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The River Shannon ( ga, Abhainn na Sionainne, ', '), at in length, is the longest
river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of wate ...
in the
British Isles The British Isles are a group of islands in the North Atlantic off the north-western coast of continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...

British Isles
.ESManage Project: Irish Freshwater Resources and Assessment of Ecosystem Services Provision - Environmental Protection Agency Report No. 207 (2017), section 3.1.2 It drains the
Shannon River Basin The Shannon River Basin consists of the area containing Ireland, Ireland's longest river, the River Shannon, and all of its tributaries and lakes. The official Ordnance Survey Ireland length of the Shannon from its Shannon Pot source is made up o ...
, which has an area of , - one fifth of the area of the island. The Shannon divides the west of Ireland (principally the
province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are g ...

province
of
Connacht Connacht ( ; ga, Connachta or ), or Connaught, is one of the provinces of Ireland Since pre-historic times, there have been four Provinces of Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island upright=1.15, ...

Connacht
) from the east and south (
Leinster Leinster ( ; ga, Laighin or ) is one of the provinces of Ireland Since pre-historic times, there have been four Provinces of Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic ...

Leinster
and most of
Munster Munster ( gle, an Mhumhain or ) is one of the provinces of Ireland Since pre-historic times, there have been four Provinces of Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island upright=1.15, Great_Britain.ht ...

Munster
). (
County Clare County Clare ( ga, Contae an Chláir) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers ...
, being west of the Shannon but part of the province of Munster, is the major exception.) The river represents a major physical barrier between east and west, with fewer than thirty-five crossing-points between
Limerick Limerick ( ; ga, Luimneach ) is a city in County Limerick County Limerick ( ga, Contae Luimnigh) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chamber ...

Limerick
city in the south and the village of
Dowra Dowra () is a village in northwest County Cavan County Cavan ( ; gle, Contae an Chabháin) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictio ...

Dowra
in the north. The river takes its name after ''Sionna'', a
Celtic goddess File:CLUNY-Maquette pilier nautes 1.JPG, Replica of the incomplete Pillar of the Boatmen, from Paris, with four gods, including the only depiction of Cernunnos to name him (left, 2nd from top). The God (male deity), gods and goddesses of the pre-Ch ...
. Known as an important waterway since antiquity, the Shannon first appeared in maps by the Graeco-Egyptian geographer
Ptolemy Claudius Ptolemy (; grc-koi, Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος, , ; la, Claudius Ptolemaeus; AD) was a mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes ...
( 100 –  170 AD). The river flows generally southwards from the
Shannon Pot Shannon Pot or Legnashinna () is a pool in the karst landscape in the townland of Derrylahan near Cuilcagh Mountain in County Cavan, Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlanti ...

Shannon Pot
in
County Cavan County Cavan ( ; gle, Contae an Chabháin) is a county A county is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geo ...
before turning west and emptying into the
Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
through the long
Shannon Estuary The Shannon Estuary ( gle, Inbhear na Sionainne) is a large estuary where the River Shannon flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The estuary has Limerick City at its head and its seaward limits are marked by Loop Head to the north and Kerry Head to th ...
. Limerick city stands at the point where the river water meets the
sea water Seawater, or salt water, is water Water (chemical formula H2O) is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's h ...

sea water
of the estuary. The Shannon is tidal east of Limerick as far as the base of the Ardnacrusha dam.


Geography

By tradition the Shannon is said to rise in the
Shannon Pot Shannon Pot or Legnashinna () is a pool in the karst landscape in the townland of Derrylahan near Cuilcagh Mountain in County Cavan, Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlanti ...

Shannon Pot
, a small pool in the townland of
Derrylahan Derrylahan, an Anglicisation of the Gaelic, ‘Doire Leathan’ meaning ''The Wide Oak-wood'', is a townland in the civil parishes in Ireland, civil parish of Templeport, County Cavan, Republic of Ireland, Ireland. It lies in the Roman Catholic p ...
on the slopes of
Cuilcagh Mountain Cuilcagh () is a mountain on the border between County Fermanagh (in Northern Ireland) and County Cavan (in the Republic of Ireland). With a height of it is the highest point in both counties. It is also the 170th highest peak on the island of ...

Cuilcagh Mountain
in
County Cavan County Cavan ( ; gle, Contae an Chabháin) is a county A county is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geo ...
,
Republic of Ireland Ireland ( ga, Éire ), also known as the Republic of Ireland ('), is a country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective id ...

