River Aire

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This article is about the river in England. For other rivers, see Aire (disambiguation).
River Aire
River Aire Gargrave.jpg
The River Aire at Gargrave, North Yorkshire
Country England
Counties North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, East Riding of Yorkshire
District Craven
 - left Gordale Beck, Eshton Beck, Eller Beck, Silsden Beck
 - right Otterburn Beck, Broughton Beck, Eastburn Beck, River Worth, Harden Beck, Bradford Beck, River Calder
City Leeds
 - location Malham Tarn, North Yorkshire
 - elevation 377 m (1,237 ft)
Mouth River Ouse
 - location Airmyn, East Riding of Yorkshire
 - elevation 5 m (16 ft)
Length 114 km (71 mi)
Basin 1,004 km2 (388 sq mi)
Discharge for River Ouse
 - average 35.72 m3/s (1,261 cu ft/s)

The River Aire is a major river in Yorkshire, England, 71 miles (114 km) in length.[1] Part of the river below Leeds is canalised, and is known as the Aire and Calder Navigation.

The Aire starts its journey at Malham Tarn. It becomes a subterranean stream at 'Water Sinks' about 1 mile (1.6 km) before the top of Malham Cove, it then flows underground to Aire Head, just below Malham, in North Yorkshire, and then flows through Gargrave and Skipton. After Cononley, the river enters West Yorkshire where it passes through the former industrial areas of Keighley, Bingley, Saltaire and Shipley. It then passes through Leeds and on to the villages of Swillington and Woodlesford. At Castleford is the confluence of the Aire and Calder; just downstream of the confluence was the ford where the ancient British road, used by the Romans, crossed on its way north to York. The river re-enters North Yorkshire near Knottingley and in its lower reaches forms part of the boundary between North Yorkshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire.

The River Aire empties into the River Ouse at Airmyn, 'myn' being an old English word for 'river mouth'. The name possibly derived from Common Brittonic *Isara, meaning "strong river". The Aire could have been the winwœd or winwæd written about in Old English, from the Old English elements winnan or win ("strife", "fight") and wæd ("shallow water", "ford"), however others have proposed that it is actually the Went (also called the "wynt" in Old English) or the Cock Beck (see Battle of the Winwaed). Still others have claimed that it is actually the name of the battle and not the body of water itself.[2][3]


from source

River Aire at Leeds

(Joins River Ouse)

Power stations[edit]

There are three power stations alongside the River Aire east of Castleford; Ferrybridge C, Eggborough[4] and Drax. Drax takes its cooling water from the Ouse, but both Ferrybridge and Eggborough draw their water from the Aire. Both of these plants are due to close in 2016.[5][6]


Due to the Aire flowing through the former industrial landscape of West Yorkshire, it had a reputation as being heavily polluted.[7] In 2007, Yorkshire Water carried out improvements to Esholt Sewage Works at a cost of £110 million under the EU's Fresh Water Fish Directive. Whilst Trout are prevalent above Keighley, the river is host to others such as Chub, Dace, Barbel & Grayling, whilst Sea Trout have been noted as far upriver as Shipley.[8] Work is also being undertaken to make the many weirs on the river easier to negotiate for fish.[9] These improvements have also allowed Otters and Water Voles to return to the river as the water and food quality is far superior to that when the river was polluted.[10]

Castleford Wastewater Treatment Works has had £16 million of investment between 2013 and 2015. The improvements to this plant, which discharges water directly into the Aire, has also vastly improved water quality downstream of the plant.[8]

Rodley Nature Reserve, St Aidans & Fairburn Ings RSPB reserve lie alongside the Aire.


The Aire is navigable as far upstream as Leeds and downstream has a navigable section into the Aire & Calder Navigation, with navigable access to other canals and waterways. Crown Point in Leeds is listed as the furthest west that can be reached by boat, though the limit is a headroom of 11 feet 11 inches (3.62 m).[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our River". Aire Rivers Trust. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  2. ^ "A Brief History of the Fairburn Area". Web.onetel.net.uk. Retrieved 5 August 2011. 
  3. ^ Archaeologia Aeliana, Or, Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity By Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne Published by Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1857 Item notes: ns.1 Original from Oxford University Digitized 24 January 2007
  4. ^ "Lubrafil" (PDF). 
  5. ^ "Energy company SSE confirms Ferrybridge power station closure". BBC News. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  6. ^ "Power station to start closure talks". BBC News. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  7. ^ "A brief history of the River Aire". Aire Rivers Trust. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Waste Water". Yorkshire Water. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  9. ^ "River Water Quality". Yorkshire Water. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  10. ^ "Pollution is water under the bridge". Keighley News. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  11. ^ "Canal & River Trust - Aire & Calder Canal" (PDF). 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°43′N 0°53′W / 53.717°N 0.883°W / 53.717; -0.883