Environmental management – guidance

River Thames: conditions, closures, restrictions and lock closures

Reach closures, restrictions and lock closures affecting boaters on the River Thames.

River conditions

Find out the latest river conditions and strong stream warnings by:

  • visiting our River Thames Conditions website
  • calling our Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or 0845 988 1188 (24-hour service) to hear recorded information and advice (find out about call charges)
  • talking to lock staff
  • water levels in the upper River Thames, particularly upstream of Abingdon lock, may currently be shallower than you are used to in some places, due to below-average rainfall so far this year. We are asking boaters take extra care. Find out more about water levels in the upper Thames.

River closures and restrictions

The ‘find more detail link’ in the ‘What’s happening’ column will download guidance with details of the closure or restriction.

River closures: updated 21 July 2015

When Where What’s happening
Thursday 20 August 2015 and Monday 7 September 2015, 7pm to midnight Scours Lane, Reading (one mile upstream of Caversham Bridge) Reading festival temporary bridge: expect long delays whilst they install and dismantle the bridge. Find more detail on Reading festival temporary bridge.

River restrictions: updated 28 August 2015

When Where What’s happening
Until further notice Cookham Lock Due to a technical issue, Cookham Lock is only operable by handwind during any periods of self-service until further notice (this was previously the case between 10pm and 7am only).
October 2013 until further notice Teddington Reach, Kingston railway bridge between Teddington and Molesey Locks Maintenance work to Kingston railway bridge: work is required as part of a planned maintenance program. At least one of the three bridge arches will remain open for navigation. The visitor moorings on the upstream end of Kingston Wharf will be suspended for the duration of the work. Details of traffic management system to follow shortly.
July 2015 until further notice Reading Bridge (immediately upstream of Caversham Lock) Reading Bridge strengthening work: a one-way navigation channel will be in operation through the bridge between 7am and 7pm on weekdays. Find more detail on Reading Bridge strengthening work.
November 2014 until further notice Between Reading Bridge and the downstream end of Fry’s Island Construction of the new Reading cycle and footbridge: navigation will remain open and will either be redirected along the north side of Fry’s Island or through a restricted channel on the south side. Access to Fry’s Island and the services located there will be possible throughout the works. Find more detail on the construction of the new Reading cycle and footbridge.
Sunday 30 August 2015, 8:30am to 6pm Henley Reach Skiff championships regatta: the navigation channel will be on the Fawley Court (Oxfordshire) side of the river. Find more detail on skiff championships regatta.
Saturday 5 September 2015, 8:30am to 6pm Cookham Reach Cookham regatta: the navigation channel will be on the Buckinghamshire side of the river. Find more detail on Cookham regatta.
Saturday 5 September 2015, 10am to 4pm Henley Reach Regatta for the disabled (Henley): the navigation channel will be on the Berkshire (Remenham) side of the river. Find more detail on the regatta for the disabled (Henley).
Saturday 5 September 2015, 8:30am to 6pm Teddington Reach Skiff Club annual regatta: the navigation channel will be on the Kingston (east) side of the river. Find more detail on Skiff Club annual regatta.
Sunday 6 September 2015, 7:30am to 9:30am Eynsham Lock to Kings Lock Oxford swim: swimmers will hug the right-hand bank as they head downstream, leaving a clear navigation channel for boats along the centre of the river. Find more detail on Oxford swim.
Sunday 6 September 2015, 10am to 5pm Culham Reach Dragon boat racing: the navigation channel will be on the north (Abingdon) side of the river. Find more detail on dragon boat racing.

Planned lock closures: updated 11 August 2015

The Environment Agency carries out a programme of works on the River Thames every year between November and Easter. In order to carry out this work, it often needs to close a number of locks for relatively long periods.

So that river users can plan their winter cruising and boat movements well in advance, the Environment Agency publish the first issue of its programme of works in early August each year. Details of Issue 1 are shown below.

The programme of work is subject to change due to weather and other circumstances. Revised issues are published throughout the winter.