Republic of Ireland
, from where the young river appears as a small trout stream. Surveys have defined a immediate pot catchment area covering the slopes of Cuilcagh. This area includes Garvah Lough, Cavan, to the northeast, drained by ''Pollnaowen''.Note Poll nm1: hole, pit, sink, leak, aperture (''The Pocket Oxford Irish Dictionary – Irish-English'') Further sinks that source the pot include Pollboy and, through
Shannon Cave Shannon Cave is an active stream passage cave which straddles the border of County Fermanagh County Fermanagh ( ; ) is one of the thirty-two counties of Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an isla ...

Shannon Cave
, Pollahune in Cavan and Polltullyard and Tullynakeeragh in
County Fermanagh County Fermanagh ( ; ) is one of the thirty-two counties A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposes Chambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh in c ...

County Fermanagh
,
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster- ...

Northern Ireland
. The highest point in the catchment is a spring at Tiltinbane on the western end of the Cuilcagh mountain ridge.Philip Elmer et al. ''Springs and Bottled Waters of the World'' Springer From the Shannon Pot, the river subsumes a number of tributaries before replenishing
Lough Allen Lough Allen () is a lake on the River Shannon in northeastern Connacht, Republic of Ireland, Ireland. Most of the lake is in County Leitrim, with a smaller part in County Roscommon. The lake lies to the south of the River Shannon's source, near ...

Lough Allen
at its head. The river runs through or between 11 of Ireland's
counties A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh in certain modern nations. The term is derived from the Old French ...

counties
, subsuming the tributary rivers
Boyle Boyle is an Irish and Scottish surname of Gaelic or Norman origin. In the northwest of Ireland it is one of the most common family names. Notable people with the surname include: Disambiguation *Adam Boyle (disambiguation), multiple people *Charle ...
, Inny,
Suck Suck may refer to: *Suction, the force exerted by a partial vacuum Arts and entertainment Music * Suck (band), a South African hard rock group * Suck, drummer for the 1990s Japanese punk band Teengenerate * ''Suck'', a 2003 album by The Revs * "S ...
, Mulkear and Brosna, among others, before reaching the Shannon Estuary at
Limerick Limerick ( ; ga, Luimneach ) is a city in County Limerick County Limerick ( ga, Contae Luimnigh) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chamber ...

Limerick
. Many different values have been given for the length of the Shannon. A traditional value is . An official Irish source gives a total length of (being fresh and tidal). Some Irish guides now give . Some academic sources give , although most will refuse to give a number. The reason is that there is no particular end to a river that empties into an estuary. The 344 km length relates to the distance between Shannon Pot and a line between
Kerry HeadImage:Kerry Head.jpg, Kerry Head Kerry Head is a headland located in County Kerry, Republic of Ireland, Ireland that stretches into the Atlantic Ocean just north of Banna Strand. On the southern edge of the headland sits Ballyheigue. Kerry Head sep ...

Kerry Head
and
Loop Head Loop Head (), is a headland on the north side of the mouth of the River Shannon, in County Clare in the west of Republic of Ireland, Ireland. Loop Head is marked by a prominent lighthouse. The opposite headland on the south side of the Shannon i ...
, the furthest reaches of the land. (It also assumes the current shipping route via Ardnacrusha, which takes off the distance.) The 280 km distance finishes where the Shannon estuary joins the estuary of the
River Fergus The River Fergus ( ga, An Forghas) is a river within the Shannon River Basin The Shannon River Basin consists of the area containing Ireland, Ireland's longest river, the River Shannon, and all of its tributaries and lakes. The official Ordnan ...
, close to
Shannon Airport Shannon Airport ( ga, Aerfort na Sionainne) is an international airport An international airport is an airport An airport is an with extended facilities, mostly for commercial air transport. Airports often have facilities to pa ...
. Longer distances emerged before the use of modern surveying instruments. At a total length of , this means it is the longest river in Ireland. That the Shannon is the longest river in either Ireland or Great Britain was evidently known in the 12th century, although a map of the time showed this river as flowing out of the south of Ireland. There are some tributaries within the
Shannon River Basin The Shannon River Basin consists of the area containing Ireland, Ireland's longest river, the River Shannon, and all of its tributaries and lakes. The official Ordnance Survey Ireland length of the Shannon from its Shannon Pot source is made up o ...
which have headwaters that are further in length (from source to mouth) than the
Shannon Pot Shannon Pot or Legnashinna () is a pool in the karst landscape in the townland of Derrylahan near Cuilcagh Mountain in County Cavan, Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlanti ...

