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Going With The Flow? River Warnings Explained

Like many that have taken up paddleboarding in Berkshire during lockdown, you may still be unsure when and how to read river warning charts. We explain below...



Strong currents up the risk factor for any water activity whether your paddleboarding in Berkshire or Barbados, therefore the Environment Agency provides colour coded warnings to advise river users of the conditions. Flow warnings can be found online, but are also displayed on lock gates. As river users we are probably familiar with the terminology: Red Boards and Yellow Boards, but what do they actually mean?

Red boards - Strong stream warning.

This means strong flows will make navigation difficult and dangerous and all craft are advised not to navigate. it would be incredibly dangerous to paddleboard as you would be overwhelmed by the power of the current. Rivers on red boards are to be avoided and safer locations for paddling should be chosen.

Yellow boards - Stream increasing warning.

This means that river flows are increasing and red boards could soon be displayed - often without warning. Boaters are advised to find a safe mooring and unpowered craft (that’s us SUPers) are advised not to go on the water. Be aware that yellow boards can be displayed suddenly once heavy rain starts.

Yellow boards - Stream decreasing warning

River flows are decreasing, however the same warnings remain to boaters and unpowered craft as for stream increasing: Unpowered craft should not navigate.

A river in flood is an elemental force and comes with lots of other dangers.

For example:

  • Debris - which can be anything from trees to boats ripped from their mooring

  • Strainers – overhanging trees which will push you under the water and trap you there

  • Speed – your speed increases, reducing your reaction time to upcoming dangers

Anything else to consider?

Yes! Keep an eye on possible warnings upstream. If your stretch of the river is without warnings but the river is out of bounds further up it may be best to stay home. Check the weather forecast too and be cautious if heavy rain is likely. Generally speaking it’s advisable to paddle upstream first so that if the flow is faster than you anticipated, you can turn around.

Just because it’s a crisp, blue sky, sunny day doesn’t mean that the conditions are not hazardous. Don’t take risks and never underestimate the power of the river. For further information visit our safety page.

Safe paddling!


We will always check the river levels in advance if you choose to book onto one of our River paddleboarding trips in Berkshire. Follow this link to book.