The Garavogue River (Gaelic: An Gharbhog), (co-ordinates 54.27150 -8.46690) possibly the shortest river in Ireland, flows from Lough Gill through Sligo Town and into Sligo Bay and into the mighty Atlantic Ocean.
The Garavogue River was originally called the Sligeach or the Sligo River, a name meaning abounding in shells, due largely to the abundance of shellfish found in the waters surrounding the town. So abundent in fact, that bucket-loads of shells were removed when foundations for the town’s buildings were laid.
In fact it is widely believed that Sligeach is one of the oldest placenames in Ireland, dating back as far as the 13th century.
The very existence of the town of Sligo in its present location is purely down to the Garavogue River, as there was a ford or crossing place here, between the present day pedestrian footbridge in the Stephen Street car park and the weir a few metres downstream.
The battle of Sligo (river) took place at this river in 536 AD between Eoghan Bel king of Connaught and the Ui Neill.
The Garavogue is a fairly narrow, fast-flowing river, in which the salmon fishing season is very long indeed. There is an ancient manuscript which states that Saint Patrick met two fishermen on the Garavogue River and asked them for a salmon, the fishermen explained that there were no salmon here in the winter months, however they cast their nets into the river and to their surprise found a large salmon from their nets, which they presented to Saint Patrick. In return Saint Patrick is said to have blessed the Garavogue River and imparted to it the privilege of yielding salmon throughout the year.
There are five bridges crossing the Garavogue River, three road bridges and two pedestrian foot bridges. Going with the flow of the river, they are the John Fallon Footbridge which crosses the river from Millbrook to The Mall, then there’s The New Bridge which crosses from Bridge Street to Thomas Street. Next there is the footbridge which crosses from the Stephen Street car park to Water Lane, then Hyde Bridge which stands between the Yeats Memorial Building and the Glasshouse Hotel, and finally there’s the Michael Hughes Bridge which crosses from Markievicz Road to the Ballast Quay, Custom House Quay junction.