Shannon Pot
source's length of , such as the Owenmore River, total length in County Cavan and the Boyle River, total length with its source in Mayo. The River Shannon is a traditional freshwater river for about 45% of its total length. Excluding the tidal estuary from its total length of , if one also excludes the lakes ( L. Derg , , plus L. Boderg, L. Bofin, L. Forbes, L. Corry) from the Shannon's freshwater flow of , the Shannon, as a freshwater river, is only about long. Apart from being Ireland's longest river, the Shannon is also, by far, Ireland's largest river by
flow Flow may refer to: Science and technology * Flow (fluid), Fluid flow, the motion of a gas or liquid * Flow (geomorphology), a type of mass wasting or slope movement in geomorphology * Flow (mathematics), a group action of the real numbers on a set ...

flow
. It has a long term average flow rate of (at
Limerick Limerick ( ; ga, Luimneach ) is a city in County Limerick County Limerick ( ga, Contae Luimnigh) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chamber ...

Limerick
). This is double the flow rate of Ireland's second largest river, the
River Corrib The River Corrib (Irish Irish most commonly refers to: * Someone or something of, from, or related to: ** Ireland, an island situated off the north-western coast of continental Europe ** Northern Ireland, a constituent unit of the United Kin ...

River Corrib
(. If the discharges from all of the rivers and streams into the Shannon Estuary (including the rivers Feale , Maigue , Fergus , and Deel ) are added to the discharge at Limerick, the total discharge of the River Shannon at its mouth at Loop Head reaches . Indeed, the Shannon is a major river by the time it leaves
Lough Ree Lough Ree () is a lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land Land is the solid surface of Earth that is not permanently submerged in water. Most but not all land is situated at elevations a ...

Lough Ree
with an average flow rate (at
Athlone Athlone (; ) is a town on the border of County Roscommon County Roscommon ( ga, Contae Ros Comáin) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (e ...

Athlone
weir) of , larger than any of the other Irish rivers' total flow (apart from the
River Corrib The River Corrib (Irish Irish most commonly refers to: * Someone or something of, from, or related to: ** Ireland, an island situated off the north-western coast of continental Europe ** Northern Ireland, a constituent unit of the United Kin ...

River Corrib
at
Galway Galway ( ; ga, Gaillimh, ) is a in the , in the of . It is the of , which is named after it. It lies on the between and , and is the on the island of Ireland and the , with a population at the 2016 Census of 79,934. Located near an ...
). The
Shannon Callows The Shannon Callows () are areas of flat land along the shores of the River Shannon. These areas lie between Athlone in County Westmeath, where the river flows out of Lough Ree, and Portumna in County Galway, where it enters Lough Derg (Shannon), ...
, areas of lowland along the river, are classified as a
Special Area of Conservation A Special Area of Conservation (SAC) is defined in the European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of ...
. Settlements along the river (going upriver) include
Kilrush Kilrush () is a coastal town in County Clare County Clare ( ga, Contae an Chláir) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chamber ...

Kilrush
,
Tarbert Tarbert ( gd, An Tairbeart) is a place name in Scotland and Ireland. Places named Tarbert are characterised by a narrow strip of land, or isthmus. This can be where two lochs nearly meet, or a causeway out to an island. Etymology All placenames ...
, Glin,
Foynes Foynes (; ) is a town and major port in County Limerick County Limerick ( ga, Contae Luimnigh) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dic ...
,
Askeaton Askeaton (, Waterfall of Géitine, also historically spelt Askettin), is a town in County Limerick, Republic of Ireland, Ireland. The town on the N69 road (Ireland), N69, the road between Limerick and Tralee, is built on the banks of the River De ...
,
Shannon Town Shannon () or Shannon Town (), named after the River Shannon, river near which it stands, is a town in County Clare, Republic of Ireland, Ireland. It was given town status on 1 January 1982. The town is located just off the N19 road, a spur o ...
,
Limerick Limerick ( ; ga, Luimneach ) is a city in County Limerick County Limerick ( ga, Contae Luimnigh) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chamber ...

