A small portion of the River Wharfe in North England is a beautiful stretch of river that looks straight out of a fairytale. While one might expect to find a unicorn drinking from its water or a lone knight on an epic quest to save a fair maiden, what they will most likely find instead is their own demise. The small and twisting portion known as Bolton Strid is an infamous natural trap that has lured many into its seemingly calm waters, only to extinguish their lives.
Thanks to its rumored 100 percent mortality rate for those unlucky enough to fall in, the Bolton Strid is known as the most dangerous stretch of water in the world. Read on to find out what makes the Strid so dangerous, and hear some of the most tragic stories of its victims throughout the many centuries.
The reason for the Strid's unknown (but presumably high) body count is that about 100 yards upstream flows the much larger River Wharfe, approximately 30 feet across. This large river is then funneled into the thin Strid in a twisting stream, creating a kind of bottleneck effect.
While the water flows normally along the wider portion, it is forced to flow vertically once the water hits the abnormally thin area lined by jagged rocks. Then the waters become much deeper, faster, and more turbulent, dragging down anything that steps into its abyss.
Thanks to YouTube vlogger Tom Scott, who visited the Strid in 2016, many of his followers got their first look at the terrifying stream. While Scott acknowledges that the rumored 100 percent mortality rate that the Strid claims may be hyperbolic, the stream is certainly dangerous - in part because of how unassuming it is. He explains in his video:
Generally, you can see them [harmful bodies of water] coming, but this is just an innocent-looking stream in the middle of the woods. You could jump over it - people occasionally do. But if you miss that jump, it will [end] you. [...] The edge isn’t sharp, it just curves towards the water and it’s covered in slippery moss… Is it survivable? Maybe, yeah with a lot of equipment and a lot of luck.
Part of the reason for the Strid's unassuming appearance is that it's considerably wider than it appears. According to Amusing Planet:
The narrow gap on the Strid is only an illusion as both banks are seriously undercut. Hidden underneath is a network of caverns and tunnels that hold all of the rest of the river's water. Nobody really knows how deep the Strid goes.
As you now know, the stream is part of the River Wharfe. The name originates from the Old English word weorf, which is translated as "winding river." The windiness of the river - and of the Strid - only adds to its danger, as the speed of the water and the jagged edges of the banks have, over time, lead to underground caves and tunnels being worn away.
Because of this, there is no way of knowing the actual depth of the water until you are submerged - at which point, history has proven, it is too late
The oldest known legend of the Bolton Strid dates back to 1154 when a young man named William de Romilly (called the Boy of Egremont) attempted to leap across the Strid while on a solo hunting trip. When he missed his mark, he was swept under, never to be seen again.
As the legend has it, William's mother was so grieved by the loss of her son that she donated the surrounding land to a community of Augustinian monks so that they would pray for her son's soul. Those monks went on the found the famous Bolton Abbey.