Navigating the River Blackwater

Enters Lough Neagh west of Derrywarragh Island and navigable from Maghery to Blackwatertown

The River Blackwater enters Lough Neagh west of Derrywarragh Island and is navigable from Maghery to Blackwatertown. However, the channel is not properly marked and is subject to silting and blockage by trees and other flotsam. Access should not be attempted via this route without local knowledge.

The small Maghery Canal enters the Blackwater south of Derrywarragh Island. At the east end is a small jetty area with a good slipway. This is the site of the former Maghery ferry, and the ferry landing can be used to moor a boat for a short stop. Approximately 4km from Maghery ferry is the entrance to the River Torrent and the Coalisland Canal. The remains of the first lock along the north bank are worth visiting.

About 2.5km south of the Coalisland Canal entrance is the M1 bridge. There are no jetties north of this bridge.

A change of wind direction on Lough Neagh can cause the river level to rise and a boat could get stuck on the wrong side of the bridge. A wind change from southwest to northeast at a force of three to four can raise the river up to 2m. There is also the more obvious problem of rises due to heavy rain.

Past the bridge are a jetty and a slipway, before Verner’s Bridge. Just south of Verner’s Bridge, a small river called the Tall joins the Blackwater. It is known locally as ‘the canal’ and is navigable for 4km by dinghy or canoe.

Just under 2km south of Verner’s Bridge are the remains of the original piers of the Great Northern Railway bridge on the line from Dungannon to Portadown. The navigation channel is marked by heavy iron fendering. The river now becomes more enclosed with fairly steep banks to the east with more farms and houses.

Bond’s Bridge is located just upstream. Built in the 1890s, it is a fine example of a bowstring bridge. There is a slipway and jetty, with car park and picnic area. The River Rhone joins 200m 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 1.6km upstream. It is navigable by dinghy or canoe for 2km to Fairlawn Bridge. Further on, at a bend on the east bank, is the entrance to the first lock of the Ulster Canal, now obscured by trees and bushes. There is also a large, inhabited lock keeper’s cottage. Adjoining the upstream entrance are the remains of the substantial dry dock where the grooves for the stop logs can be seen in the masonry. A sluice at the back drained the dock into the Blackwater.

Just upstream, Charlemont Bridge joins the town of Charlemont on the east bank and Moy on the west. The centre arch of Charlemont Bridge is the navigation arch with 4m air draft and 2.2m of water at normal levels. The river is noticeably narrower but there is usually plenty of room for a boat to get through.

© Michael Savage. Reproduced with kind permission of the River Bann and Lough Neagh Association

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