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Practical Guide

Practical Guide – Blackwater Canoe Trail


This practical guide has been designed by local experts to help you make the most of your next trip on the Blackwater Canoe Trail. This 20km trail offers a great opportunity for peaceful paddling in the Armagh and Tyrone countryside. This inside knowledge will help make the most out of your trip.

Planning a Trip

Suitable For:

The Blackwater Canoe Trail is a lazy meandering river and it is therefore suitable for all abilities. As with all Northern Ireland’s canoe trails, access is free and no licence is required.

The section of river downstream of Blackwatertown provides slow moving river and therefore a superb venue for families or those embarking on their first canoe trip.

The section between Maydown Bridge and Blackwatertown is either feast or famine. A ‘bump and scrape’ in low water or a Grade 2 after a period of rain fall so this is an area best left to the experts. Paddlers should also be aware of numerous overhanging branches.

The nature of the river means shuttles are required, the vast majority of canoe providers will offer a shuttle service.

Best for:

Day Trips

The Blackwater Canoe Trail is 20km length and therefore paddling shorter sections allows for an excellent range of day trips.

Wild Camping

The introduction of Copney Campsite in October 2013 means the trail can now be split into two manageable day trips with wild camping available approximately half way along the trail.  Wild Camping is also available on Coney Island on Lough Neagh which is approximatley 1km from the end of the river.

Direction of Flow:

The Blackwater River flows into Lough Neagh from south west to north east. The trail is slow moving downstream of the Balckwatertown so it is possible to paddle upstream. However it is strongly advised to take the more relaxed method of journeying downstream.


The CanoeNI team has combined their knowledge with that of many local experts to design a variety of canoeing itineraries to allow you make the most of your next short break or day trip to the Blackwater Canoe Trail. These are our favourite itineraries however the beauty of this 20km trail is that these can be mixed and matched to create an almost infinite number of itineraries.

Useful Info

CanoeNI +44 (0)28 9030 3930

Armagh Visitor Information Centre: +44 (0)28 3752 1800

Craigavon Visitor Information Centre: +44 (0)28 3832 2205

Dungannon Visitor Information Centre: +44(0)28 8772 8600

Police Non Emergency: 101

Currency: The River Blackwater is in Northern Ireland. Pounds Sterling (GBP) is the currency of Northern Ireland.


General Safety

Canoeing is an adventure sport and as such should be treated with respect. If you are new to the sport, it is advisable to join an organized club or take some lessons with a canoeing provider, both options will offer expert coaching.

When participating in canoe sport note should be taken of the following safety advice:

  1. Do not canoe without adequate buoyancy in the form of a personal life jacket or buoyancy aid. Canoe buoyancy should be sufficient to keep the canoe afloat if you capsize
  2. It is recommended not to canoe alone – three boats is the minimum required for most rescues
  3. Remember – a canoe may be difficult to see from a larger craft – carry a whistle
  4. You do not need to be able to swim vast distances but you will need the water confidence to deal with a capsized boat and get ashore safely
  5. Carry and know how to use a map and compass
  6. Wear adequate clothing, prolonged immersion in cold water leads to hypothermia – hypothermia can kill.
  7. Leave details of your journey with a responsible adult

River Blackwater Specific

  1. Lough Neagh can become rough in strong winds – carrying rafting poles is a sensible precaution (rafted canoes are more stable in rough conditions).
  2. The section between Maydown Bridge (access point 1) and Blackwatertown (access point 2) is very shallow in low water or a Grade 2 after a period of rain fall due to its fast-flowing water and narrow channel, a reasonable skill level is required to complete this section of the trail. It is not suitable for novice paddlers without qualified instruction. Paddlers should also be aware of numerous overhanging branches.

Emergency Telephone Numbers

Lough Neagh Rescue covers Lough Neagh and its tributaries. In the unlikely event of an Emergency use the following numbers:

Police and Ambulance

999 (all phones) or 112 (all phones)

Coast Guard (Lough Neagh)

999 (all phones) or VHF channel 16

Note that mobile phone reception is unreliable in many areas.

Earning a welcome

Have respect for locals:

  • Be friendly and polite to local residents.
  • Drive slowly with care and consideration and park sensibly without causing obstruction.
  • Be as quiet as possible.
  • Get changed discreetly out of public view.
  • Get permission before going on to private property.
  • Avoid wildlife disturbance and environmental damage - only go ashore at recognised landing places.
  • Be considerate to other water users.
  • Follow the Leave No Trace Principles.

Have respect for anglers:

  • Keep well clear of anglers fishing from banks and boats.
  • Keep clear of shallow gravel areas of rivers where salmon and trout may spawn - especially during November, December and January.

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