15 Interesting Facts About The River Thames We Bet You Haven't Heard Before

River Thames and the Houses of Parliament taken from across the river with the river ferry in the foreground
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If you've ever been to London, chances are you've seen the large river that runs through the middle of the capital.

The River Thames has played an important role in the history of London. If rivers could talk, the River Thames would certainly have some interesting stories to tell! There are plenty of fun things to do in London, and you'll find many of them on the banks of the Thames. Learn more about this incredible waterway with our list of 15 interesting River Thames facts.

Top 15 River Thames Facts

1) The Thames is the longest river that runs entirely through England, stretching an impressive 215 miles (346 km). It's also the second-longest river in the UK after the River Severn, which mostly runs through Wales.

2) Scientists have found evidence for the River Thames to be as old as 58 million years. The course of the river has changed many times in those millions of years as a result of ice ages and sea-level change. The river took a course similar to the one we know today about 10,000 years ago.

3) The Thames can be split into two sections; tidal and non tidal. The tidal Thames is affected by the tides of the North Sea and stretches for 68 miles (109 km) from the mouth of the river to Teddington Lock in west London. The non tidal section runs for 147 miles (237 km) and runs from Teddington Lock to the river's source, Thames Head in Gloucestershire.

View of the London Eye from the River Thames.
Image © Flickr

4) The water might look murky, but there are actually 119 different species of fish living in the Thames. Salmon, trout, and eels are just some of the many species of fish you can find in the River Thames.

5) If you're lucky, you might spot some rare creatures living in the Thames. There are around 700 seals living in the waterway, and you can also find porpoises and bottlenose dolphins living near to where the river meets the sea.

6) Over 200 bridges cross the River Thames in different places. Some of the most famous bridges include Tower Bridge, London Bridge, and Westminster Bridge.

7) London Bridge is famous for the nursery rhyme London Bridge Is Falling Down. For many centuries, London Bridge was the only place you could cross the Thames in London, and there have been recordings of it collapsing after Viking attacks in the 11th century and multiple times in the Middle Ages.

View of the river Thames from the riverside.
Image © Flickr

8) One of the first people to write about the Thames was none other than the Roman soldier and politician Julius Caesar. Caesar wrote about the Thames after his expedition to Britain in 54 BC - he said the river was tricky to cross and he and his men found Celtic tribes living on the riverbank.

9) In 1251, King Henry III was given the unusual present of a polar bear by the King of Norway. Henry kept the polar bear at the Tower of London and on hot days you would be able to see the polar bear swimming and splashing about in the river Thames.

10) While it's very rare now, hundreds of years ago the River Thames would freeze over regularly in winter. Between 1550 and 1750, people would spend most winters having fun on the river. Tudor Londoners would even hold 'frost fairs' with shops and activities on the ice of the Thames.

11) In the hot summer of 1858, the stench from the river, where most of London dumped their waste, was so bad that Parliament had to stop running. This event was known as 'The Great Stink'! Luckily, Victorian Londoners were able to sort out the problem by developing the modern sewage system in 1865.

View of the London skyline from above the River Thames.
Image © iStock

12) For many centuries, London was the centre of the British Empire, and the Thames was the city's beating heart. In the 18th and 19th centuries, hundreds of boats would go up and down the miles of the river every day to trade with businesses along the river. It was very busy and ships would often have to wait for days for the river to be quieter so they could carry their cargo where it needed to go.

13) If you live in London, you've probably drunk some of the Thames! Around two-thirds of the capital's drinking water comes from the Thames river. Don't go drinking straight from the river though, as the water is filtered thoroughly to make sure it's safe for drinking before it comes through our kitchen taps.

View of Big Ben from the River Thames.

14) The Thames river has served as artistic inspiration for poets, artists, and writers over the centuries. French painter Claude Monet painted the river three times, and some of his paintings now hang in the National Gallery in London. The classic children's book The Wind In The Willows was also inspired by the Thames, as author Kenneth Grahame spent a lot of time living by the river and developed his experiences in his novel.

15) One of the many sports you can take part in on the Thames is rowing, with over 200 rowing clubs that row on the Thames. One of the most famous rowing races in the world, the University Boat Race, takes place every year and is contested by rowing teams from the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. It is watched by thousands of spectators who line the riverbank in central London.

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