Highs and lows in the River Fal

The River Fal is a place of highs and lows. Not in the emotional sense, but in a very visual and physical sense.  The twice daily tides altering the picturesque shorelines of this unspoiled river always give us an excited anticipation of what will be revealed or hidden depending on the hour of the day.

There was a day in August where the difference between high and low was at its most extreme. This is what is called a spring tide, and is a time when the water level recedes to its lowest level, and also reaches its highest within a short time of 6 hours. The difference between the levels on this day was just over 5 meters.

You can imagine all that water flowing in and out of a narrow river would create some strong currents. This can get quite interesting for any visiting boats as they navigate up or down river with the fast flows and eddies and on our sailing trips, we do our best to take advantage of them.

We noted that  in one particular place where at high water the level was usually well below the the edge of a quay, it was now lapping over the top.  Later, when the tide had fully receded it  revealed an even more generous amount of the shoreline.

Incidentally, the difference between high and low water on any particular day is influenced by the moon, with full and new moons creating spring tides (the biggest difference) and half moons causing neap tides (the smallest difference).

As we are in the river most days of the season, we get the time to notice more than most along the edges of this special place. Rocks, tree roots, shingle beaches, muddy flats and the hangouts of the local wildlife are just a few examples. There is very little activity on the river, and with only the occasional ancient house on the riverbanks it feels like a wild place.

High water always displays a beautiful vista of water from bank to bank with the water tickling the low branches of the dense trees. It also offers the opportunity to explore deep into some very pleasant creeks to see some lesser seen nooks and crannies.

We sometimes sail along the rarely visited Ruan creek, which leads to the source of the River Fal many miles inland. Over the centuries it has become silted and shallow and navigation is now only possible at high water. We once spent a day dried out on the sand in here and were treated to a magnificent display of birds feeding on the rich mudflats.

Low water brings a fascinating shoreline, created naturally by a millennia of tides flowing in and out. Tree roots emerge from the rocky edges often serpent like, birds feeding at the waters edge and the occasional wreck of a boat which once made its way into the river, never to leave. With the river now much narrower and shallower, it brings an added challenge to our sailing tours.  

Big spring tides like this occur only a few times a year. At other times the range is typically between 2.5 and 4 meters. It is all part of the glorious and natural ebb and flow, highs and lows of the River Fal.

For information about sailing trips and tours in the Falmouth area and in the River Fal visit sailingbargedrifter.co.uk