|• location||Lower White Tor|
|• elevation||450 m (1,480 ft)|
|2nd source||East Dart|
|• location||Kit Rock, Whinney's Down|
|• elevation||510 m (1,670 ft)|
|• elevation||210 m (690 ft)|
|0 m (0 ft)|
|• location||Austins Bridge, Buckfastleigh|
|• average||11.04 m3/s (390 cu ft/s)|
|• maximum||40 m3/s (1,400 cu ft/s)|
The River Dart is a river in Devon, England, that rises high on Dartmoor and flows for 75 kilometres (47 mi) to the sea at Dartmouth.
Most hydronyms in England derive from the Brythonic language (from which Cornish developed) and the river's subsequent names ultimately derive from an original Celtic etymology. As the lower stretches of the river are still covered in ancient oak woodlands, it is accepted that the first element derives from *Dar-, meaning oak (Cornish derow, Welsh derw). However the second element (evident in the hard consonantal termination of Dar-t) is less certain, with postulated etymologies from Darwent / Derventio (Sacred place of Oak) or Darnant / Darant (Oak stream).
The Ravenna Cosmography records a number of Latinised names for the area, Devionisso Statio and Deventiasteno may represent corrupted doublets of a Statio (Station) on a river named Derventio. Although the name Derventio is otherwise unattested for the river, it is an established etymology throughout Britain, found at the River Darent, Derwentwater, and a number of rivers named Derwent. Anna Eliza Bray recorded that a version of the name, Darant was still in common usage as late as 1832.
The river begins as two separate branches (the East Dart and West Dart), which join at Dartmeet. The paths along these rivers offer very attractive walking, and there are several small waterfalls. The rivers are crossed by a number of clapper bridges, notably at the hamlet of Postbridge.
After leaving the moor, the Dart flows southwards past Buckfast Abbey and through the towns of Buckfastleigh, Dartington and Totnes. At Totnes, where there is a seventeenth-century weir (rebuilt in the 1960s), it becomes tidal, and there are no bridges below the town.
A passenger ferry operates across the river from the village of Dittisham to a point adjacent to the Greenway Estate. Formerly the home of the late crime writer Agatha Christie, this has stunning views across the river, and the house and gardens are now owned by the National Trust and are open to the public.
The Dart estuary is a large ria and is popular for sailing. The village of Kingswear and town of Dartmouth are on the east and west sides of the estuary, and are linked by two vehicle ferries and a passenger ferry. The Kingswear Regatta is held each year. The deep water port of Dartmouth is a sheltered haven.
The entrance to the river from the sea is a rocky entrance with cliffs either side. On the East side Kingswear Castle sits very close to the water's edge, and on the west side Dartmouth Castle is built on a rocky promontory at sea level. The castles once operated a defensive chain across the estuary, which was raised at dusk to destroy enemy ships attempting to attack the harbour. The remains of the operating mechanisms for the chain are still visible in Dartmouth castle.
The flooded ria that forms the lower reaches of the Dart, with its deep water and steeply sloping valley sides, is a considerable barrier to crossing traffic. There are no bridges below Totnes.
At the mouth of the river, it separates the communities of Dartmouth and Kingswear. There have been proposals to bridge the river here, but these have come to nothing. Instead the two places are linked by, in order going upstream, the Lower Ferry, Passenger Ferry and Higher Ferry. The Lower and Higher ferries both carry vehicles, the Higher one linking the A379 road.
Some 2.5 miles (4.0 km) upstream of Dartmouth, the Greenway Ferry carries pedestrians across the river from the village of Dittisham to Greenway Quay.
A further 5 miles (8.0 km) upstream is Totnes, where the river is spanned by two road bridges, a railway bridge and a footbridge over. Totnes Bridge is the nearest bridge to the sea and is a road bridge built in 1826–1828 by Charles Fowler. Some 1,000 feet (300 m) upstream is Brutus Bridge, constructed in 1982 as part of a road traffic-relief scheme and carrying the concurrent A385 and A381 roads. A further 0.5 miles (0.80 km) upstream, the railway bridge carries the National Rail Exeter to Plymouth line over the river. Immediately upstream of the railway bridge is a footbridge, built in 1993 to provide access to the Totnes (Riverside) terminus of the South Devon Railway.
The upper reaches of Dartmoor, especially those on the Dart, are a focal point for whitewater kayakers and canoeists. The best known sections of the river are:
Sections of the East and West Dart above Dartmeet, as well as the Webburn are also paddled when conditions permit. This is somewhat controversial, as riparian landowners and those responsible for local fisheries maintain that the East and West Dart should not be paddled.
The lower reaches of the Dart, including the estuary are suitable for flat water touring.
Angling is very popular in the Dart Valley. The West Dart is notable ground for salmon spawning redds.
The River Dart is the source of much folklore on Dartmoor, where it is traditionally respected and feared - the waters have a tendency to rise without notice following heavy rainfall on the moors above, adding to the dangers of its rapids and powerful currents. This gave rise to the couplet:
The 1951 non-fiction book The River Dart by Ruth Manning-Sanders centres on the river and its history.
The English poet Alice Oswald wrote the 48-page poem Dart (2002), which was awarded the T. S. Eliot Prize for 2002. The poem's voice is that of the River Dart, which Oswald adapted from three years of recorded conversations and research with people who inhabit the communities along the river.
Outdoor bloggers Two Blondes Walking wrote a children's book in 2015 about the River Dart. 'Dart the River' tells the story of the River Dart from its source high on Dartmoor to the sea at Dartmouth and was illustrated by Ali Marshall.