River Dodder

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The River Dodder at Milltown

The River Dodder is one of the three main rivers in the City of Dublin, the others being the Liffey, of which the Dodder is the largest tributary, and the Tolka. The three meet at the mouth of the Liffey at the head of Dublin Bay; the Tolka from the north and the Dodder from the south. The Dodder is sixteen miles long, from the Wicklow Mountains to the bay.[1]

Course and system

The Dodder rises on the northern slopes of Kippure in the Wicklow Mountains, and is formed from several streams. The headwaters flow from Kippure Ridge, and include, and are often mapped solely as, Tromanallison (Allison's Brook), which is then joined by Mareen's Brook, including the Cataract of the Brown Rowan, and then the combined flow meeting the Cot and Slade Brooks.

In the river's valley at Glenasmole are the two Bohernabreena Reservoirs, a major part of the Dublin water supply system.

The Dodder is 16 miles long.[1] It passes the Dublin suburbs of Tallaght and then Firhouse, travels through Rathfarnham, Templeogue, Rathgar, Milltown, Clonskeagh, Donnybrook, and Ballsbridge, and enters the Liffey near Ringsend, along with the Grand Canal, at Grand Canal Dock.

There is a weir just above the bridge at Ballsbridge and the river becomes tidal roughly where the bridge at Lansdowne Road crosses it.


The Dodder's main tributaries after Glenasmole, in and prior to which many streams join, are the Jobstown (or Tallaght) Stream, the Owendoher River and its tributary the Whitechurch Stream, the Little Dargle River (with Castle Stream and other tributaries), the Slang or Dundrum River, the Swan River (or Water), and the small Muckross Stream.[2][3]

Link with the Poddle

The River Poddle, a tributary of the Liffey in its own right, was linked with the River Dodder from Balrothery Weir, just north of Firhouse, from the 13th century. This link formerly provided much of Dublin City's water supply. Known as the "City Watercourse," it ran through part of Templeogue. It was partly piped in the mid-20th century, and the connection was later broken by housing development. All that remains now are a small channel from the weir, dead-ending just 100 yards from the weir, and some unseen underground flows.


The Dodder once supplied many mills, but all are now disused: the de Meones family, who gave their name to the nearby suburb of Rathmines, owned a mill here as early as the mid-fourteenth century.[4] In the sixteenth century much of the surrounding lands belonged to the Talbot family, ancestors of the Talbots of Mount Talbot.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Domvile family, who owned much of Templeogue, effectively controlled access to much of the river, which passed through their estates. At that time the Dodder was the main source of Dublin's drinking water, and whether fairly or unfairly, the Domviles were accused of using their control of the Dublin water supply to further their own political ends, by threatening to divert its course if their wishes were not met. In fact the legal right to control the course of the river was vested in the Mayor and Corporation of Dublin; this was confirmed by a legal ruling as early as 1527.[5]


The river floods some surrounding areas from time to time, as it is too short and shallow to hold the volume of water which pours into it from its tributaries during heavy rain. The River Dodder "has a history of flooding and is known as a "flashy" river with a quick response to rainstorms." [6]

A flood on the Dodder in March 1628 claimed the life of Arthur Ussher, Deputy Clerk to the Privy Council of Ireland who was "carried away by the current, nobody being able to succour him, although many persons, his nearest friends, were by on both sides."[7]

The two greatest Dodder floods before 1986 occurred on 25 August 1905, and on 3 and 4 August 1931. Hurricane Charley passed south of the country on 25 August 1986. In 24 hours, almost 8 inches of rain poured down on Kippure Mountain while 4 inches of rain fell on Dublin causing heavy river flooding, including the Dodder in many places, and hardship and loss were experienced.

It has long been recognised that the problem of flooding is very difficult to solve, due to the sheer volume of water which pours into the river during periods of heavy rainfall.

Flora and fauna

There is an abundance of flora and fauna at the river. However, as the river flows through urban areas, pollution has long been a problem.[8]


Flora along the river is varied. Bryophytes and algae are common with an abundance of filamentous green algae. Crocosmia, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam are the only invasive species recorded along the river. [9]


The Dodder is home to many water-bird species including mallard, grey heron, kingfisher, dipper, coot, moorhen, grey wagtail, common sandpiper, cormorant and mute swan; the sparrowhawk nests in the trees lining the riverbanks. The red fox is common along the riverbank and the badger and otter have also been seen. In recent years a small feral population of mandarin ducks has become established by the river. It was reported in 2013 that an Irish Wildlife Trust survey found otters living along the Dodder.[10]

Fish present in the river include brown trout, brown trout|sea trout, stone loach, three-spined stickleback and eel. Atlantic salmon can also be found in the river's lower course.[9]

Atlantic salmon and lamprey eels are expected to return to most of the river after a more than 200-year absence pending the construction of fish ladders[11]


The Dodder is a popular river for fishing amongst Dubliners. The fishing season is open between 17 March and 30 September.


Dodder in the Dublin Mountains a mile and a half from its source  
Under the bridge at Springfield Avenue  
The Dodder at Ballsbridge  
A weir downstream of the Orwell Road bridge  
The dodder by the Dublin Arena  
Overlooking the Grand Canal Basin  

Outside sources

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about River Dodder)


  1. 1.0 1.1 River Dodder Catchment Flood Risk Assessment & Management Study, Dublin City Council
  2. Sweeney (1991)
  3. Doyle (2011) p.23
  4. Ball, F. Elrington History of Dublin Alexander Thom and Co. 1903 Vol. 2 p.100
  5. Gilbert, John T. editor Calendar of the Ancient Records of Ireland Joseph Polard Dublin 1889
  6. http://www.dublincity.ie/sites/default/files/content/WaterWasteEnvironment/waterprojects/Documents/IBE0064_Dodder%20Final%20Plan_141107.pdf
  7. Moriarty, Christopher: Down the Dodder, Wolfhound Press, 1991, p.155
  8. Significant fish kill on river Dodder (Irish Times, 2 March 2013)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Water Framework Directive Fish Stock Survey of Rivers in the Eastern River Basin District, 2011
  10. Dodder otters and Tolka Tarkas: Irish Times, 28 September 2013
  11. 'Fish passes will allow salmon scale Dodder weirs': Irish Times, 30 July 2013
  • Doyle, Joseph W. (2011) [2008]. Ten Dozen Waters: The Rivers and Streams of County Dublin (3rd edition). Dublin, Ireland: Rath Eanna Research. pp. 1–30 + ii + map. ISBN 978-0-9566363-1-7. 
  • Sweeney, Clair L. (1991). The Rivers of Dublin. Dublin: Dublin Corporation. pp. 1–115, inc. many maps. ISBN 0-9505301-4-X.