The River Otter is one of the main waterways in East Devon. It cuts its way from the Somerset border through two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in a region known as the Otter Valley. The Otter enters the English Channel at Lyme Bay, part of the Jurassic Coast and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The river’s source is north of Otterford, where a stream feeds the Otterhead Lakes.
The Otter is the only river in England known to contain a wild breeding population of beavers, a species that died out in Britain in around 1550. A five-year trial was set up to monitor the population and understand the impacts of beavers on the landscape. Thanks to this pioneering project, beavers are now living freely in England once more, and are protected under UK law. Alongside beavers, the River is home to a host of other wildlife including otters, kingfishers, and dippers.
Average rating: 5.0 (very good)
Average cost: the River, and its beaver inhabitants, are free to visit. A guided beaver tour starts from $56.
Best time to visit: the best time to see beavers is during the long summer evenings between May and September.
How to get there: the best area to see beavers is the stretch of river running past Otterton village. The easiest way to reach Otterton is by car, although there is a public bus. The Otterton Mill and the Kings Arms are good places to eat and drink in the village before or after beaver watching.
Typical activities: bird watching, wildlife watching
Number of reports: 1
Last update: 2022
WILDLIFE IN River Otter
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the most popular species that can be seen here are:
beaver – 100% OF wildside users (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
The beavers of Otterton are not difficult to see if you spend enough time by the River in the right area. They are nocturnal for much of the year, but during the light summer evenings, they can be seen during daylight hours. To spot them, follow the paths running along the River from Otterton village during May to September. If you see a crowd of people standing quietly by the River there’s a good chance they’re around!
Aim to be out from early evening, and be prepared to stay out until it’s almost dark. For the best chances wear dark and quiet clothing, and take a pair of binoculars. It’s also worth not taking a dog with you. Beavers have an excellent sense of smell and can be scared off by dogs, especially if they have young (from May to July). If you want the best chance of spotting one, or are interested in beaver photography, check out the local Devon Beaver Tour for guided expeditions.
kingfisher – 100% OF wildside users (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Common (or Eurasian) kingfishers are typically found near slow-moving water, so look out for them along slower-moving sections of the River. These beautiful birds can be seen flying close to the water in a flash of blue. Or if your eyes are sharp you might see them sitting in the branches at the other side of the bank – look out for their russet brown breasts. The best times to go are early morning or dusk when the area is quieter. Listen out for their distinctive call (a shrill ‘chreee’ or ‘chee-kee’) which usually provides the best clue to their presence.
Photo Credit: WildSide team member Chris White