Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans for great experiences

The River Tees


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The source of the River Tees lies on the eastern slope of Cross Fell in the North Pennines, it flows eastwards for 85 miles to reach the chilly waters of the North Sea.

The River Tees runs through a diverse landscape of rolling countryside and picturesque villages to industrial towns and large housing estates. It drains an area of 710 square miles and has a number of tributaries including the River Greta, River Lune, River Balder, River Leven and River Skerne.

Despite the industrial riverbanks the Tees estuary is surprisingly important for its wildlife and plantlife, with each season bringing different experiences.

Before the heavy industrialisation of the Tees, the flats at Seal Sands were home to the common seal. For around 100 years this species was absent from the estuary but they have now returned and can be seen on the flat sands and surrounding areas once more.



The Borough of Stockton-on-Tees owes much of its development to the River Tees.

In the early 13th century, Yarm was the most prosperous port on the river. Sailing ships brought wine and flax to the town and sheepskins for the tanneries along the river banks. On the return journey, salt, agricultural produce and lead from the mines in Swaledale were transported by sea to London and to the North-East coastal ports.

Captain James Cook born in Marton spent his early years in Great Ayton and Whitby. You can visit a replica of his ship the Endeavour, moored at Castlegate Quay on Stockton's riverside. The Endeavour itself was based upon the design of the coal barques that carried the coal away from the port.

With the expansion of the coal trade in the 17th century, Stockton became the major river port when coal was carried to the docks from the Durham coalfield by horse and cart to be shipped to London and overseas. Originally Stockton-on-Tees was a rural community, but with the Industrial Revolution came huge developments in heavy industry and massive expansion downstream to the estuary.

In the early 19th century the River Tees was altered between Stockton-on-Tees and Middlesbrough. The river previously meandered first south and then north of its current channel, the river was straightened, thus saving money and time in navigation.

In 1995 the exciting Tees Barrage International White Water Centre opened on the north bank of the River Tees. The purpose built, artificial white water course helped regenerate the area and has since been transformed into a world class facility. 


Exploring the river

You will find some fantastic beauty spots along the banks of the River Tees, but if you would like a change of scenery why not experience the river from the water. 

River Tees Watersports Centre

Not only is the centre home to the Tees Rowing, Powerboat and Dragon Boat Clubs, the centre is also home to the Tees Wheelyboat Club. The wheelyboats offer access to the river for wheelchair users. The specially adapted boats can take wheelchairs along the river.

Telephone: 01642 628940


RiverShack’s goal is for more people to take time out on the Tees, to have fun rowing boats and learning more about the river.

Based at Preston Park, with a new base in Yarm opening in October 2014, RiverShack is open every day (depending on the weather).

The company is also a planning a RiverBus between Yarm and the Park, new Canadian canoes and kayaks will follow, plus the opening of a café in Yarm in 2015.

Visit the RiverShack website to see what it has to offer.

Tees Barrage International White Water Centre

If you'd like a more exhilerating experience on the Tees why not take to the water at the Tees Barrage International White Water Centre. Here you can ride the rapids by raft, learn to kayak and sail or take a trip in a speed boat. There's something for everyone.

Visit the Tees Barrage International White Water Centre website to see what it has to offer.

Teesside Princess

The Teesside Princess is a purpose designed leisure cruiser that lives on the River Tees. It departs from the Castlegate Quay in Stockton and calls at Yarm and Preston Hall Museum and Grounds.

Offering day and evening cruises the Teesside Princess is a fun and relaxing way to see parts of the river you wouldn't normal see. Licensed to carry 150 passengers the cruiser is fully heated, offers drink and catering facilities and is suitable for individual and group bookings. 


Lighting the river

The riverside illumination between the Princess Diana and Millennium bridges, capitalises on the natural asset of the river as it flows through the Stockton Town Centre by lighting its iconic bridges and riverbank.  

The banks of the River Tees have been transformed with a series of breathtaking light installations.

Using a vibrant palette of colours, this permanent illumination adds value to the riverside businesses and restaurants and also plays an important part in the Council’s exciting events programme throughout the year.  

This key feature of the town centre regeneration scheme will help draw visitors and local people to the river as part of their time in the town centre, will support the area’s many successful businesses and housing developments and encourage further regeneration on the waterfront.

Why not come down and enjoy the 'show' which runs from dusk everyday. Why not combine your visit with a walk or meal at one of the riversides restaurant.

Did you know that The Infinity Bridge at Northshore also has beautiful light installations. You can follow the changing lights as you cross the river on this iconic footbridge. Why not combine it with a visit to the Barrage site just a stroll away down the footpath by the river.