Skip to main content

The charity making life better by water

Two swans and a boat on a river in an urban area surrounded by brick buildings

River Aire

Unlike the straight, manmade Aire & Calder Navigation, the River Aire follows a twisting route through the hidden corners of Yorkshire.

River Aire

Length6.5 miles

Maximum boat dimensions

Length23.92m 78ft 6"
Width5.03m 16ft 6"
Draught1.22m 4ft
Headroom3.0m 9ft 10"

Free guides for fun days out

Looking for a perfect place to relax and unwind? Download your free regional guide today

Local to you

Show me places within...

Explore your nearest canals and ways to enjoy them Find walks, activities and more within:


The Canal & River Trust looks after the navigable parts of the River Aire, from Leeds to Haddlesey weir, just after Knottingley.

From the remote reaches of the Yorkshire Dales, it runs through the historic market town of Skipton and the fascinating Victorian textile workers' village of Saltaire, with its well-preserved wool mill, almshouses and churches.

It passes the dramatic ruins of Kirkstall Abbey, before entering the cosmopolitan centre of Leeds. Finally, it flows into the River Ouse in the remote and unspoiled countryside near the small town of Airmyn.

A history of the River Aire

The Aire & Calder Navigation was given its Act in 1699 to make the river below Leeds navigable. Upstream, a bill to make it navigable from Bingley to Skipton was presented unsuccessfully to Parliament in 1740, the proposal eventually becoming the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

The Aire's course passes through coalfields and the greater part of its length became highly industrialised such that, together with the Don, Rother and Calder, it was instrumental in the making of modern Yorkshire though this was at the expense of the quality of the river itself.

A local piece of comic verse inspired by the meeting of the Aire with the Calder stating "That's why the Castleford girls are so fair, they bathe in the Calder and dry in the Aire," was evidently penned long before pollution became a serious problem. At one point the river was so fouled that it was unable to sustain any form of wildlife whatsoever, a situation that has dramatically been turned for the better in recent years. The River Aire is now a pleasant spot for a weekend walk.

photo of a location on the canals
newsletter logo

Stay connected

Sign up to our monthly newsletter and be the first to hear about campaigns, upcoming events and fundraising inspiration