River Blackwater, County Armagh

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Wide view of the Blackwater and the Maghery Bridge, Armagh, with Derrylaughan, Tyrone beyond

The River Blackwater is a sizable river which forms the boundary between the counties of Armagh and Tyrone, and above that boundary for several miles the border between Tyrone and County Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland, and thus the border between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

The river has its source to the north of Fivemiletown in Tyrone and after 50 miles it discharges its waters in Lough Neagh west of Derrywarragh Island.

The Blackwater is navigable from Maghery to Blackwatertown. The small Maghery Canal enters the Blackwater south of Derrywarragh Island. Nearby a small jetty area with a slipway, is the site of the former Maghery ferry. Approximately 2½ miles from Maghery ferry is the entrance to the river 200 yards beyond Bond’s Bridge. Just past it, on the east bank, is a large country house estate called the Argory, donated to the National Trust by the McKeogh Bond family.

The Callan River joins the Blackwater a mile upstream. Further on, at a bend on the east bank, is the entrance to the first lock of the Ulster Canal. Just upstream, Charlemont Bridge joins the town of Charlemont on the east bank and Moy on the west.[1]

Ancient name

Anciently 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.[2]

The river is also known as an abhainn mór, in English 'the big river', a housing complex in the village of Blackwatertown, located on the banks of the river, is called Abhainn mór.


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.[3]


The Blackwater Canoe Trail is 12½ long. Paddling shorter sections allows for an excellent range of day trips.[4]

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