There are six main river catchments which rise in the Yorkshire Dales National Park – the Swale, the Ure, the Wharfe, the Aire, the Ribble and the Lune. All of these rivers are upland in character where they flow through the National Park and are generally of high water quality with good populations of brown trout and other fish such as bullhead and stoneloach.
In their natural state Dales rivers are dynamic systems, continually modifying their form. However, virtually all of the Dales rivers have a limited ability to rejuvenate or create new habitats due to the impact of flood defence structures and management. Many of the Dales riverbanks have become eroded due to inappropriate engineering works, moorland drainage and lack of vegetation due to tree removal and grazing pressure. These activities have lead to changes in the frequency and magnitude of flooding, changes to the physical shape of river catchments and altered patterns of sediment transport leading to losses of pools and riffles.
However, organisations such as the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, the Lune Rivers Trust, the Ribble Rivers Trust, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and the Environment Agency are actively doing work to improve the condition of rivers in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Projects include the Upper Wharfe Restoration project and Catchment Sensitive Farming to improve water quality by reducing diffuse pollution.
Yorkshire Dales Rivers Conference 2013
To help co-ordinate work on river conservation the Yorkshire Dales Biodiversity Forum organised the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Conference in November 2013. More information on the conference can be found on the Biodiversity Action Plan page.
The condition of rivers in the UK has been in decline in recent years. As a result they are now a UK priority habitat and locally they are the subject of a Rivers Habitat Action Plan.