Introduction to the Waterways

Every year more then ten million of us visit Britain’s waterways to fish, cycle or walk the towpath, observe wildlife or go boating and enjoy the UK's canals and navigable rivers.


As well as the navigable canals and rivers, there are many waterways that are under restoration. Find out more about waterways restoration and the history of the waterways.


Holiday hireboaters, leisure boaters and liveaboards populate the UK waterways to be close to nature, to travel, and for relaxation amongst other things. Find out more about hiring a boat, on board systems, safety on your boat, navigating your boat, buying a boat and living afloat.

Canoes and Other Unpowered Craft

The placid waters of canals offer canoeists of all ages the opportunity to explore the UK at a steady pace. The use of canoes and other unpowered craft on the majority of inland waterways requires a licence.

Walking and Cycling

The towing paths along the waterways provide excellent peaceful walking and cycling routes. Cyclists need to be aware of the Waterways Code and the Share the Space, Drop Your Pace Greenway Code in London.


Angling on the UK's inland waterways can offer a peaceful waterside experience. However, anglers need to make sure that they have purchased the appropriate rod licence.


Canals and rivers are now among the country's most important environmental assets. Rural habitats range from woodland and hedgerow, through to grassland, wetlands and open water. Find out more

Waterways for Kids

Find out more about WoW, a national initiative to involve and inspire children about the inland waterways.


Many waterways offer opportunities for freight transport which means lower CO2 emissions, noise, and it can be more cost-effective. IWA's Inland Waterways Freight Group aims to raise awareness of this. Find out more.

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