Limerick
,
Castletroy Castletroy () is a suburb of Limerick, Republic of Ireland, Ireland. Historically, the district was entirely separate to Limerick, and consisted of little development aside from the villages of Annacotty and Monaleen. With the creation of the ...
,
Castleconnell Castleconnell (, historically ''Caisleán Uí Chonaing'') is a village in County Limerick County Limerick ( ga, Contae Luimnigh) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChamber ...
, O'Briensbridge, Montpelier, Killaloe, Ballina,
Portumna Portumna ( - meaning 'the landing place of the oak') is a market town in the south-east of County Galway County Galway ( ; gle, Contae na Gaillimhe) is a in . It is in the , taking up the south of the of . There are several in the we ...
,
Banagher Banagher ( or ''Beannchar na Sionna'') is a town in Republic of Ireland, located in the midlands, on the western edge of County Offaly in the province of Leinster, on the banks of the River Shannon. The name Banagher comes from its Irish name ...
,
Athlone Athlone (; ) is a town on the border of County Roscommon County Roscommon ( ga, Contae Ros Comáin) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (e ...

Athlone
, Lanesborough,
Carrick-on-Shannon Carrick-on-Shannon () is the county town In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as ...
,
Leitrim village Leitrim ( ; ) is a village in County Leitrim, Republic of Ireland, Ireland, on the River Shannon near the border with County Roscommon. It is at the junction of the R280 road (Ireland), R280 and R284 road (Ireland), R284 regional roads. Locatio ...
and
Dowra Dowra () is a village in northwest County Cavan County Cavan ( ; gle, Contae an Chabháin) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictio ...

Dowra
.


History

The river began flowing along its present course after the end of the last glacial period.
Ptolemy Claudius Ptolemy (; grc-koi, Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος, , ; la, Claudius Ptolemaeus; AD) was a mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes ...
's ''
Geography Geography (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and Solar System, planets. The first person t ...
'' (2nd century AD) described a river called Σηνος (''Sēnos'') from PIE *''sai''-/''sei''- ‘to bind’, the root of English ''sinew'' and Irish ''sin''
collar Collar may refer to: Human neckwear *Clerical collar (informally ''dog collar''), a distinctive collar used by the clergy of some Christian religious denominations *Collar (BDSM), a device of any material placed around the neck of the submissive ...
’, referring to the long and sinuous
estuary An estuary is a partially enclosed Coast, coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. Estuaries form a transition zone between river environments and maritime envir ...

estuary
leading up to Limerick.
Vikings Vikings—"pirate", non, víkingr is the modern name given to seafaring people primarily from Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skadesi-suolu''/''Skađsuâl''. ( ) is a in , with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. In ...

Vikings
settled in the region in the 10th century and used the river to raid the rich monasteries deep inland. In 937 the Limerick Vikings clashed with those of
Dublin Dublin (; , or ) is the capital and largest city of Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island upright=1.15, Great_Britain.html"_;"title="Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain">Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain_ ...

Dublin
on Lough Ree and were defeated. In the 17th century, the Shannon was of major strategic importance in military campaigns in Ireland, as it formed a physical boundary between the east and west of the country. In the
Irish Confederate Wars The Irish Confederate Wars, also called the Eleven Years' War (from ga, Cogadh na hAon Bhliana Déag), took place in Ireland between 1641 and 1653. It was the Irish theatre of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, a series of civil wars in the kin ...
of 1641–53, the Irish retreated behind the Shannon in 1650 and held out for two further years against
English Parliamentarian The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England, existing from the early 14th century until 1707, when it united with the Parliament of Scotland to become the Parliament of Great Britain after the political union of Eng ...
forces. In preparing a land settlement, or
plantation A plantation is an agricultural estate, generally centered on a plantation houseA plantation house is the main house of a plantation A plantation is a large-scale estate, generally centered on a plantation house, meant for farming that spe ...
after his conquest of Ireland
Oliver Cromwell Oliver Cromwell (25 April 15993 September 1658) was an English general and statesman who, first as a subordinate and later as Commander-in-Chief, led armies An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" e ...

