Locks to the River Thames

Whether you're joining our waterways or leaving for the Thames, there are some important things you need to know. The tidal locks to the Thames are Thames Lock Brentford, Limehouse, Bow and West India Dock Entrance.

Map showing locations of Thames locks Map showing locations of Thames locks

Boating on the Thames

Boating on the tidal Thames presents a unique set of challenges. For instance, it's not uncommon for the passage between Teddington and Limehouse to have waves over a metre tall with tidal flows above four knots. But for the experienced boater, it's well worth a go.

The River Thames flows downstream towards Docklands. But the tide is more powerful - it'll be either pushing water back up towards Teddington or pull it back towards the Docklands. If you're travelling on the Thames, you need to travel with the tide. 

High tide (or high water) is the point at which the tide's direction switches. You'll want to be at your destination by then.

Boats travelling from Teddington to Brentford:
The usual advice is to lock into Teddington about 45 minutes after high water at London Bridge (about 45 minutes to Brentford)

Boats travelling from Brentford to Teddington:
The usual advice is to lock into Brentford about 60 to 90 minutes before high water at London Bridge (about 45 minutes to Brentford)

Boats travelling from Brentford to Limehouse:
The usual advice is to lock into Brentford about one hour after high water at London Bridge

Boats travelling from Limehouse to Brentford:
At this point ask yourself 'what time are you leaving Limehouse?'. Your arrival in Brentford will be about two and a half hours after that

When to use the tidal locks

So, using the tidal locks, therefore, depends on the tide. However, you can only use the tidal locks at Thames Lock Brentford, Limehouse, Bow and West India Dock Entrance when our team or volunteers are on site. 

Find out more about how to book passage through each lock in the information below. You can double check for any planned or emergency lock closures on our stoppages page.

The Port of London

The Port of London (PLA) expects most vessels and especially those of 13.7m or more in length overall, to have an operational VHF radio onboard.

The PLA has information and a very useful guidance document on this. 

  • Teddington Lock can be contacted on 020 8940 8723
  • Richmond Lock on 020 8940 0634
  • Port of London Authority on 01474 562 200

Thames Lock 101, Brentford

The 2020 Thames tide timetable sets out availability of the lock. You must book the lock online at least 48 hours in advance.

If you have any problems with your booking or you're a contractor, please email our Customer Service Team, stating 'Thames Lock Booking' in the subject line of your email.

In your email please include:

  • your name and telephone number
  • your boat’s name and index number
  • the date and time you’d like to book for travel (taking into account tidal times)
  • your direction of travel ie. up from the Thames, down to the Thames (if you are coming from the direction of Teddington Lock or Limehouse Lock)

Please note: Our London & South East regional team (Little Venice and Milton Keynes offices) work 9am to 5pm Monday to Thursday, and 9am to 4.30pm Friday, with last bookings taken at 3pm on Friday.

Before you go on your journey, check lock closures on our stoppage pages.

Limehouse Lock

Limehouse Lock is not available for around two hours either side of low water at London Bridge.

In the summer (1 April to 30 September): the lock is open between 8am to 6pm. It's also possible to use the lock from 5am and to 10pm if it is booked 24 hours in advance.

In the winter (1 October to 31 March): the lock is open between 8am to 4pm. It's also possible to use the lock from 5am and to 10pm if it is booked 24 hours in advance.

To book the lock, you need to call Aquavista, formerly known as BWML in advance on 020 7308 9930.

Bow Lock

Bow Lock must be booked 7 days in advance. Availability is restricted to two hours either side of high water at London Bridge between 9.30am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday.

To book the lock, please please email our Customer Service Team, stating 'Bow Lock Booking' in the subject line of your email.

In your email please include:

  • your name and telephone number
  • your boat’s name and index number
  • the date and time you’d like to book for travel (taking into account tidal times)
  • your direction of travel ie. up from the Thames, down to the Thames (if you are coming from the direction of Teddington Lock or Limehouse Lock)

West India Dock Entrance

West India Lock must be booked in advance. Availability is restricted to three hours either side of high water at North Woolwich. We can guarantee a lock booking between 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. For any operations outside these hours, please contact us to discuss your requirements.

Please note that you will need to have full salvage cover/wreck removal insurance to enter West India Dock.

To book the lock, please please email our Customer Service Team, stating 'West India Dock Booking' in the subject line of your email.

In your email please include:

  • your name and telephone number
  • your boat’s name and index number
  • the date and time you’d like to book for travel (taking into account tidal times)
  • your direction of travel ie. up from the Thames, down to the Thames (if you are coming from the direction of Teddington Lock or Limehouse Lock)

Other information

If you've not been on our waterways before, you'll need to buy the appropriate licence first. 

You'll need a valid boat safety certificate and current insurance cover.

Maximum craft dimensions for our London canals are: length 21.95m (72’), beam 3.96m (13’), air draft 2.13m (7’).

In an emergency, call 0800 47 999 47.

Tide times

Tide times are available from the PLA website.

Last date edited: 24 December 2020