Clare Glens River Guide
We have stuck together a little pictorial homage to our favourite local whitewater river. This is
one of the best Grade IV runs in Ireland, and gets to Grade V in flood. Kerry, Wicklow and
Donegal are the main whitewater regions in the country.
Of course, we must stress our disclaimer that we cannot be held in any way responsible for personal/gear/anything damage if you use the info herein. It is fairly accurate and up to date cos we do it most weeks in season (October to March). This river floods heavily a lot and trees and other features move around. The river is a serious undertaking for any group and all drops should be inspected prior to running them. Do it entirely at your own risk.
The River Clare rises in the Silvermines mountains in north Tipperary, and flows along the border between Counties Tipperary and Limerick for much of its length. The section that is paddled most frequently is upstream of the bridge between the villages of Murroe and Newport. The most popular put-in is reached by going up a narrow road about a quarter mile east of the car park at the bridge, until a rhododendron hedge is visible on the left-hand side. A narrow lane leads into the left into a car-park. There is a path over the gate at the far end of the car park which runs the length of the river (a tourist attraction) in the woods. This is a very popular river, and everyone seems to have their own names for each section. We think we have referred to most such names, but we are open to any additions.
The waterfall generally known as the Top Drop (9′) is about a further hundred metres upriver of the carpark above the path. There are ancient reports of get-ins further up than the top drop, but it isn’t worth the hassle. This is the second highest straight-forward drop on the river, and worth the extra five minute walk from the car park. At normal water levels, this is a seething mass of boil, but big water makes this a munchy stopper (Topos on spin cycle!!).
This is a very “glens beginner” friendly drop as the line is quite visible and safety can be set up river left on a rope or below the drop in a boat. The line is quite basic and can be inspected from the bank. Off the middle aiming to be coming off the left part of the middle for a nice flare/boof. Really good drop to dial in your free wheels too.
After top drop there’s one read and run rapid and then you can peel into an eddy river left. This drop is also quite easy. Aim for tuff of grass right of the walking path and pull a big left boof at the top. Be prepared for boily water at the foot of the drop.
This is one of the more daunting rapids as the river narrows into a slot that’s barely wide enough for a boat at lower levels. Build up speed lean forward and keep your boat straight here coming through this hole. At higher levels you can run it abit further left also. Safety can be set up on the bank with an open sling.
You either love it or hate it. V drop is the next major feature after constriction. River left line is nice for a flare but be prepared for the wall as you land. At higher flows river right also works which is just a boof straight off it. Avoid going into the v unless you want to be pushed deep. Boat rescue is all that needs to be done here.
S Bend & Various Other Rapids
After the Vee, things are very calm for some 100′. Just watch out for trees in the river in this spot. This is followed by the s bend, where the river runs left then right into a cliff. Try paddling away from it. Various holes and rocks make this fun. Big hole in middle of river after this. Which has caught many people in it. Keep paddling through these read and run rapids and you’ll come to a pool where you can choose to get out and scout big eas or run it. Various minor rapids lead to a further calm section, when the footbridge become visible. In big water, this is where you get out because there are no further getout points until after the Bad Ass.
Big Eas / Ass Waterfall
Rapids lead into a grabby (in flood) stopper immediately above the footbridge. Advised to take this far right and breakout in big eddy under tree. Ferryglide to river left (avoiding stopper) to line up for the Bridge drop. This looks very high, is not vertical, but has hungry stopper. Take this left of centre to get breakout below. Breakout not easy in big water. Last stop before the Big Ass. The river narrows and accelerates down a gentle slope, with large diagonal reflection waves. After an almost right angle bend turn, kayakers are hurled over what is known as Big Ass/Bad Eas waterfall (15′), the highest on the River Clare, and one of the highest do-able falls in Ireland. There is a chimney right of centre which is unhealthy in even moderate levels, though fine when low. There is a lip just to the left of the chimney which is the ideal spot. This waterfall demands respect. You cannot resist gasping at the top of this as you look at the world beneath for a flash. In higher flows ski jump line opens up where instead of going into cave you can continue off an autoboof
Double Drop / Little Ass
The plunge pool after the Big Ass leads to a short rapid taken left, with a twisting hole to catch the unwary. Just around the corner from this is the most dangerous section on the Glens. Stay smack down the centre, pulling to the right. The Little Ass consists of a 7′ drop closely followed by a 9′ sloping drop, which acts as a pourover, causing a majorly grabby hole that kicks left towards a ‘cave’ of sorts and an undercut rock. Boats and paddlers stay there for a long time until pulled out from the far side of the river. Of course, this is the best ender spot on the river. Just stick the nose in right of centre, and wham, up you go. It generally pushes you back vertically into the cave, which worries some people. Rescue is mandatory here with a rope. Keep the bow up and speed going forward and you’ll be grand as long as you’re not too far right.
The Rock Garden / Graveyard
A calm section follows the Little Ass for some distance. A chute on the far right of the river signals the start of the last rapid section of the trip, the Graveyard. This is a moderately difficult technical section. Line is generally centre, but some rudder work generally required.
Drop off this little drop and aim to stay on the slab and drop off just before the end. Avoid too far right or pinning is likely to happen
And that’s about it. Another 30 yards and you can get out is on the right just before the bridge. There is another drop of 5′ about one hundred metres below the bridge, but usually it is not worth the hassle of climbing up to the car-park afterwards. For first glens trip a jump off the bridge is also necessary.