Oliver Cromwell
reputedly said the remaining Irish landowners would go to "Hell or Connacht", referring to their choice of
forced migration Forced displacement (also forced migration) is an involuntary or coerced movement of a person or people away from their home or home region. The UNHCR The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a United Nations System, UN ...
west across the river Shannon, or death, thus freeing up the eastern landholdings for the incoming English settlers. In the
Williamite War in Ireland The Williamite War in Ireland (1688–1691; ga, Cogadh an Dá Rí, "war of the two kings"), was a conflict between Jacobite supporters of deposed monarch James II James II and VII (14 October 1633Old Style and New Style dates, O.S.16 Sept ...
(1689–91), the
Jacobites Jacobite may refer to: Religion * Jacobites, Jacob Baradaeus (died 578). Churches in the Jacobite tradition and sometimes called Jacobite include: ** Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, autonomous branch of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Kerala, Ind ...
also retreated behind the Shannon after their defeat at the in 1690.
Athlone Athlone (; ) is a town on the border of County Roscommon County Roscommon ( ga, Contae Ros Comáin) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (e ...

Athlone
and Limerick, cities commanding bridges over the river, saw bloody sieges. (See Sieges of Limerick and
Siege of Athlone Athlone was besieged twice during the Williamite War in Ireland (1689–91). The town is situated in the centre of Ireland on the River Shannon and commanded the bridge crossing the river into the Jacobitism, Jacobite-held province of Connacht. ...
.) As late as 1916, the leaders of the
Easter Rising The Easter Rising ( ga, Éirí Amach na Cásca), also known as the Easter Rebellion, was an armed insurrection Rebellion, uprising, or insurrection is a refusal of obedience or order. It refers to the open resistance against the orders of ...
planned to have their forces in the west "hold the line of the Shannon". However, in the event, the rebels were neither well enough armed nor equipped to attempt such an ambitious policy.


Folklore

According to
Irish mythology Irish mythology is the mythology of the island of Ireland that has been preserved in the Oral tradition, oral tradition, and later in the manuscripts of early Celtic Christianity. These tales and themes have continued to be developed over tim ...
, the river was named after a woman named Sionann (older spelling: Sínann or Sínand), the granddaughter of
Lir Lir or Ler (meaning "Sea" in Old Irish language, Old Irish; ''Ler'' and ''Lir'' are the nominative and genitive forms, respectively) is a water deity, sea god in Irish mythology. His name suggests that he is a personification of the sea, rather t ...

Lir
. She went to
Connla's Well The ''Dindsenchas ''Dindsenchas'' or ''Dindshenchas'' (modern spellings: ''Dinnseanchas'' or ''Dinnsheanchas'' or ''Dinnṡeanċas''), meaning "lore of places" (the Irish language, modern Irish word ''dinnseanchas'' means "topography"), is a class ...
to find wisdom, despite being warned not to approach it. In some sources she, like
Fionn mac Cumhaill Fionn mac Cumhaill ( ; Old Old or OLD may refer to: Places *Old, Baranya Old () is a village in Baranya (county), Baranya county, Hungary. Populated places in Baranya County {{Baranya-geo-stub ..., Hungary *Old, Northamptonshire ...
, caught and ate the
Salmon of Wisdom The Salmon of Knowledge ( ga, bradán feasa) is a creature figuring in the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology, sometimes identified with Fintan mac Bóchra, who was known as "The Wise" and was once transformed into a salmon. Fenian Cycle The Salmo ...
who swam there, becoming the wisest being on Earth. However, the well then burst forth, drowning Sionann and carrying her out to sea.Monaghan, Patricia. ''The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore''. Infobase Publishing, 2004. p.420 A similar tale is told of
Boann Boann or Boand (modern spelling: Bóinn) is the Irish mythology, Irish goddess of the River Boyne, a river in Leinster, Republic of Ireland, Ireland. According to the ''Lebor Gabála Érenn'' and ''Táin Bó Fraích'' she was the sister of Bébin ...
and the
River Boyne The River Boyne ( ga, An Bhóinn or ''Abhainn na Bóinne'') is a river in Leinster Leinster ( ; ga, Laighin or ) is one of the provinces of Ireland Since pre-historic times, there have been four Provinces of Ireland Ire ...
. It is believed that Sionann was the goddess of the river. Patricia Monaghan notes that "The drowning of a goddess in a river is common in Irish mythology and typically represents the dissolving of her divine power into the water, which then gives life to the land". A small myth of Sionann tells that the legendary hunter-warrior
Fionn mac Cumhaill Fionn mac Cumhaill ( ; Old Old or OLD may refer to: Places *Old, Baranya Old () is a village in Baranya (county), Baranya county, Hungary. Populated places in Baranya County {{Baranya-geo-stub ..., Hungary *Old, Northamptonshire ...
was attacked by a number of warriors at Ballyleague near north Lough Ree, it is said that when Fionn was near defeated, Sionnan rescued Fionn who arrived with the Stone of Sionann, Fionn threw the stone and the warriors were immediately killed, however, Fionn was afraid of the power of the stone and threw it into the river, where it remains at a low
ford Ford commonly refers to: * Ford Motor Company The Ford Motor Company, commonly known as Ford, is an American multinational automaker that has its main headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit (strait) , nicknames ...
, and that if a woman named Be Thuinne finds it, that the worlds end is near. The Shannon reputedly hosts a river monster named Cata, first appearing in the medieval
Book of Lismore The Book of Lismore, also known as the Book of Mac Carthaigh Riabhach, is a late fifteenth-century Gaelic manuscript that was created at Kilbrittain, Co. Cork, Ireland, for Finghin MacCarthy Reagh, Fínghean Mac Carthaigh, Lord of Carbery (1478– ...
. In this manuscript we are told that Senán, patron saint of
County Clare County Clare ( ga, Contae an Chláir) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers ...
, defeated the monster at
Inis Cathaigh Inis Cathaigh or Scattery Island is an island in the Shannon Estuary The Shannon Estuary ( gle, Inbhear na Sionainne) is a large estuary where the River Shannon flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The estuary has Limerick City at its head and its ...
. Cata is described as a large monster with a horse's mane, gleaming eyes, thick feet, nails of iron and a whale's tail. Another story also involving a monster has an Oilliphéist panic and attempt to flee Ireland upon hearing
Saint Patrick Saint Patrick ( la, Patricius; ga, Pádraig ; cy, Padrig) was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary A missionary is a member of a Religious denomination, religious group sent into an area to promote their faith or provide ...
has arrived to remove its kind from the island. It carves out the route that then becomes the Shannon whilst doing so.


