In optically stimulated luminescence dating, apparent ages of individual grains are thought to reflect a wide distribution of initial bleaching levels in hard to bleach sediments. Although having a larger age range (up to 1 Ma and beyond), this approach has not been used yet in electron spin resonance (ESR) dating. Here we report on the first results of ESR measurements on single sedimentary quartz grains. Initial bleaching levels are evaluated for two different River Meuse deposits in Limburg, NE Belgium. Measurements were done with a Q-band ESR spectrometer on transparent quartz grains of sufficiently large diameter (0.5-0.7 mm). Single crystal ESR properties were used to identify different ESR active centres. In about 50% of the selected grains an Al and/or Ti-Li signal was detected and the latter has been selected for further measurements. Artificial bleaching experiments show a strong signal decrease with UV light exposure. After gamma-ray irradiation, a number of different signal intensity vs. artificial dose curves could be observed: exponential growth, exponential saturation, linear, with inflexion points, and unclear ones. Many grains show increasing ESR signals with doses up to 1000 Gy, suggesting that the age range could be extended over 1 Ma, covering the Middle Pleistocene and part of the Early Pleistocene. Accumulated doses of individual grains were calculated using the additive dose method. The results show a large dose distribution of individual grains for both deposits. It is concluded that insufficiently bleached grains can be detected using single grain ESR measurements of sedimentary quartz in a fluvial environment. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.