The Limerick Navigation (tidal section) in flood November 2009

Note February 2014: if you came to this page while looking for photos of the current flooding in Limerick, note that the 2009 floods were caused by large amounts of water coming down the Shannon from the midlands (and indeed all the way to Lough Allen); the 2014 floods seem to have been caused by water coming up the estuary with high tide.

Most photos on this page were taken on 28 November 2009.

The canal harbour

Canal Harbour entrance

Canal lower lock with gates still partially open

The Abbey River

Abbey Bridge from upstream (22 November 2009)

Abbey Bridge from downstream

Baal’s Bridge from upstream

The Abbey River and Baal’s Bridge. Note the never-used mooring pontoon on the left

The pontoons in the current

The downhill slalom: Mathew Bridge to the weir

If you happened to be completely insane, and to have managed to get a boat through Ardnacrusha Lock (currently closed), here is what you would find. First you’d have to get through the navigation arch at Mathew Bridge.

The navigation arch from the right

The navigation arch from the left

The bridge pier

The navigation arch from downstream

Steer between the mooring pontoon on the left and the protective pontoon on the right

From Mathew Bridge (22 November 2009)

The gap is quite narrow

The current against the upstream end of the protective pontoon

The flow along the pontoon

Then all you have to do is to turn in the space between the mooring pontoon and the weir …

… without being swept over the weir itself …

… before mooring safely below Daviso Ducart’s Custom House

The weir and the falls

These photos were taken around low tide, but there is so much water in the river that you might not realise it.

The landing pontoon at the upper end of the lock with the weir behind it

The disturbed water shows the line of the weir

Curragour Falls

The line of the weir with King John’s Castle in the background

Boats moored at Custom House quay

Deep Purple

King John’s Castle

Thomond Bridge and Curragour Falls

The Courthouse, St Mary’s Cathedral and Curraghgour Boat Club

The sea Lock (Sarsfield Lock)

The lock chamber

The flow over the lower gates

The flow in the waiting basin below Sarsfield Lock

Finally, here are two photos taken early on 28 November 2009 when the morning fog had not entirely lifted.

The ghost in the fog

The Clarion Hotel, Limerick


7 responses to “The Limerick Navigation (tidal section) in flood November 2009

  1. Thanks for posting the photos. Amazing as they are in themselves, I am especially grateful for the captions under them!

    I was just looking through some photos I took when I was in Limerick back in August. At the time, I thought little of the lock at Sarsfield Bridge (don’t get me wrong; of course I’m fascinated by locks as engineering objets d’art) but looking back at the pictures, it occurred to me, “why?” There’s no obvious structure in the river at that point and the Curraghgour Falls is quite a bit upstream of the lock, so why put a lock right there in the river?

    But from your webpage, I gather there is a submerged weir at that point. Perhaps to control tidal effects upstream?

    It’s maddening how difficult it it to find information about this on the Net, so I really appreciate the effort you put into these pages. Thanks!

    P.S. While there, I walked the Lough Derg Way to Killaloe. Nice walk, and the stretch out of Limerick along the old canal is really enjoyable.

  2. Garrett: thanks for your two messages.

    Sarsfield (formerly Wellesley) Lock was built by Alexander Nimmo for the Limerick Bridge Commissioners (who were later redesignated as the Limerick Harbour Commissioners). I draw here on Alexander Nimmo Master Engineer 1783-1832 by Noel P Wilkins (Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 2009). There were to be four elements in the grand scheme: (a) the bridge, including its swivel section; (b) the tidal waiting basin below the bridge; (c) two floating docks, one running from the lock to Arthur’s Quay and one above it at Custom House Quay; (d) some minor works on the opposite side of the river. There are some contradictory aspects that I don’t yet fully understand, for instance a George McKern map of 1827 that suggests that there would be no link from the Abbey River to the floating dock, but the main point is that the money ran out and Nimmo died leaving incomplete plans. Some work was done in the bed of the river, but eventually the floating dock was built downstream, where it is today (although its entrance has been moved from its upstream to its downstream end).

    Then Limerick City Council, in designing its new mains sewerage system, decided to run the large pipe down the bed of the river, and realised that for relatively little cost it could build a wall on top of the pipe and thus keep up the water level in the Abbey River. The Abbey had traditionally three problems: (a) at low tide the water level was too low for boats; (b) at high tide the clearance under the bridges was insifficient and (c) the current was ferocious. The new weir has solved the first of those problems by keeping a minimum depth of water in the river; it hasn’t done anything for the other two. If you get your timing right, you will travel this streetch when the incoming tide has overtopped the weir and is just balancing the flow in the river; get it wrong and you have problems.

    If you had been at Sarsfield Lock at low tide, you would have seen the weir. You can see it just emerging on my page Floods 28 November 2009: Sarsfield Lock to Abbey Bridge. Here is another photo and here is one from the far side of the river, from the top of a hotel.

    My old photo site has photos of the harbour and the old Limerick Navigation. They will eventually be moved to this site, but it will take time!


  3. Wow, thanks for all the information! It’s always interesting to see how these things come about, and how they can change on the way.

    Your reply emboldens me to go ahead and ask about another photo that I took near Limerick, figuring you’d be the fellow to know this…

    Walking on the path along the Ardnacrusha headrace, I spotted what looked like a tunnel entrance below the embankment. I believe it was just east (i.e., upstream) of Clonlara. I’ll try to post a link to the photo here…
    That’s a closeup of the “tunnel”, the full photo is here:
    Hope the link works; sorry I don’t know how these comment thingies work…

    I wondered if it could be a tunnel under the old Errina Canal?

  4. Garrett: close …. That’s the bridge over the Errina Lock, once the only triple-chambered lock in Ireland but later changed to a double. Waterways Ireland has been tidying it up recently but seems to have stopped work while leaving a lot of kit on site. Here are some photos taken during an earlier stage of the work, before they railed off the lock. You can also follow the route from O’Briensbridge down to the lock here; you can walk on to Clonlara (which is not much further) along the old canal (bypassing one lockhouse) and back the way you went, along the headrace.

    There are various drainage tunnels under the headrace and the old canal: there was a complex system of drainage whose details I don’t know, alas.


  5. Ah ha! It’s a briiiiidge! I wish now I’d gone down to look at it, but it seemed to be fenced off and it looked like there might be some activity. Your pictures are really good though, I was glad to see them. After I saw the condition of the canal at Plassey, I didn’t think there’d be anything left to see along the rest of its route.

    It would be great if they could restore the Errina and reopen it someday.

  6. Errina Lock is indeed fenced off, and far be it from me to advise anyone to attempt to get past the barriers. If you fell in to there, you would have very great difficulty in getting out.

    However ….

    When I wur a lad, my old granny always told me to remember the advice of the late Dr Johnson: “no man should travel unprovided with instruments for taking heights and distances.” To that I would add that a vice-grips too is a useful adjunct ….


  7. Pingback: Irish waterways history

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