The 'Humber Keel' was the most common type of vessel plying the larger rivers using a large square sail for propulsion. On the smaller rivers and later the canals propulsion started with man power then horse drawn until steam power came along, but the same low draught keel without the sail or with a mast which could be lowered was used so as to navigate the river with bridges.
The rivers Swale and Ure of North Yorkshire runs south to Boroughbridge thence to Linton where it takes on the name Ouse. Still travelling southward to Nun Monkton the Ouse is joined by the rivers Nidd and then the Foss at York. Passing through the city it runs by Naburn and is joined by the river Wharfe and passes Cawood winding its way to Selby. Thence joined by the river Derwent at Barmby on the Marsh then to Airmyn and the river Aire and finally into the Humber passed Goole at Faxfleet.
In 1699 an Act of Parliament concerning the Trent was passed ‘An Act for making and keeping the river Trent in the counties of Leicester, Derby, and Stafford navigable’. The Trent runs from Stoke on Trent, Nottingham, Newark and Gainsborough to Trent Falls and the Humber.
The source of the river Aire is near Malham, Settle it travels south to Cold Coniston thence to Skipton, Bingley and Shipley. The Aire then passes the remains of Kirkstall Abbey to Leeds. From Leeds the Aire runs east to Temple Newsam where it joins the Calder near Castleford and passes through Fryston Hall, Ferrybridge, Knottingley, Beal, Haddlesey, Weeland, Snaith, Rawcliffe until it joins the Ouse near the village of Airmyn.