it. Bring on the science!
    When I got enough closeups of it, I was struck by how much it resembled our own Whatcom Falls Park, in Bellingham. Same sandstone, same intricate pocketings and vorticular hollows. If you have not visited that park, you should remedy this soon. The Strid-like portion is,oh, about a quarter-mile downstream from the park entrance. It’s a wonderful place.
    Macabre curiosity is a subset of normal curiosity and not to be ashamed of. Intelligence can get a handle on it and keep us safe. That said, you might find the story of the Seymour Narrows interesting too, if you don’t already know about it–and for a (once) really sinister waterway, check out Chicago’s Bubbly Creek.

  2. The Striding Place described the Bolton Strid so powerfully that I feel like I’ve been there. Perhaps Gertrude Atherton had trouble getting it published because she was a woman writing casually about unmarried sexual relations and hinting at a homosexual crush in a genre dominated by male authors. A male author in the late 1800’s may have easily broached such subjects but they would have been unladylike topics for a woman. Maybe the piece was written so well they overlooked the social norms. Thank goodness times were changing and she wasn’t compelled to hide behind a male pseudonym. Unfortunately times hadn’t progressed enough to cure her of her white supremacy advocacy. Maybe you two wouldn’t have been fast friends afterall.

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