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Practical Guide

Introduction

This practical guide has been designed by local experts to help you make the most of your next trip on the Foyle Canoe Trail. The choices offered by this amazing 53 kilometre trail can sometimes be overwhelming; you have so many places to explore in so little time. This inside knowledge will make your decision making so much easier.

Planning a Trip

Suitable For:

Paddlers can use kayaks or open canoes on the Foyle Canoe Trail. It is even possible to erect a sail on certain sections to take advantage of a following wind.

The 53km Foyle Canoe Trail offers paddling on a wide, tidal river that runs into Lough Foyle. The river runs through beautiful countryside teeming with wildlife and laden with history!

There are no weirs or other obstructions but watch out for drying ground as the tide drops!

Best for:

Canoe Camping.

The trail is perfect for camping trips by kayak and open canoe – lots to see and do along the banks of this river and sea lough. There are plenty of campsites with and without facilities along the trail.

Wind and Tides

Tidal Information:

  • Lough Foyle and the entire River Foyle are tidal!
  • Tidal range: up to 3.08m (at Lisahally) and approximately 1-1.5m at Lifford
  • Average flood time: 6 hours 7 minutes
  • Average ebb time: 6 hours 17 minutes
  • Tide tables are available for Lisahally (near mouth of River Foyle) from Foyle Port
  • Approximate time differences
    • Moville - 45 mins
    • Derry ~ Londonderry City + 35 mins
    • Northern tip of Islandmore + 2.5 hrs
    • Lifford/Strabane + 3.0 hrs
  • Tidal stream:
    • streams in the entrance to Lough Foyle run at 3.5 knots at springs
    • streams between Moville and Culmore reach 2.5 knots
    • the river runs on average at 4.5 knots – bear in mind the river is tidal and flow can be ‘upriver’! On an ebbing tide the current will be strongest... and even stronger if the wind is from the southwest.
    • Take care in southwesterly winds on a flooding tide when the effect of wind against tide can produce short, steep waves all along the river and in the lough.

Winds:

Remember that the River Foyle can become choppy, particularly if wind is against tide. On the upside, paddlers can harness favourable winds by rigging a sail to help them on their way. Treat Lough Foyle as the sea – it is, after all, a large enclosed bay on the Atlantic coast, reaching 15km width in places. Tides, winds, and sea conditions generally must be considered in planning a trip. Watch out for winds from south through east to northeast licking the water up into steep waves.

Itineraries

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 Foyle Canoe Trail. These are our favourite itineraries however the glory of this 50 nautical mile trail is that they can be mixed and matched to create an almost infinite number of itineraries.

Useful Info

Visitor Information Centres:

Strabane +44 (0)28 7138 4444 discovertyroneandsperrins.com

Derry City +44 (0)28 7137 7577 visitderry.com

Limavady +44 (0) 28 7776 0650 visitcausewaycoastandglens.com

Carndonagh +353 (0) 74 9374933 visitinishowen.com

Letterkenny +353 (0) 74 9121160 visitinishowen.com

Buncrana +353 (0) 74 9362602 visitinishowen.com

Currency: The eastern shores of Lough Foyle are in County Londonderry which is in Northern Ireland where Pounds Sterling (GBP) are accepted. The western shores of Lough Foyle are in the Republic of Ireland where Euros (Eur) are accepted.

Safety

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 organised 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:

  • 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
  • It is recommended not to canoe alone – three boats is the minimum required for most rescues
  • Remember – a canoe may be difficult to see from a larger craft – carry a whistle
  • 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
  • Wear adequate clothing, prolonged immersion in cold water leads to hypothermia – hypothermia can kill.
  • Leave details of your journey with a responsible adult and / or the Coastguard
  • It is recommended that canoeists consult relevant Maps, Charts and Pilot and obtain up to date information on weather and tides before planning a trip on the sea.
  • Be aware of other water users such as sailing boats, ferries and commercial shipping. Canoeists should make allowance for the limitations and needs of larger craft that are less maneuverable and may be restricted to deep water channels.
  • Carry adequate basic safety equipment – spare clothes, extra food, warm drink, form of shelter, First Aid kit, means of communication (VHF Radio, mobile phone), flares, torch and whistle.

