The Tees Barrage was completed in 1995 and effectively marks the edge of the ‘industrial’ part of the river. It is designed to manage the flow of water to maintain a constant level up stream both protecting wildlife and preventing flooding. It works in conjunction with the dam at Cow Green Reservoir.
It took four years to build and was opened by Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh. As part of the development, an international white water centre was also built and the first competition was held on the day of its opening. The white water course is filled with water when needed by four huge Archimedes Screws. There is also a water centre for users of the river on the North Bank and an ‘Air Track’ adventure centre. The area is very popular with visitors and dog walkers and now connects to many paths both up to Middlesbrough and Stockton. Next to the white water course is a huge nature reserve.
The barrage itself consists of four huge gates that reach to the bottom of the river. When closed, no water can pass from upstream to downstream and the control team can decide how much to release when they need it.
It was recognised in the design phase that fish would still need to swim up the river to spawn. There are a number of ways that they can bypass the barrage and the most obvious is a thin stream along the North bank which they can swim up in the same way that they would swim up a waterfall (mainly salmon).
The bypass stream also has a camera and a counter to try and work out how many fish are coming through. This is vital to monitor the health of the river. If you visit you will notice spikes along the edge of the fish bypass. This is to stop the seals sitting on the side of it and eating every fish that comes through! You will usually find at least one seal at the barrage waiting for fish to come past so they can trap them against the gates.
Boats can still move up and downstream by way of the lock to one side.