The Clare River is a focal point in the village and is the largest tributary flowing into Lough Corrib. The river is designated for nature conservation as part of the Lough Corrib Special Area of Conservation (SAC) . This is largely due to the
presence of Atlantic Salmon and Otters. The Clare River rises in Mayo and starts out life as the Dalgin River. The Sinking River joins the Dalgin River 400m south of Dalgin Bridge to form the Clare River.
Populations of the wild Salmon have declined markedly throughout Ireland and the European Union, largely due to a decline in water quality and loss of aquatic habitats. The Clare River is the most important tributary for spawning Atlantic Salmon and Sea Trout in the Corrib system. Numbers of Otters in Ireland and Europe have also declined in recent years but they are still regularly seen in and around the Clare River and its tributaries in Milltown.
BIRDS AND HABITATS OF THE CLARE RIVER
Both Pied and Grey Wagtail birds can be found along the riverbanks of the Clare River all year round. During the summer months, with luck, the Kingfisher might also be encountered. Common Sandpipers in spring and occasionally Green Sandpipers, at any time of the year, might be seen feeding on muddy areas. In the summer Sand Martin, House Martin and Swallow fly along the river and across fields hunting the rich insect life available.
Mute Swan and Dabchick (Little Grebe) are also present on the slower running parts of the river, as is the occasional Cormorant.
Habitats for wildlife along the river include the river itself, wet grassland, reed swamp and wet woodland. These wetlands are teeming with dragonflies, snails, beetles and other invertebrates in the summer, providing a rich source of food for other wildlife. Wildflowers that can be seen in and around the wetter margins of the river include Yellow Flag Iris, Orchids, Meadowsweet and Purple Loosestrife.
DRAINAGE WORKS AND THE RICH ANGLING RESOURCE
Much of the Clare River system was arterially drained over the past 150 years, most recently in the 1950s and 1960s, in order to alleviate winter flooding problems. Drainage works markedly altered the river course and depth, straightening
out long sections, smoothing many of the bends and deepening the channel. Large heaps of spoil along the river banks in many places testify to the huge amount of material removed during the drainage works. The drainage works had a devastating effect on the Clare River, with most of its natural character destroyed. The works reduced the ecological diversity of the river system and accounted for a considerable reduction in the salmonid production capacity of the system.
The Clare River and its tributaries are, however, prized for angling again following successful remedial works on the river and its tributaries to restore some of the rivers’ natural aquatic habitats.
Milltown Angling Club, in co-operation with Inland Fisheries Ireland, the Office of Public Works, local landowners and Milltown Development Association are actively working on various projects to protect and enhance the wildlife, water quality and angling value of these rivers.
Many of the local angling spots on the Clare River have colourful names including Begley’s Hole, Poll a tSagart, and the Blue Pig River, reflecting the long history of angling in the area and close association of water with local life.