Bow Creek is the 3.6 km long tidal estuary of the River Lea although it now provides insufficient depth for navigation at low tide.
Bow Creek follows a meandering route across a low-lying area formerly called Bromley Marsh, but now occupied by gas works and trading estates.
Use of the river for navigation is recorded in documents dating from 1190. The engineer John Smeaton was asked to survey it and to suggest how it could be improved in 1765. He produced a report in 1766, which recommended replacing the flash locks with more modern pound locks, and more significantly for Bow Creek, making a new cut from Bow tidal gates to the Thames at Limehouse. The channel now ends in Limehouse Basin.
Access to the new navigation, now known as the Lee Navigation, was by tidal gates at Bow. There had been gates at the site since at least 1307, as a structure was erected by Henry de Bedyk during the reign of Edward I of England. Smeaton in 1766 suggested that the gates should be replaced by a conventional pound lock, but this was not carried out. However, in 1852 a lock was constructed and the lock was rebuilt and shortened in 1900, and a second lock constructed beside it in 1931. Higher floodgates and walls were added in 2000 to prevent the inundation of the Lee Navigation when the level of the tide in the creek exceeded the level in the navigation.
Ships were built at the Orchard House Yard
, in the southern reaches at Leamouth, and launched in the creek where they could travel north along the River Lee Navigation or south to the River Thames.
Below Bow Locks, the creek forms the boundary between the London Boroughs of Newham
and Tower Hamlets, in East London.