In times of high rainfall the source of the river is Lathkill Head Cave (SK170658), but in normal conditions the river rises from springs slightly further down the valley, close to the village of Monyash, west of Bakewell, and flows generally eastward past the village of Over Haddon and through the village of Alport (where it is joined by the River Bradford) until it meets the River Wye near Rowsley. Roughly six and a half miles from source to outfall, it is the only river in the district that flows over limestone for its entire length.
The river valley, known as Lathkill Dale, is popular with tourists who visit to enjoy its natural beauty and wildlife. The medieval Conksbury Bridge (SK211656) now carries the road from Bakewell to Youlgreave. The dale has a history of lead mining, and among the trees on the north side of the valley can be seen the remains of the 19th-century Mandale Mine, including an old aqueduct and the ruined pump house, used as one of the last attempts to keep the mines drained and workable.
|“||... by many degrees, the purest and most transparent stream that I ever saw, either at home or abroad, and breeds, it is said, the reddest and best Trouts in England.||”|
Indeed when the river is at its clearest the fish can be seen from one bank across to the other.
Much of the river itself, and sections of the river valley, fall within the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve. Among the species that thrive there are brown trout, Dipper, and the rare wild plant Jacob's Ladder.
Through the use of Bluetooth, it is now possible at particular locations in the nature reserve for visitors to download pictures of flowers and birds, and also examples of birdsong, onto their mobile phones.
There are car parks at Over Haddon, Moor Lane, Youlgrave and Conksbury Bridge, and bus services run from Over Haddon, Monyash and Youlgreave.