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A major maritime route is formed for much of its length for shipping and supplies: through the Port of London for international trade, internally along its length and by its connection to the British canal system.The river's position has put it at the centre of many events in British history, leading to it being described by John Burns as "liquid history".

Richard Coates suggests that while the river was as a whole called the Thames, part of it, where it was too wide to ford, was called *(p)lowonida.Thames Valley Police is a formal body that takes its name from the river, covering three counties.The administrative powers of the Thames Conservancy have been taken on with modifications by the Environment Agency and, in respect of the Tideway part of the river, such powers are split between the agency and the Port of London Authority.As the River Churn, sourced at Seven Springs, is 14 miles (23 km) longer than the Thames (from its traditional source at Thames Head to the confluence), the overall length of the Thames measured from Seven Springs, 229 miles (369 km), is greater than the Severn's length 220 miles (350 km).Thus, the "Churn/Thames" river may be regarded as the longest natural river in the United Kingdom.

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