Thames River Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michelle Zimmerman

Michelle has taught 4th and 5th grade and has a Master's Degree in Elementary Education.

In this lesson, we'll learn some interesting facts about the Thames River (or River Thames) in London, England. Continue reading and start learning about this river now.

Where Is the River Thames?

The Thames River (or River Thames) is the longest river in England. The source of the river, or where it begins, is in Gloucestershire, and it flows for 215 miles until it reaches the North Sea. For many miles, the river flows through farmland, but it also goes through several cities, such as Oxford, Windsor, and London.

Thames River in London
Thames River in London

London Bridge

You may know the song, 'London Bridge is falling down...' but did you know there really was a London Bridge? King Henry II ordered that a stone bridge be built across the Thames River in London, way back in the year 1176. It took workers more than 30 years to build the bridge. That seems long, but can you believe the bridge remained standing for around 600 years? On the bridge, there were houses up to seven stories tall, stores, and a chapel.

Drawing of the old London Bridge
London Bridge

Parts of the bridge did fall down and were repaired at different times in history, and it was finally torn down and replaced in 1831. The replacement bridge was designed before cars were invented, and once cars came along, the bridge started sinking into the river from all the extra weight. The bridge was eventually sold to city planners in Arizona, so today tourists visit London Bridge in the United States instead of England!

What Is a Lock?

There are 45 locks on the Thames River. What is a lock on a river? The locks are used in partnership with dams. The water level on one side of the dam is higher than on the other. The lock is an area with gates where boats can enter, and by opening or closing the gates, the water level will rise or fall. Then the boat can gently re-enter the river at the different water height.

Back in the 1700s and 1800s, people built dams and locks to change the flow of the river water so that it would go through a waterwheel and provide power to a mill, such as a sawmill for lumber or gristmill for flour. Today, in addition to raising or lowering the boats, the locks and dams can be used to control flooding by opening or closing the gates.

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