Bolton Strid – The River That Hypnotizes, Traps, and Kills


The River Wharfe, located in northern England, is both beautiful and picturesque, winding and twisting through the countryside for nearly 65 miles.  Its a wide river that mostly flows east to south-east. It maintains its volume because it is being continually fed by many small streams along the way.   It is a primary source for irrigation water, drinking water, and in some areas it has been dammed for hydroelectric power production.  Many areas of the river are hot spots for tourists and birdwatchers, with nearly two-hundred species being identified over the years.  By all accounts, its a natural wonder and considered very valuable for the surrounding communities.  However, the natural beauty of the river is hiding something dark and terrible.  On a stretch of the waterway north of Bolton Bridge, the river narrows before going over a waterfall.  This area is known as the Bolton Strid, likely the most dangerous stretch of river in the world.

The Bolton Strid is a narrow section of the river, and from first observation looks calm and pristine. It appears to be shallow and suitable for swimming or other activities. Actually it becomes so narrow in some places that someone could literally jump from one bank to the other.  The local citizens say that the Strid name is derived from the word stride, or to take a very long step and jump across.  But looks can be deceiving and the look of the Bolton Strid has been quite deadly in its deception.  Beneath that calm lies a deep underwater channel that is unlike anything most people can imagine.  Combine that with the undercut banks on both sides of the river, the possibility for tragedy climbs to dangerous proportions.

The Deadly Underwater Secret of Bolton Strid

The narrow section of the river is misunderstood.  The waterway shrinks from nearly forty feet in width to barely four feet, but the volume of water doesn’t just disappear.  Instead, it has changed directions and started flowing downward.  The current picks up an incredible amount of speed while simultaneously moving in every direction. This percolating causes unexpected whirlpools, flash flooding, strange bubbling, and other ferocious water movements that come and go without warning. This activity has caused the rock beneath the river to eroded at an accelerated pace, to such a degree that depth is unknown and currently cannot be measured.   And if that wasn’t bad enough, the erosion has also created many uncharted underwater channels, caves, and hidden pockets.  Imagine a constant high-pressure hose forcing millions of gallons of water straight down into the earth.  The softer spots would erode first, leaving pressurized pockets far beneath the surface that could trap and hold an object for an undetermined amount of time.  No animal or human would have the strength to fight again that sort of power, so once in, they were in for who knows how long.  It’s a void that no one can explore, nor make a rescue attempt.

The Body Count

There is a long-standing warning in the area.  Simply don’t try to jump the Bolton Strid. If you fail, you will pay the price with your life.  Despite the warning, foolish souls have tried.  The moss covered banks are very slippery and even if you manage to cover the gap, you could easily slip and fall backwards. Many succeed, but some did not and sadly were lost until the river decides if and when release their battered bodies at a point downstream.  To this day, there are no accounts of anyone who has fallen into the Bolton Strid of surviving.  Some bodies have never been recovered.  It is believed that they are trapped in a system of underwater caves or simply held down by the high pressure of the current.  But, without any scientific exploration, no one is exactly sure.  Up until the mid-70’s, SCUBA divers did some minor exploration of the Strid. It is illegal to dive in the area now, so chances are we’ll never know.

As far as the body count goes, the earliest story dates back to the year 1154 when a young man named William de Romilly, a man of noble birth, attempted to jump across the Strid.  Sadly he failed, being pulled down by the brutal current and his body was never recovered.  There aren’t many written accounts from the years following until 1934.  The Bolton Strid claimed the life of a 63-year-old watercolor artist named Arthur Reginald Smith.  Mr. Smith was trying to get to the other side to paint the river but fell in and drowned trying to cross it.

Bolton StridIn 1998, Barry and Lynn Collett were enjoying their honeymoon, being married just a few days earlier.  They took a leisurely stroll along the bank of the Strid when out of nowhere, a flash flood occurred.  An inquest afterwards projected that the river level rose nearly 5 feet in less than 60 seconds and they were caught without warning, drowned and drug downstream for several miles.  In this case, the bodies were recovered rather than being sucked down into the depths forever.  Lynn was found 6 days later, while Barry remained trapped in the river for nearly a month until finally emerging 10 miles downstream.  Several years later, in the year 2010 a young boy named Aaron Page was playing near the river with his older brother Josh.  The young boys were not familiar with the history of the river and were unsupervised.  Seeing a group of exposed stepping stones, they attempted to cross the Strid.  Sadly Aaron slipped and fell into the river to his death, his battered body was recovered 3 hours later.

Is the Strid Haunted?

Anytime there is a place on Earth that has an abnormal number of strange death’s associated with it, there is a tendency to claim it is haunted.  There are a few stories about the Bolton Strid be haunted, but not enough to make a legitimate claim.  It is a dangerous natural wonder, but likely just that.  There are claims of apparitions, shadows of two lovers being seen over the water and cries of a woman who drowned while crossing the river, but they are just claims.  As far as I know, there has never been a paranormal investigation done of the area.

Bottom line is the Bolton Strid is dangerous and you’d be wise to keep your distance.  Don’t jump, don’t even think about jumping.  The risk is just too great.

Published Works by R.J. Schwartz are Available on Amazon

The Lover’s Thread, Poetry of Love and Romance

Poetry of the Human Condition, The Ups and Downs of Modern Living

The Creative Exiles an anthology of poems: Let the Words Speak


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