SHANNON (THE) , the largest river of Ireland, and probably the largest in any equal extent of insular ground in the world. […]
The lower third of its course is tidal or estuarial; and the other two-thirds are, in a comparative sense, so straight, so deep, so free from current, and so much aided by lacustrine expansions, that the river can be navigated by barges, and made an aqueous highway for commerce, to within a few miles of its source.
Were all its facilities to trade and communication as fully recognised and used as those of the rivers of England, it could not fail to relieve and enrich the condition of a very large proportion of the Irish population, and would be burdened with a much greater annual aggregate of freightage than any other river of equal length in the world; yet, in spite of its voluminousness, its highly navigable capacities, and its intimate connection with many of the most populous inland and central districts of Ireland, it was, till a few years ago, very little cared for, and continues to the present day to be comparatively little known.
It effects, from Lough Allen near its source, to the sea at the level of low-water, an aggregate descent of 159 feet in summer, or 163 feet in winter; or, to speak popularly, and with reference merely to high-water level, it makes an aggregate descent of 147 feet; but it achieves no less than 97 feet of the 147 in the brief distance between Killaloe and Limerick; and it also effects, within its entire course, no fewer than 17 different falls or rapids; so that, in its entire current, except at these few particular localities, it is necessarily sluggish and silent almost to stagnation.
Much of its strictly fluviatile extent consists of very large and long lacustrine expanses; much also consists of dull, dead reaches of river, stagnating amid callows, meadows, bogs, and morasses, rankly overgrown upon the sides by aquatic vegetation, and periodically spreading out in cold and shallow floods; and surprisingly little consists of the merry and brilliant combinations of limpid and rippling current with clean well-defined and picturesque banks which so generally constitutes the river-scenery of Scotland.
The Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland, adapted to the new poor-law, franchise, municipal and ecclesiastical arrangements, and compiled with a special reference to the lines of railroad and canal communication, as existing in 1844–45; illustrated by a series of maps, and other plates; and presenting the results, in detail, of the census of 1841, compared with that of 1831 Volume III N–Z A Fullarton and Co, Dublin, London and Edinburgh 1846