Navigation

Though the Shannon has always been important for navigation in Ireland, there is a fall of only in the first . Consequently, it has always been shallow with depths in various places. The first serious attempt to improve things came in 1755 when the Commissioners of
Inland navigation Inland navigation is a transport Transport (in British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety that has undergone substan ...
ordered
Thomas Omer Thomas may refer to: People * List of people with given name Thomas * Thomas (name) * Thomas (surname) * Saint Thomas (disambiguation) * Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, and Doctor of the Church * Thomas the Ap ...
, a new, possibly Dutch immigrant from England, to commence work. He tackled four places between Lough Derg and
Lough Ree Lough Ree () is a lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land Land is the solid surface of Earth that is not permanently submerged in water. Most but not all land is situated at elevations a ...

Lough Ree
where natural navigation was obstructed, by installing lateral canals and either
pound lock A lock is a device used for raising and lowering boat A boat is a watercraft Watercraft, also known as water vessels or waterborne vessels, are vehicles A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is any physica ...
s or
flash lock Early locks Lock may refer to: *Lock and key, a mechanical device used to secure items of importance. *Lock (water navigation), a device for boats to transit between different levels of water Arts, entertainment, and media *Lock (film), ''Lo ...
s. He then continued north of Lough Ree and made a number of similar improvements, most notably by creating the first
Jamestown Canal The Jamestown Canal () bypasses a non-navigable section of the River Shannon The River Shannon ( ga, Abhainn na Sionainne, ', '), at in length, is the longest river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flo ...
which cut out a loop of the river between
Jamestown Jamestown often refers to: *Jamestown, Virginia The Jamestown settlement in the Colony of Virginia was the first permanent British colonization of the Americas, English settlement in the Americas. It was located on the northeast bank of the Ja ...
and
Drumsna Drumsna ( which translates as ''the ridge of the swimming place'') is a village in County Leitrim County Leitrim ( ; gle, Contae Liatroma) is a Counties of Ireland, county in the Republic of Ireland. It is in the Provinces of Ireland, p ...
as well lateral canals at
Roosky Roosky, Ruskey, or Rooskey () is a village on the River Shannon The River Shannon ( ga, Abhainn na Sionainne, ', '), at in length, is the longest river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards ...
and Lanesborough. The lower Shannon between Killaloe and
Limerick Limerick ( ; ga, Luimneach ) is a city in County Limerick County Limerick ( ga, Contae Luimnigh) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chamber ...

