River Dee is one of the classic WWR division A races, the Serpents Tail and Town falls being the highlights.
Downstream of the put in waves take you under a road bridge and past the Chain Bridge Hotel towards the famous Serpent's Tail. In high water the approach to this is impressive, with 'play' stoppers and big surf waves all over the place. The Serpent's Tail itself is perfectly named, with all the water disappearing into a narrow channel on river right which will scare the bejesus out of those new to Grade 4 rapids.
A few breakouts are possible, and the rapid ends by squeezing through a stopper inconveniently lurking next to an undercut...the sting in the Tail. It is at the easier end of the Grade, but still deserves a Grade 4 rating as it seems to unseat a remarkable number of paddlers! Inspection, portage and protection are all available from the ledges on river left. In high water, these begin to cover up and produce their own rapid...
Flat boily water follows directly afterwards, giving swimmers a chance to be fished out. A rocky weir follows, with opportunities to play. The railway passes overhead, and another broken weir offers a chute on river left.
The next bit to look out for is the Grade 3 Factory site, known as 'Mile End Mill'. The large building on river right used to be the home of Nomad kayaks, it now houses a kayak shop. See the ACCESS section above for more info. A broken weir begins these rapids, watch out for debris in it...it used to be known as the 'Tombstones' due to concrete obstacles in the weir which have been removed since. A fatality occurred near here during one of the old Mike Jones' Rallies. Below the broken weir you reach a good play stopper which you won't miss...look for the crowds of paddlers queuing or actually in it. The Factory site ends where the river splits around an island...the river right channel leads to an appalling lethal weir, take the river left channel where some nice surf waves can be found.
Now it's time to get apprehensive about the Grade 4 Town Falls. The river is easy for about half a mile. Paddlers who do not want to run the Town Falls can get out in a number of places on river right, the last opportunity appears just after the river bends left and the Town Bridge comes into sight. The Falls tend to be run heading towards the far right arch of the bridge, although many other routes are available in high water. The lead-in to the Falls involves bypassing a series of weir steps which generate fearsome stoppers in high water (a friend has healthy respect for them, after spending 15 minutes stuck in one during a WW race). The Falls proper begin with a small drop into the 'Pot', a boily stopper (I once rolled up here and noted that one paddle blade had fallen off...now get out of that!). The main Falls are a series of steps, choose your own route but the central 'slot' where the water converges is best avoided. Have fun!
Directly below the Bridge is Llangollen Town Weir, a nasty affair that should certainly be avoided at all water levels...the divers aren't placed here during Tours for nothing. You can thankfully miss it by taking the chute on river left. Below, look for a get-out on this bank which will take you to the car-park. Time to wander up onto the bridge and join the crowds laughing at those running the Falls unsuccessfully...well, you've survived, why not?