Discover The Longest River in England

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: July 21, 2023
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England has an incredibly diverse landscape with rolling hills and mountains in the north along with flat, low-lying areas in the southern part of the country. The terrain is defined by bodies of water. The Atlantic Ocean surrounds England, and the English Channel separates the country from mainland Europe. Meanwhile rivers function as major arteries providing fresh water and transportation throughout the land. So, what is the longest river in England?

Learn about the biggest, most significant river in England and find out where it flows, where to find it on a map, and a bit about the river’s history.

What Is the Longest River in England?

Tower of London, England

The River Thames has a long and important history in England.


The longest river in England is River Thames, a river that flows for 215-miles in southern England. While that may seem like a short river to be the longest in an entire country, England is not very large. The greatest width in the whole UK is only about 300 miles.

Meanwhile, the River Severn is 220 miles long, but it flows through both England and Wales. As a result, River Severn is the largest in the UK, but it is not the longest to flow solely in England. Since River Thames only flows in England, the river is the longest in the country.

About the River Thames

Thames River

Thames River winds through many cities throughout England.

©steve estvanik/

River Thames
Length215 miles
SourcesThames Head and Ullenwood in Gloucestershire
MouthNorth Sea

River Thames officially has two or more sources. The more famous one is located at the appropriately named Thames Head in Gloucestershire. The seasonal springs located near Kemble are sometimes called the official source of the river. At that site, the water will seep through the surface, eventually contributing to the river. However, the springs do not flow at all at some periods during the year.

The other source is located in Ullenwood, also located in Gloucestershire. Still, people continue to question the actual source of the river. Officially, though, Thames Head likely has the best claim of any available.  

The River Thames rises in the southwestern part of England and generally flows to the southeast from its source to mouth. Throughout its course, the River Thames greatly varies in width. For example, the river is about 750 feet wide near the London Bridge, but it is only a little over 50 feet wide near the Ha’Penny Bridge in Lechlade.  

The River Thames has been an important body of water for millennia. Scientists believe the river has supported people since the New Stone Age almost 6,000 years ago. The river has provided water for drinking and agriculture in England, facilitating the settlement of the southern part of the country.

Moreover, the river allowed for transportation, industrialization, and leisure. Although the River Thames was once possibly the most polluted in England, it’s now considered one of the cleanest rivers that flows through a major city!

Where is the River Thames on a Map?

The River Thames famously flows through London, England. Yet, the river also flows through several other cities and towns including Oxford and Reading. Finding the river by locating London is probably the easiest method to discern the river’s location.

Finding the river’s source may take a little more time given the controversy surrounding its location. Although the Thames Head is considered the true source of the river, experts and laypeople alike continue to contest the source’s placement.

Is River Thames the Longest River in the United Kingdom?

River Severn

The River Severn is the second-longest in England.

©Ian Luck/

No, the River Thames is only the second-longest river in the United Kingdom. The largest river in the UK is River Severn. This river flows for 220 miles through the UK, making it just 5 miles longer than the River Thames.

The River Severn starts in Plynlimon, Wales and flows in a wide arc from north to south. The river reaches its mouth at the Bristol Channel. River Thames and River Severn are the only rivers over 200 miles long in all of England. The third-longest river is River Trent that runs for 185 miles.

How Does the River Thames Compare to the Longest Rivers in Europe?

Rybinsk Russia

Volga River runs for 2,194 miles through Russia.


The River Thames is the longest river in England. Given that it is not even the longest river in the United Kingdom, it is a fair bet to say that it is far from the largest in all of Europe. Take a look at the following list and see how the River Thames compares to the longest in Europe.

RiverLengthSource Country
River Thames215 milesEngland
Volga River2,194 milesRussia
Danube River1,777 milesGermany
Ural River1,509 milesRussia
Dnieper River1,367Russia

The longest rivers in Europe are over 1,000 miles long. They are several times longer than River Thames and often flow through many countries along their run. Each of the rivers in the chart above are significant to the people that live alongside them.

What Animals Live Near the Longest River in England?

Leopard seals hunting in the cold waters of the Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Seals live near the mouth of River Thames.

©Marco Ramerini/

The River Thames is often discussed relative to the impact it has on humans. However, a wide assortment of animals lives near the river and in its waters. Some of the animals that live alongside the river are:

  • Badgers
  • Owls
  • Red deer
  • Red squirrels
  • Beavers
  • Grass snakes
  • Cattle

Meanwhile, many other creatures live in the River Thames, all the way to its mouth. Some of these animals are:

Dolphins, otters, and porpoises are rare in the river and its estuary. Still, the river supports a tremendous number of animals throughout the area.

The longest river in England is 215 miles long, stretching across the southern portion of the country. While it is not the largest river in the UK or Europe, it’s still an important one. The river is historically significant and provides valuable resources to the people living in the country. Also, the river is a great reminder that enough hard work and infrastructure improvements can help rehabilitate even the dirtiest waters.  

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Csaba Peterdi/

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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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