River Blackwater

The River Blackwater flows from the slopes of Murley Mountain above Fivemiletown along the Clogher Valley. Between Augher, Aughnacloy and Caledon the river forms the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The river then turns north and forms the border between counties Tyrone and Armagh The river enters Lough Neagh west of Derrywarragh Island and is navigable from Maghery to Blackwatertown. The small Maghery Canal was constructed to allow barges or lighters to enter the Blackwater south of Derrywarragh Island. Nearby a small jetty area with a slipway, is the site of the former Maghery ferry.

(Left) View of the River Blackwater from the bridge in Blackwatertown, (Right) View of the River Blackwater taken from the grounds of the Argory.

Blackwatertown River View Taken from Bridge 6River Blackwater from Argory 8

Ancient name

The River Blackwater was known in Irish as Cluain-Dabhail meaning “meadow of Dabhal”. This was anglicisaed as Clanaul, the former name of the parish of Eglish, as well as Glenaul, which was used as the name of the former local District Electoral Division of Armagh Union.


In the lower part of the reach mainly upstream of Blackwatertown Bridge, coarse fish abound, but there is a short stretch of good game fishing water downstream of the island where there are a number of known salmon lies. Game fish stocks are now recovering following a drainage scheme in the late 1980s and restoration of the system.

The Blackwater River System

The Blackwater catchment drains an extensive area of 1,500km2 around Dungannon, Armagh and north Co Monaghan. The total length of the River Blackwater and all its tributaries exceed 1000 km. The 11 tributaries include: –

The Coalisland Canal – is about 7 km long. Construction of the canal began in 1733, but progress was slow and it was not officially opened until 1787. The canal was built to reduce the cost of transporting coal from the Tyrone coalfields to Dublin. After some difficulties with the infrastructure, traffic slowly increased, and did not reach its peak until 1931. Traffic then declined rapidly, and the canal was abandoned in 1954.

River Torrent – This is a beautiful river which flows from Parkanaur Forest down through Castlecaufield, Donaghmore, Newmills and into the Coalisland canal. It enters the River Blackwater approximately 4 km from Maghery ferry. It was a great source of industrial waterpower. The river flows through the small village of Newmills in East Tyrone and Donaghmore.

The Torrent is a long meandering river, which drains the hills to the north-west of Dungannon. The underlying geology is varied and includes basal clastic, carboniferous limestone, coal and Old Red Sandstone. In the upper reaches, the river channel is shallow and narrow with pebble/cobble substrate and sandy banks. Downstream the banks are vegetated with tall grasses and native tree species. There are also fishing weirs. In its lower reaches, the Torrent widens and runs parallel to the Coalisland Canal.

River Tall – is a small river in Northern Ireland which joins the River Blackwater just south of Verner’s Bridge. It is navigable for 4 km by dinghy or canoe. The Callan River, flowing by the city of Armagh, and the Tall River, running by Ballyhegan, join together, and the united steam enters the Blackwater one mile below Charlemont.

River Rhone – The River Rhone is a small tributary of the River Blackwater and drains Moygashel and Killyman into the River Blackwater between the Tall and the Callan.

Callan River – is a river in County Armagh, Northern Ireland which joins the River Blackwater 1.6 km upstream from Bond’s Bridge. It is navigable by dinghy or canoe for 2 km to Fairlawn Bridge. It flows in a generally northerly direction from Tullnawood lake, past Darkley, passing within a few miles of Keady town, through Tassagh and on to Armagh. The Callan River, flowing by the city of Armagh, and the Tall River, running by Richhill, join together, and the united steam enters the Blackwater one mile below Charlemont. The area upstream of Armagh has many former linen mills that were built to use the waterpower of the river. There is also a viaduct at Tassagh that once carried the railway line from Armagh to Keady.

River Oona – The River Oona is a beautiful river that flows down through Brantry and enters the Blackwater just west of Benburb at Battleford bridge. It is unusual in that the water from the River Oona flows against the flow of the Blackwater for some time before surrendering the fight, turning and making its way to Benburb.

River Tynan – This is a small river which flows through the Tynan estate in Co Armagh. It joins the River Blackwater as it turns north for Benburb.
Ballygawley Water – The Ballygawley Water flows down from the hills of east Tyrone through the village of Ballygawley to join the Blackwater just east of Ballygawley.

Fury River – The Fury River rushes headlong down the slopes of Sliabh Beagh to enter the Blackwater between Clogher and Augher. It is a very clean river and beautiful river.

River Monaghan Blackwater – rises on the slopes of Sliabh Beagh and flows through Monaghan and out to Middletown to join the main River Blackwater.

River Mountain Water – The River Mountain Water also rises on the slopes of Sliabh Beagh and joins the River Blackwater just west of Caledon.
River Conawary – The River Conawary rises in the hills south of Monaghan and joins the Monaghan Blackwater between Monaghan and Middletown.