Listed below are the locks that will be closed during the 2015 to 2016 investment programme. The locks will be closed from the first date listed and re-open on the day after the final date.

When Where What’s happening
2 November 2015 to 4 March 2016 St John’s Lock Re-sheeting the head lock gates and repairing the tail lock gates
2 November 2015 to 4 March 2016 Godstow Lock Re-sheeting the lock gates
2 November 2015 to 4 March 2016 Culham Lock Refurbishing the lock chamber
4 January 2016 to 26 February 2016 Day’s Lock Minor repairs to the lock chamber
2 November 2015 to 26 February 2016 Temple Lock Refurbishing the lock chamber
2 November 2015 to 18 December 2015 Cookham Lock Replacing lock gate control system
2 November 2015 to 18 December 2015 Boulters Lock Re-sheeting the tail lock gates
11 January 2016 to 4 March 2016 Penton Hook Lock Repairing the tail lock gate pintle

Keep up to date

Get the latest river information before you go boating. Call our Floodline on 0345 988 1188 and when prompted select option 1 followed by the number shown below:

  • River conditions and strong stream warnings: 011131
  • Work on the river and lock closures: 011132
  • Events on the river which affect boating: 011133

Find out about call charges

Email and SMS updates

The Environment Agency sends email updates on River Thames closure and restrictions. To subscribe to this service, email riverthames@environment-agency.gov.uk with ‘subscribe to harbourmaster’s notices’ in the subject line.

Keep up to date with the current conditions on the River Thames, subscribe to email and SMS updates through our River Thames Conditions website.

Know your river conditions

Any river activity poses a greater risk when there are strong currents, high river levels or cold weather. River flows can increase even during the summer months – never assume sunny weather means the conditions are not hazardous.

Warning boards may be displayed at locks to inform river users of the conditions. Read the explanations of what these mean for you. Don’t take risks and never underestimate the power of the river.

When these red boards are displayed on lock gates, we advise users of all boats not to navigate because the strong flows make it difficult and dangerous.

People in hire boats arriving at a lock where these boards are displayed should stop immediately and contact their hire boat operator to ask for instructions.

Strong stream warning
Strong stream warning

When these yellow boards are displayed on lock gates, we advise users of all unpowered boats not to navigate and users of powered boats to find a safe mooring. This is because river flows are likely to strengthen, and red boards could be displayed very soon and without further warning.

Stream increasing warning
Stream increasing warning

When these yellow boards are displayed on lock gates, we advise users of all unpowered boats not to navigate and users of powered boats to navigate with caution.

Stream decreasing warning
Stream decreasing warning

Dealing with changing river conditions

Read this section carefully to find out what to do if you find yourself in conditions where we advise you to stop navigating. Remember, not all conditions will be serious enough to require all the measures suggested below.

  • Please take the advice to stop. Even the most experienced boater can be caught out, so think about those who could be put in danger if they have to help you.
  • Moor your boat in a safe place, preferably in a marina or at a recognised mooring. Limited space may be available at some locks. Moor against high banks if you can.
  • Ensure your mooring lines are fastened to secure fixings such as bollards, rings or even trees; put out extra lines for additional security and allow enough slack for a further rise in river levels; don’t rely on your own mooring pins or stakes, they might not hold.
  • If possible, put extra fendering (eg scaffold poles or strong timber posts) between your boat and the bank side, to prevent your boat drifting onto the river bank and becoming caught up when levels drop.
  • Make sure you have a safe exit ashore from your boat. If not, you should consider returning home or finding alternative accommodation until conditions improve.
  • If you are running low on essential supplies or have other safety concerns and are not able to vacate your boat safely, treat this as an emergency and dial 999 to ask for evacuation.
  • For hire boaters: if you are advised you to stop, you must call your boatyard and follow their instructions.

Please remember your life is more important than your boat.

The Environment Agency are not an emergency service and are not able to carry out search and rescue, or provide supplies to stranded boats.