The Gates of Lodore is a captivating name for a beautiful section of river. The name was coined on John Wesley Powell’s expedition in 1869.  The ‘gates’ portion of the name is easiest to understand: John Wesley Powell found the entrance to the canyon so staggering, it was as if you’re walking through a gate into the canyon. And he’s right, it’s a pretty dramatic moment. The Lodore portion of the name though, not as obvious. This post examines that history.

Robert Southey
Robert Southey
Andy Hall
Andy Hall
John Wesley Powell
John Wesley Powell

Lodore Falls is located in Cumbria, England. The water tumbles ~100 feet in front of what is now the Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa. Poet Robert Southey, who you may recognize as the author of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, wrote a poem about the falls called “Cataract at Lodore.” Published in 1823, the poem describes how the water rushes and falls as it tumbles down. (Andrew Ray has a nice write up on the poem, located here.)

This brings us to Andy Hall. At just 19, Hall was recruited by John Wesley Powell to join his downriver expedition. From descriptions, Andy sounds like a river guide from today. Shaggy hair, a good storyteller, excellent on the oars, and a thirst for adventure. When Andy pushed off from shore with the others and finally entered the canyon, the rapids reminded Andy of Southey’s poem and the name stuck: Lodore’s Canyon it was. Powell then tacked onto it with the dramatic “Gates” and the Gates of Lodore was officially here.

But let’s back up even further. Where does Lodore Falls, the waterfall in England, get its name? In “The History of the Lodore Falls Hotel” published by the hotel, they write: “In ‘The Plaenames in Cumbria’ by Joan Lee the name Lodore is explained as deriving from Middle English “l’ghedure’ or low dore ie the physical door or gap between the Borrowdale Valley and the Watendleth side valley through which the lovely Lodore Falls comes down in all its natural glory.”

Quite literally, the entrance at the start of the falls was small, similar to a low door and hence, lodore. There you have it.

“How does the water
Come down at Lodore?”
My little boy asked me
Thus, once on a time;
And moreover he tasked me
To tell him in rhyme.
Anon, at the word,
There first came one daughter,
And then came another,
To second and third
The request of their brother,
And to hear how the water
Comes down at Lodore,
With its rush and its roar,
As many a time
They had seen it before.
So I told them in rhyme,
For of rhymes I had store;
And ’twas in my vocation
For their recreation
That so I should sing;
Because I was Laureate
To them and the King.

From its sources which well
In the tarn on the fell;
From its fountains
In the mountains,
Its rills and its gills;
Through moss and through brake,
It runs and it creeps
For a while, till it sleeps
In its own little lake.
And thence at departing,
Awakening and starting,
It runs through the reeds,
And away it proceeds,
Through meadow and glade,
In sun and in shade,
And through the wood-shelter,
Among crags in its flurry,
Here it comes sparkling,
And there it lies darkling;
Now smoking and frothing
Its tumult and wrath in,
Till, in this rapid race
On which it is bent,
It reaches the place
Of its steep descent.

The cataract strong
Then plunges along,
Striking and raging

As if a war raging
Its caverns and rocks among;
Rising and leaping,
Sinking and creeping,
Swelling and sweeping,
Showering and springing,
Flying and flinging,
Writhing and ringing,
Eddying and whisking,
Spouting and frisking,
Turning and twisting,
Around and around
With endless rebound:
Smiting and fighting,
A sight to delight in;
Confounding, astounding,
Dizzying and deafening the ear with its sound.

Collecting, projecting,
Receding and speeding,
And shocking and rocking,
And darting and parting,
And threading and spreading,
And whizzing and hissing,
And dripping and skipping,
And hitting and splitting,
And shining and twining,
And rattling and battling,
And shaking and quaking,
And pouring and roaring,
And waving and raving,
And tossing and crossing,
And flowing and going,
And running and stunning,
And foaming and roaming,
And dinning and spinning,
And dropping and hopping,
And working and jerking,
And guggling and struggling,
And heaving and cleaving,
And moaning and groaning;

And glittering and frittering,
And gathering and feathering,
And whitening and brightening,
And quivering and shivering,
And hurrying and skurrying,
And thundering and floundering;

Dividing and gliding and sliding,
And falling and brawling and sprawling,
And driving and riving and striving,
And sprinkling and twinkling and wrinkling,
And sounding and bounding and rounding,
And bubbling and troubling and doubling,
And grumbling and rumbling and tumbling,
And clattering and battering and shattering;

Retreating and beating and meeting and sheeting,
Delaying and straying and playing and spraying,
Advancing and prancing and glancing and dancing,
Recoiling, turmoiling and toiling and boiling,
And gleaming and streaming and steaming and beaming,
And rushing and flushing and brushing and gushing,
And flapping and rapping and clapping and slapping,
And curling and whirling and purling and twirling,
And thumping and plumping and bumping and jumping,
And dashing and flashing and splashing and clashing;
And so never ending, but always descending,
Sounds and motions for ever and ever are blending
All at once and all o’er, with a mighty uproar, –
And this way the water comes down at Lodore.

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