Limerick
had different topography. Here the river falls by in only . William Ockenden, also from England, was placed in charge of this in 1757 and spent £12,000 over the next four years without fully completing the task. In 1771 parliament handed over responsibility to the Limerick Navigation Company with a grant of £6,000 to add to their subscriptions of £10,000. A lateral canal long with six locks was started but the company needed more to complete it. In 1791, William Chapman (engineer), William Chapman was brought in to advise and discovered a sorry state of affairs. All the locks had been built to different dimensions and he spent the next three years rebuilding most of them. The navigation was finally opened in 1799, when over of corn came down to Limerick, as well as slates and Peat, turf. But even then, there were no tow paths in the river sections and there were still shoals in the summer months, no harbour facilities at Limerick and boats were limited to load, often less. With the approaching opening of the Grand Canal (Ireland), Grand Canal, the Grand Canal Company obtained permission from the Directors General and asked John Brownrigg (surveyor), John Brownrigg to do a survey which found that much of Omer's work had deteriorated badly, so they started repairs. After protracted negotiations on costs and conditions, the work was completed by 1810 so that boats drawing could pass from
Athlone Athlone (; ) is a town on the border of County Roscommon County Roscommon ( ga, Contae Ros Comáin) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (e ...

Athlone
to Killaloe. Improvements on the lower levels were also undertaken, being completed by 1814. When the Royal Canal was completed in 1817 there was pressure to improve the navigation above Lough Ree. The Jamestown Canal was repaired, harbours built and John Killaly designed a canal alongside the river from Battlebridge, County Roscommon, Battlebridge to
Lough Allen Lough Allen () is a lake on the River Shannon in northeastern Connacht, Republic of Ireland, Ireland. Most of the lake is in County Leitrim, with a smaller part in County Roscommon. The lake lies to the south of the River Shannon's source, near ...

Lough Allen
which was opened in 1820. In the latter part of the 1820s, trade increased dramatically with the arrival of paddle-wheeled steamboat, steamers on the river which carried passengers and goods. By 1831 14,600 passengers and of freight were being carried. This put new pressure on the navigation and a commission was set up resulting in the Shannon Navigation Act of 1835 appointing five Commissioners for the improvement of navigation and drainage who took possession of the whole navigation. Over the next 15 years many improvements were made but in 1849 a railway was opened from Dublin to Limerick and the number of passengers fell dramatically. Freight, which had risen to over per year, was also halved. But the work the commissioners carried out failed to solve the problems of flooding and there were disastrous floods in the early 1860s. Given the flat nature of most of the riverbank this was not easily addressed and nothing much was done till the twentieth century. One of the first projects of the Irish Free State in the 1920s was the Shannon hydroelectric scheme which established the Ardnacrusha power station on the lower Shannon above Limerick. The old Killaloe to Limerick canal with its five locks was abandoned and the head race constructed from Lough Derg also served for navigation. A double lock was provided at the dam. In the 1950s traffic began to fall and low fixed bridges would have replaced opening bridges but for the actions of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland which persuaded the Tánaiste to encourage passenger launches, which kept the bridges high enough for navigation. Since then the leisure trade has steadily increased, becoming a great success story.


Distributaries

The main flow of the river is affected by some distributaries along its course, many of which rejoin it down stream. The Blackwater river in Co. Clare rejoins the main flow below Thomond village. The Abbey River, Limerick, Abbey River flows around the northeastern, eastern, and southern shores of King's Island, Limerick, King's Island,
Limerick Limerick ( ; ga, Luimneach ) is a city in County Limerick County Limerick ( ga, Contae Luimnigh) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chamber ...

Limerick
before rejoining the Shannon at ''Hellsgate Island''.


Canals

There are also many Canals of Ireland, canals connecting with the River Shannon. The Royal Canal and the Grand Canal (Ireland), Grand Canal connect the Shannon to Dublin and the Irish Sea. It is linked to the River Erne and Lough Erne by the Shannon–Erne Waterway. Ballinasloe is linked to the Shannon via the River Suck and canal, while Boyle, County Roscommon, Boyle is connected via the Boyle canal, the Boyle River (Ireland), river Boyle and Lough Key. There is also the Ardnacrusha canal connected with the Ardnacrusha dam south of Lough Derg. Near Limerick, a short canal connects Plassey, County Limerick, Plassey with the Abbey River, Limerick, Abbey River, allowing boats to bypass the Curraghower Falls, a major obstacle to navigation. Lecarrow village in County Roscommon is connected to Lough Ree via the Lecarrow canal.
Jamestown Canal The Jamestown Canal () bypasses a non-navigable section of the River Shannon The River Shannon ( ga, Abhainn na Sionainne, ', '), at in length, is the longest river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flo ...
and the Albert Lock form a link between the River Shannon, from south of
Jamestown Jamestown often refers to: *Jamestown, Virginia The Jamestown settlement in the Colony of Virginia was the first permanent British colonization of the Americas, English settlement in the Americas. It was located on the northeast bank of the Ja ...
, to Lough Nanoge to the south of
Drumsna Drumsna ( which translates as ''the ridge of the swimming place'') is a village in County Leitrim County Leitrim ( ; gle, Contae Liatroma) is a Counties of Ireland, county in the Republic of Ireland. It is in the Provinces of Ireland, p ...
.


