Location: Boyle, Co. Roscommon.
An ideal “first white-water river” for the novice kayaker looking to learn to paddle the fun stuff. The river has all you need to learn how to handle eddies, surf waves and side-surf in stoppers, all in a comparatively safe environment. Only down-side is there is no quality play feature to entertain the more advanced paddler.
Get into Boyle town, find the “crescent”. This is the centre of the town. It has a clock tower in it, a small car park, and a Londis. Also it has a small market on Saturdays. Take the road off the crescent that runs between the super value and the health centre. (Felton Road+ Termon Road) The road goes out a bit, and then goes under a railway bridge. Keep heading out this way until you get to a small crossroads. The road crossing this one is no more than a driveway. Take the right hand turn here, down the driveway. You should reach a farmyard with a house on the left and a large gravelled yard between two gates.
Before you do anything else, go to the house with your best friendly face on and ask the landowner if it is OK to cross their land to access the river to go kayaking. We have had no problems so far over the past 13 years, the owners being very friendly people.
Once this is sorted, leave the cars neatly parked across from the house and go through the yard to the slip-way into the river. Quietly and discreetly get changed, get your boats to the slip-way, and run the shuttle, moving as many cars as possible to the take out. Be quiet and polite at all times at the put-in. Close every gate after you.
The easiest take out is at the ‘No Through Road’ outside of town. Turn off the N4 at the N61 to Boyle and take the first left before the river at the ‘No Through Road’. Follow that all the way to the end to the two bridges and car park.
The short take-out is found by going back through the town of Boyle, taking the right hand turn at Bowls of Boyle heading out this road a little bit until you find the river shore above the weir. (Currently with the one-way system they have in Boyle, you need to drive right around the town. So from the crescent, take the Carrick road, then the Sligo road, then military road, which becomes main street. Continue out this road as it becomes Patrick’s street, then take the chapel street turn-off)
There are a few options for take-out – in a small cul-de-sac beside the abbey in Boyle on river-right (Abbeytown). Ensure you leave vehicles neatly parked at this take-out.
The entry to the river is a little grass slope you seal launch down into an eddy. The first rapid, Eel Weir (not actually a weir) is a simple little rapid with good eddy service either side of the river. This sets the flavour for the rest of the river on down. Small, easy rapid with eddy lines to get some training done on. Watch out for fences and farm junk encroaching into the river. Also steer clear of the trees on the bank.
You will pass under low metal bridge, followed by a split in the river. Take either channel. After the river rejoins the far side of this island, there is a very distinctive and strongly recirculating eddy on river-left bank. This is a good eddy to feed from when posting beginners down Assylin rapid, just around the corner.
Assylin rapid is a bend in the river followed by a slight constriction and gradient increase under a railway bridge. Everything gets bouncy and exciting for beginners, but is about as harmless as white-water can possibly be. Masses of eddy service to pick up the swimmers. Water goes totally flat until the short take-out and the Weir.
The Weir can be run anywhere along it’s length, but is best run on river-right to get best eddy service. It is just a sloping slide with a small stopper at the bottom. Nothing grabby at all. From here, the river gets shallow for a little bit. The river splits in two around another island. This one is a little trickier. Watch out for strainers and barbed wire across the river. Left passage usually works the best, but both should be navigable. Next you have a bridge at the old factory. Avoid the supports of the bridge.
From here it is a short flat section until you reach Boyle town. The first bridge speeds you through and into a series of 3 river wide stoppers. These can hold a boat sideways, so don’t get stuck in them unless you know how to handle stoppers. Paddle strongly through them. There is no eddy service for playing or rescue here. Best hope for a rescue of someone swimming out of these stoppers is under the little footbridge on river right. After the 3 stoppers the river snakes through town. No rapids, but stay clear of the trees. You know you are at the end of your journey when you reach the bridge with the narrow arches. All the arches are navigable usually, but watch for strainers after high water levels. Shoot the right arch if you want the main get-out, or the left arch if you are after the alternate get-out behind the bridge.
Find the main get-out directly after the wall that runs along the river-right bank. current is fast and the eddy is small so be nimble here. Egress and portage over the farm gate. Get loaded up and change discreetly.
Strainers and barbed wire. Compared to nearly any other white water river there are no hazards here. It is white water with the training wheels on. With correct guidance, this is possibly the safest, most suitable for beginners white water river around.
Boyle river comes up and down reasonably slowly compared to most rivers in the north-west. Ideally rises with a few days steady drizzle, and holds a paddlable level for a few weeks after it fills up. This is due to it being fed by a lake upstream (Lough Gara). It can be paddled into very low conditions, and there is no such thing as too high. This means you can count on having enough water to manage a trip from autumn to late spring. If you have had a week of heavy rain, it gets good and fast, but no hydraulics become dangerous.