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This small, and as its name might suggest, mainly freshwater aquarium is located on the outskirts of the city just a few minutes drive from the Craigavon Bridge, heading towards Strabane.

It features eight tanks devoted to the aquatic life of the eight different habitats in the local area, mainly the River Foyle, nearby Carlingford Lough and the coastal area. As such you will see a lough exhibit (including lobsters, rays, eels, etc), a rock pool exhibit (including hermit crabs, starfish , shrimps, etc), a pond exhibit, a river exhibit, etc.

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The tanks are set at a level which let kids easily see them and the centre, run by the Government owned Loughs Agency, offers various activities and facilities well suited to children.

While a pleasant way to occupy yourself and the kids for half and hour or so (entrance is free) it’s certainly not a must see on a trip to Derry.

Without belittling the aquarium the thing I found most more interesting was an old dug-out canoe in the car park.

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Having lived in Papua New Guinea and having travelled a fair bit in the Pacific and South East Asia I am very familiar with dugout canoes, outrigger canoes and other small water borne vessels.

What I hadn’t expected to see was a dugout canoe in Derry so when I saw this I had to look twice. Yes, there was a dugout canoe (albeit in a rather dilapidated state) in the car park. Shows it pays to keep your eyes open while you travel.

When one thinks of boats in Europe one thinks of the British Navy, the Clippers of old, Dreadnoughts and, dare I say it, the Titanic built in nearby Belfast – to cite but a few. One never thinks that before these more modern vessels shipping existed in the form of dugout canoes as it continues to do in some parts of the world.

While I could not ascertain the age of this this dugout canoe, I did ascertain that such canoes were in use in the Derry and nearby Strabane areas by 253AD (oldest one found dated to this date) and remained in use to the 1660s. They appear to have been “flavor du jour” for the 500AD commuter.

The canoes were carved using a combination of early hand tools and controlled fire from a single log (hence their other name – log boats). Typically the canoes were carved from oak which was common in this, then very heavily forested, area.

The existence of dense forests in the early AD centuries made getting around and transporting goods by land very difficult so people took to the river and coastline in this type of canoe. Naturally they were also used for fishing. The Foyle and other rivers were also deeper and more easily navigable in those days than they are now.

This canoe, typical of many found in the area, is flat bottomed, almost 7 metres long with a beam of 73coms and height of 20cms.

Worth a look if passing by or visiting the Aquarium.

Aquarium Opening hours

Mon- Fri – all year round 10am – 4pm
July and August – also open Sat 10am – 4pm

Entrance Fee: Free

Address: 22 Victoria Road
Directions: In the car park of the Riverwatch Aquarium – on the road towards Strabane.


This is the last blog entry in a group (loop) of entries on Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  I trust you have enjoyed reading this group of reviews and invite you to partake of another of the loops on my “Travel Loop” page, by clicking  HERE.


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One thought on “The Riverwatch Aquarium and a Dugout Canoe

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