We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.

In the East End of London is a little-known network of backwaters of the River Lee. The Bow Back Rivers are a series of interconnected waterways; forgotten rivers with evocative names like Pudding Mill, Channelsea, Three Mills Wall and Waterworks.

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Once a neglected part of the city, the area has now been transformed for the 2012 Olympics. Careful restoration has created space for nature and encouraged wildlife to return to the heart of the city. The Bow Back Rivers, London’s Olympic waterways, look set to become a popular new destination for walkers, cyclists and boaters.

You can explore the fascinating industrial history of the area at Three Mills Island, a historic patch of cobbled streets, 18th-century buildings and watermills, all surrounded by the waterways of Bow Back Rivers.

Find stoppages, restrictions and other navigational advice for this waterway.

Days out

Enjoy a gentle walk and soak up the living history of Old Ford Lock & Bow Warf

The history

Parts of the Bow Back Rivers date back to the time of Alfred the Great and the invasion of the Danes; it is recorded that the King trapped their ships by draining the lower Lee, forcing the invaders to flee on horseback. During the industrial revolution the Back Rivers played a major role in providing water to local industry and in the 1930s they were improved both for navigational purposes and the drainage of floodwater.