Dartmoor is an important water catchment. The blanket bog that covers much of the high moor acts like a huge sponge. When walking over the moor it often feels like one!
The moor is drained by a number of rivers running North to the Bristol Channel and South to the English Channel. These shallow rivers are crossed by stepping stones, ancient clapper bridges and medieval pack horse bridges. In a few places they have produced spectacular valleys and gorges. On the fringe of the moor these are generally wooded.
Dartmoor has always been an important source of drinking water for communities on and around the moor. In earlier times water was collected and carried in channels of ‘leats’ some, like the Devonport leat, ran for many miles. In the past the mining industry relied on leats to transfer water to the water wheels that powered their pumps and stamping mills..
There are no natural lakes and few ponds on Dartmoor, but there are several large and a few smaller reservoirs. Although some feel they detract from the ‘naturalness’ of Dartmoor it can also be argued that they contribute to the diversity of wildlife and provide another dimension to the landscape.