Foyle Specific

  • There are extensive mud flats in Lough Foyle and sand banks on the river – please be aware that some access points are best used at high water only.
  • The river is a large spate river which comes from a wide catchment area – watch out for rapid rises in water level and flood debris such as trees.
  • The Foyle Port shipping channel (maintained depth 8 metres) is a short distance offshore on the Donegal side. It is marked by port and starboard pile beacons flashing red and green. Depth reduces rapidly either side of this often busy channel. Small vessels (including canoes/kayaks) should be aware of the limitations and needs of larger craft that are restricted to this channel.
  • The lough and lower reaches of the river are sailing and boating recreational areas and you should be aware of other users, especially sailing boats competing in races.
  • It is recommended that paddlers obtain an up-to-date weather forecast as the Foyle can become rough in strong winds. Carrying rafting poles for open canoes is also a sensible precaution (rafted canoes are more stable in rough conditions).
  • Lough Foyle is an important shellfish fishery – primarily mussels and oysters. In places, oysters and cultivated in cages on trestles along the shore. These are submerged at high water and should not be disturbed. Watch out for mussel boats manoeuvring – they will turn sharply when fishing.

Weather Forecasts

BBC Radio 4 (198 KHz AM in Irish waters) broadcasts a shipping forecast four times a day – 00:48hrs, 05:20hrs, 12:00hrs and 17:55hrs. Sea area Malin covers the Foyle.

Non-emergency contacts

Police non-emergency (Northern Ireland) 101

Emergencies

In the event of an emergency - Dial 999 or 112 (from all phones, UK and ROI) to contact Coastguard, police and ambulance. Use VHF Radio Channel 16 to contact Coastguard

Maps, charts and pilot Maps required

Irish Cruising Club “East and North Coasts of Ireland Sailing

Directions” ISBN 978 0 9558 199 1 9 (excellent information on tides, tidal streams and navigation points)

OSNI Discoverer Series: sheet 4, 7, 12

Ordnance Survey Ireland: sheet 3

Admiralty Chart no 2510

East Inishowen Sea Kayak Trail Guide (contains charts of the lough)

Earning a welcome

  • Please be friendly and polite to local residents and other water users.
  • Drive with care and consideration and park sensibly.
  • Change clothing discreetly, preferably out of public view.
  • Gain permission before going on to private property.
  • Minimise your impact on the natural environment and use recognised access points. There are also many unofficial access points along the coastline, which may be used with the owner’s consent.
  • Be sensitive to wildlife and other users regarding the level of noise you create.
  • Observe wildlife from a distance and be aware of sensitive locations such as nesting birds, wintering flock concentrations and seal haul-outs.
  • CAAN supports the principles of Leave No Trace and encourages others to do the same when taking part in outdoor recreation. For more information please visit www.leavenotraceireland.org
  • Keep the numbers in your party consistent with safety, the nature of the water conditions and the impact on your surroundings.
  • Wild camping should be carried out discreetly, in small parties, and for overnight stays only.

Canoeists and Anglers

The Foyle river system is a fantastic salmon and wild brown trout fishery and angling is an important element of the rural economy, attracting many tourists to the area. Paddlers are asked to afford anglers the customary courtesies. Where possible, try and stop upstream of an angler until (aware of your presence) the angler proceeds to wave you by. Take special care when approaching wading anglers. If you see someone fishing, consider how you can pass them with minimal disturbance.

The game fishing season runs 1st March to 15th September on the Finn and Foyle and 1st April to 20th October on other rivers in the Foyle catchment. Sea angling takes place on Lough Foyle and on the lower sections of the river all year round.

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