10+ Interesting River Thames Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know!

River Thames Facts

River Thames, best known for cutting London through the centre, has been an integral part of British history for over 2000 years. Beginning in Gloucestershire and ending between Kent and Essex, majority of River Thames facts are as fascinating as the river itself.

#1 Astonishing Dimensions

The depth of this river is about 20 metres. Although this does not compare to the deepest rivers in the world, it is indeed the deepest river in the United Kingdom. After the river Severn, it is also the second-longest river in the UK at 215 miles or 346 km long. It also has 45 different locks and over 180 islands, including large, lush marshlands and tiny islets. Even though it makes records for its depth and length, one of the surprising Thames river facts is that it isn’t as wide as one would think. The end is around 18 miles or 28.9 km wide, whereas, in some areas, it can be as narrow as merely 18 metres. 

#2 It Has Over 200 Bridges

River Thames Facts

Over 200 bridges span the river, some of which are also popular tourist places. Ranging from small wooden footbridges to spectacular sights like the Tower Bridge and the Millenium Bridge, which are some of the best-known sights in the iconic city of London, the Thames has it all. The Queen Elizabeth II Bridge is one of the longest with a length of over 812 metres. 

#3 Foundation Of London

Over 2000 years ago, when the original city of Londinium was built by the Romans, it was situated at its most convenient bridging point near the present-day London Bridge, connecting the north bank to the marshes of Southwark. This was back when the river was much shallower and wider. A major excavation, conducted in 2013, found thousands of artefacts, including letters, shoes, and pottery. Hence, there are your quirky facts about the River Thames – London owes its foundation and the London Bridge to the majestic river. 

#4 A Part Of The River Is Tidal

Despite being a river, the Thames has a vast stretch of a tidal section, about 99 miles or 160 km long. It extends from the Teddington lock to the Thames Estuary, where it meets the North Sea. 

Even more surprising is that the depth of the non-tidal section is controllable! The Environment Agency can vary it by adjusting the height of the weirs along the river. In simple terms, a weir is a barrier across the width of a river that alters characteristics like its water flow. This unusual behaviour is probably one of the strangest River Thames facts.

#5 Etymology

The name of this river is derived from the British ‘Tamesa’, and the Latin ‘Tamesis’. Stemming from the old Celtic name for the river ‘Tamesas’, which means ‘dark’, the name suits its appearance aptly. It is sometimes called the Isis through Oxford. Especially in Victorian times, cartographers insisted that the entire river was correctly called the Isis right from its source to Dorchester, and only where it meets the Thame is it to be called Thame-isis (abbreviated to Thames). Undeniably, its etymology is one of the most interesting facts about Thames River.

#6 It Holds The Oldest Boat Race In The World

The Boat Race is a combined event of both men’s and women’s races conducted over the glorious River Thames. It is an annual set of rowing races between the Cambridge University Boat Club and the Oxford University Boat Club, traditionally rowed between open-weight “eights”, which are boats specifically designed for eight rowers. These races were first held in 1829 for men and 1927 for women, and have been conducted annually since 1856 and 1964 for men and women respectively. Since 2018, these have been held as a combined event. Except during the periods of World War I, World War II, and the Covid-19 pandemic, the races have never been postponed or called off. Even then, unofficial races were conducted.

River Thames Facts

Although the course of the race covers 4.2 miles or 6.8 km of the Thames from Putney to Mortlake in West London, other locations have also been used. As of 2022, Cambridge is leading the scoreboard for both men’s and women’s events, although it is a close cut with 84-81 and 45-30 being the scores respectively. Over the years, around 2,50,000-2,70,000 people watch these events live, whereas approximately 15 million viewers watch them on television. The legacy of the Boat Race is certainly one of the most fascinating River Thames facts.

#7 Pool Of A Polar Bear

One of the quirky, historical River Thames facts is that it was once the relaxing pool of a polar bear. In 1251, the King of Norway gifted King Henry III a polar bear in the form of an incredible present. It was kept at the Tower of London, and on hot days used to go for a swim in the River Thames.

#8 London’s Drinking Water Source

Even though the river is so dark that its name is derived from its murky colour, around two-thirds of the drinking water in London is sourced from this river. Of course, it is filtered and treated before being supplied.  

#9 Home To Over 125 Fish Species

Another one of the fascinating River Thames facts is that it is home to over 125 species of fish. Shads, salmon, eels and porpoises are some of the different species that make habitats in this waterbody. Even a Northern Bottlenose Whale was once spotted in 2006. 

#10 Natural Disasters, Pollution And Global Warming

Hundreds of people were killed during the floods of the East End in 1928, caused by the overflowing of this river. In 1953, when similar floods occurred again, the construction of the Thames Barrier was initiated, and it opened in May 1984, over 3 decades later. However, the rising sea levels mean that the threat of floods is looming again, and it is predicted that the barrier will be able to protect the city only by 2060. 

One of the more disgusting River Thames facts is that in 1858, the pollution in the Thames had risen to the extent that it permanently gave off a foul stench. It was so terrible that the parliament had to be suspended. This also gave rise to a more efficient sewage system in the city. Until about 50 years back, the river had become so dirty that experts considered it biologically extinct, although that perspective has now changed as more protective legislation has come into force. 

#11 Art

River Thames Facts

The art history surrounding this waterbody is one of the more fascinating and aesthetic River Thames facts. Artists have often found inspiration in its dark, brown waters and bustling shores. The American artist James McNeill Whistler was absolutely captivated by the river and depicted it in several of his works. French artists such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and James Tissot were also enchanted by the river and captured the effects of light and shadows on its waters. 

Not only paintings, but the Thames has also influenced many popular delicacies of London. A range of fresh and saltwater fish, including eels, are harvested from here. These are further used by London’s famous Pie and Mash shops to create and sell dishes like jellied eels.


1. What is the River Thames famous for?

This river is famous for harbouring landmarks in London like royal palaces, government buildings, trading houses, bridges, tunnels, market squares, and bridges.

2. How deep is the Thames river?

The River Thames has a depth of just 66 feet or 20 metres.

3. Is the Thames the longest river on Earth?

Although the Thames is not the longest river in the world, it is the second-largest river in the United Kingdom.

4. Can you drink Thames water?

One cannot drink the water of this river directly. It is first filtered and treated to make it viable as a drinking source. Thames sources over two-thirds of the drinking water in London.

5. Is the River Thames safe to swim?

It is not advisable to swim in the tidal section of the Thames, since it is neither safe nor pleasant. But towards the west, the river gets cleaner, safer and more beautiful. All these swimming locations are west of London and easily accessible.

Thank you for reading this blog listing the fun facts about the River Thames! Let us know in the comment section below if we have missed any interesting River Thames facts.

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River Thames Facts

10+ Interesting River Thames Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know!

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