Paddling the Welsh Pontcysyllte Aqueduct—labelled by paddlers as the “Stream in the Sky” —was all what I was told it would be: the most terrifying but captivating place to paddle a canoe.

Imagine you’re paddling an iron cast trough that’s 126 feet (38 metres) high above the River Dee. The canal is 336 yards (307 metres) long, 5 feet 3 inches (1.60 metres) deep, and only a mere 12 feet (3.7 metres) wide (not even the width of two canoes side-by-side). The steel plates that hold the water in, and you from falling to your death, are just a tad higher than your canoe gunwale. There’s no railing holding you back, which is why SUPs have been banned from navigating across.

The experience paddling crazy funKevin Callan

Canoes and kayaks are still permitted, and the Welsh historic narrow boats use it on a regular basis. There’s also a walkway across it, but paddling it is far more adventurous. Just make sure to wait your turn. There’s only room for one-way traffic.

The aqueduct took 10 years to design. Construction was complete in 1805. The elongated canal is held up on iron arched ribs which carries 18 hollow masonry pillars. Each of them spans 53 feet (16 metres). The plates holding back the water were sealed with tar, horse manure and ox blood. Leaks have been found from time to time, and various glues and contraptions have been designed to fix it. However, the old mixture seems to still work the best.

This monumental architecture was designed and built by the famous civil engineer Thomas Telford. Originally there were to be a series of locks constructed down both sides of the ravine to accommodate navigation over the River Dee. But it was Telford who insisted that an aqueduct would create a better uninterrupted waterway straight across the valley.

no railing don't fallKevin Callan

Since the Pontcysyllte—pronounced Pont-ker-sulth-tay—happens to be the longest aqueduct in Great Britain and the highest canal aqueduct in the world, it was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2009.

A paddle across is a must for any canoer’s bucket list. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. The view of the Welsh countryside and the River Dee from high above is stunning.

getting ready for the epic adventureKevin Callan

The Aqueduct is located in the small hamlet of Froncysyllte, northeast Wales, near the town of Newbridge. We put in at the south end, at a public boat launch and parking area close to a lift-bridge. You can organize a car shuttle on the other side, or simply paddle back across to your car. I’d recommend that. I guarantee you’ll want a second look at the view before leaving.

Check out my video of my trip across the “Stream in the Sky” on my KCHappyCamper YouTube channel.