Owenduff river

The Owenduff drains an area of 52 square miles of wild moorland and mountain into ullaghan Bay, a few miles north of the village of Ballycroy.

This large area of relatively intact blanket bog and mountains incorporates the catchment of the Owenduff River and much of the Nephin Beg Mountain range, and is situated in Co. Mayo. Lough Feeagh, which is located approximately 5 km north-west of Newport Town, lies in the south-east corner of the site.

Within the site, the terrain varies enormously from the peaks of the Nephin Beg Mountains, which reach a maximum altitude of 717 m, to areas where the land slopes westwards to the floodplain of the Owenduff River.

The upper slopes of the mountains in the Owenduff/Nephin complex carry wet heath and cliff vegetation, and patches of upland grassland are frequent. The esence of small corrie lakes and rock basin lakes adds to the habitat diversity of the mountains. Along its southern and eastern limits the site is bounded by coniferous plantations and/or the high mountain slopes of the Nephin Begs. Along its northern and western margins the site is fringed by agricultural land reclaimed from bog or from wet floodplain vegetation.

The site is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) selected for the following habitats and/or species listed on Annex I / II of the E.U. Habitats Directive

The remote upland areas along the eastern and southern fringes of this site contain approximately 15 oligotrophic to mesotrophic akes, many of which lie above an altitude of 200 m. Most of these lakes are fine examples of corrie lakes, backed by precipitous mountain cliffs (for example, Lough Anaffrin, Lough Adanacleeveen and Corryloughnaphuil Lough). The lakes vary greatly in size, ranging from a couple of hectares to approximately 25 ha. Most of these lakes are base-poor, and have little emergent vegetation.

Dystrophic lakes of various sizes are found in areas of low-lying blanket bog. These are extremely base-poor, have a peaty bottom and as a result, the water is often highly coloured by humic acids. A feature of these lakes is that there is usually an abrupt transition from blanket bog to open water, with little in the way of shallow lake margin present. The vegetation of these nutrient-poor lakes is typically limited and sparse. Marginal vegetation may include narrow floating rafts of Bulbous Rush, White Beak-sedge (Rhynchospora alba) and Sphagnum cuspidatum. Small peaty islands in these lakes may support Crowberry and Juniper (Juniperus communis), both species which are generally uncommon in lowland blanket bogs. The Juniper often forms scrub, but this is relatively rare, and is confined to the larger and ungrazed islands.

The Owenduff River system holds an important population of Atlantic Salmon, another species listed on Annex II. Spawning occurs on the Owenduff, the Tarsaghaun River to the east, the Glenadeeghan and the Baunduff/Scardaun, mainly in the upper reaches.

In the past, 30 years ago, the site is heavily stocked with sheep.Cattle graze the riversides, but sheep penetrate into the uninhabited valleys and mountain slopes.Blanket bogs are sensitive to damage from over-grazing -the cover of Sphagnummosses can be depleted and peat erosion can occur. Damage is currently severe on the slopes west of Lough Feeagh, where it has contributed to a recent decline in the numbers of Greenland White-fronted Goose which feed there. Peat erosion also threatens water quality in the rivers, which may in turn affect the fish population.

Currently, fishing (Brown Trout and Atlantic Salmon) is a popular activity on the site and,together with game-shooting, attracts significant numbers of tourists to the region.

Owenduff is an exceptionally attractive and prolific salmon and sea trout fishery. There are abundant stocks of spring salmon, grilse and sea trout. Together with its tributary, the Tarsaghaunmore, All the river is privately owned, except the estuary below the weir at Srahnamanragh Bridge where there is about a mile of free fishing along the left bank. Up river, there are 3 private fisheries and lodges: Lagduff Lodge, Shean Lodge and Rock House near Ballycroy. A limited number of day tickets might be available from the Rock House Fishery.

The Owenduff/Nephin Complex is one of the best and largest examples of intact blanket bog in the country.The range and quality of habitats present here is excellent, and a number of rare and protected plant and animal species occur.The Owenduff River system is the largest in the country which remains virtually free of conifer plantations.

The site is a striking wilderness of bog and mountain, a unique landscape which is of international ecological importance.

Ballycroy National Park was established in November 1998, it is Ireland’s sixth National Park and is located on the Western seaboard in northwest Mayo. It comprises of 11,000 hectares of Atlantic blanket bog and mountainous terrain, covering a vast uninhabited and unspoilt wilderness dominated by the Nephin Beg mountain range.

To the west of the mountains is the Owenduff bog. This is one of the last intact active blanket bog systems in Ireland and Western Europe and is an important scientific and scenic feature of the National Park. The Park also protects a variety of other important habitats and species. These include alpine heath, upland grassland, heath and lakes and river catchments. Greenland White-fronted geese, Golden plover, Red Grouse and Otters are just some of the important fauna found within the Park. The National Park is itself part of the Owenduff/Nephin Complex Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA). These European designations are part of the Natura 2000 Network, which protect rare and important habitats and species under the EU Habitats and Birds Directive.

Source: SITE SYNOPSIS Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Ballycrroy National Park web site

As a first step, a timetable is foreseen for organize the work programme with all the stakeholders

In 2015 :

May 2015 : First Visit to discover the river, contacts with the owners, definition of the working method

June : produced the first document which explains how we need to build the « wild river site » label. documents are available here.

In 2016 an 2017

Between May and October 2016 : Contacts with stakeholders (Ireland Fisheries, Ballycroy National Park…etc to explain the project organisation, the schedule …etc)

October 2016- May 2017: Report on the technical results of the grid criteria test.

July 2017 : Report on the advantages and benefits of this new European label «  Wild Rivers Site » for Owenduff watershed and Mayo county.