The River Ure is approximately 119 km long from its source to the point where it changes name to the River Ouse. It is the principal river of Wensleydale, which is the only one of the Dales now named after a village rather than its river. The old name for the valley was Yoredale.
The source of the river is Ure Head on Abbotside Common where it flows to the valley floor and along Wensleydale as far as Wensley. From here it flows past Jervaulx Abbey and then through Masham to Hackfall Woods near Grewelthorpe, before continuing through Ripon and then to Boroughbridge. The Ure is joined by the River Swale at Myton-on-Swale. About 10 km downstream of this confluence, at Cuddy Shaw Reach near Linton-on-Ouse, the river changes its name to the River Ouse. The main tributaries of the Ure are Bishopdale Beck and the Rivers Bain, Cover, Burn, Skell and Laver.
The surrounding floodplain comprises a rich mosaic of habitats, including ancient woodland, wet woodland, ponds and streams. A special feature of this landscape is the juxtaposition of the magnesian limestone grassland and wetlands of the Ure floodplain, supporting nationally scarce habitats and associated species such as thistle broomrape, marsh cinquefoil and wintering whooper swan.