Economics

Despite being long, it rises only Above mean sea level, above sea level, so the river is easily navigable, with only a few locks along its length. There is a Ardnacrusha power plant, hydroelectric generation plant at Ardnacrusha (village), Ardnacrusha belonging to the Electricity Supply Board, ESB. Shipping in Shannon estuary was developed extensively during the 1980s, with over Irish pound, IR£2 billion (€2.5 billion) investment. A tanker terminal at
Foynes Foynes (; ) is a town and major port in County Limerick County Limerick ( ga, Contae Luimnigh) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dic ...
and an oil jetty at
Shannon Airport Shannon Airport ( ga, Aerfort na Sionainne) is an international airport An international airport is an airport An airport is an with extended facilities, mostly for commercial air transport. Airports often have facilities to pa ...
were built. In 1982 a large scale alumina extraction plant was built at Aughinish, County Limerick, Aughinish. 60,000 tonne cargo vessels now carry raw bauxite from West African mines to the plant, where it is refined to alumina. This is then exported to Canada where it is further refined to aluminium. 1985 saw the opening of a 915 MW coal-fired electricity plant at Moneypoint, fed by regular visits by 150,000 tonne bulk carriers.


Shannon eel management programme

A trap and transport scheme is in force on the Shannon as part of an eel management programme following the discovery of a reduced eel population. This scheme ensures safe passage for young eels between Lough Derg and the Shannon estuary.


Fishing

Though the Shannon estuary fishing industry is now depleted, at one time it provided employment for hundreds of men along its length. At
Limerick Limerick ( ; ga, Luimneach ) is a city in County Limerick County Limerick ( ga, Contae Luimnigh) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chamber ...

Limerick
, fishermen based on Clancy's Strand used the Gandelow to catch Salmon. The Abbey Fishermen used a net and a boat known as a Breacaun to fish between Limerick City and Plassey until 1929. In 1929, the construction of a dam at Ardnacrusha severely impacted salmon breeding and that, and the introduction of quotas, had by the 1950s caused salmon fishing to cease. However, recreational fishing still goes on. Further down the
Shannon Estuary The Shannon Estuary ( gle, Inbhear na Sionainne) is a large estuary where the River Shannon flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The estuary has Limerick City at its head and its seaward limits are marked by Loop Head to the north and Kerry Head to th ...
at
Kilrush Kilrush () is a coastal town in County Clare County Clare ( ga, Contae an Chláir) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chamber ...

Kilrush
the Currach was used to catch herring as well as drift netting for salmon.


Water extraction

Dublin City Council published a plan in 2011 to supply up to 350 million litres of water a day from Lough Derg to Dublin city and region. In 2016 the Parteen Basin to the south of lough was chosen as the proposed site of extraction. Water would be pumped to a break pressure tank Knockanacree near Cloughjordan in County Tipperary and gravity fed from there by River Shannon to Dublin pipeline, pipeline to Dublin.


See also

* Cromwellian conquest of Ireland * Rivers of Ireland * List of loughs in Ireland


Notes


References


External links


Information, maps etc. on The Shannon Navigation (from Inland Waterways Association of Ireland)
*
Ireland's Wild River (2014 "Nature" episode on the River Shannon by wildlife cameraman Colin Stafford-Johnson)
{{DEFAULTSORT:Shannon River Shannon, Limerick (city) Rivers of County Cavan Rivers of County Clare Rivers of County Galway Rivers of County Leitrim Rivers of County Limerick Rivers of County Longford Rivers of County Offaly Rivers of County Roscommon Rivers of County Westmeath Rivers of County Tipperary