Central to Killarney National Park are the world famous
Lakes of Killarney, which make up almost a quarter of the Park's
area. The three lakes are known as the Upper Lake, Muckross Lake
(Middle Lake) and Lough Leane (Lower Lake), and are joined at the
'meeting of the waters', a popular area for visitors to the Park.
It is here that the Old Weir Bridge (thought to be over 400 years
old) can also be seen.From
the meeting of the waters a narrow channel known as the Long Range
leads to the Upper Lake, which is the smallest of the lakes but
set in the most spectacular location, in the heart of the rugged
mountain scenery of the upper Killarney Valley/Black Valley area.
The sandstone and blanket bog of the catchment area means that the
Upper and Middle Lakes are slightly acidic and low in nutrients
(oligotrophic). A fast run-off in the mountainous catchment also
means that in heavy rain the level of the entire Upper Lake can
sometimes rise by up to a metre in a matter of a few hours.
Muckross Lake is the deepest of the lakes with a
maximum depth of approximately 75 metres (250 feet) close to where
the steeply sloping face of Torc Mountain enters the lake. Both
Muckross Lake and Lough Leane lie astride the sandstone/limestone
boundary, and the presence of limestone means that both of these
lakes are slightly richer in natural nutrients than the Upper Lake.
At lake level, there are many caves in the limestone which are formed
by the dissolution effect of acidic waters on the exposed rock,
especially when combined with wave action. Nowhere are these caves
more marked than on the northern shore of Muckross Lake.
Lough Leane is by far the largest of the three lakes,
at approximately 19km², and is also the richest in nutrients.
Organic pollution (particularly phosphates from domestic and agricultural
sources) entering Lough Leane
has led to a partial eutrophication of the lake and several well
publicised algal blooms have occurred in recent times. Although
they can look unsightly, these blooms do not, as yet, appear to
have had a severe effect on the natural life of the lake. If enrichment
continues unabated however, the lake ecosystem may be altered to
the extent that the character of the lake will permanently change,
and a broadly-based review of land use within the entire catchment
is therefore currently in progress in an effort to address the issue.
A community-based initiative aimed at minimising the use of domestic
and agricultural phosphates is also currently in progress, and it
is hoped that a sustained effort will improve the water quality
in years to come.
There are many Brown Trout in the lakes, in addition
to an annual run of Salmon. Unusual fish species include the Arctic
Char (usually found much further north, and thought to be a relict
species left behind in Killarney after the last ice age) and the
Killarney Shad (a land locked form of the Thwaite Shad unique to
the Lakes of Killarney). The discovery of a small number of Roach
a number of years ago, a potentially explosive breeder that was
presumably introduced accidentally by visiting anglers, led to fears
that the trout may be displaced in some parts of the lake however
this fear has not materialised and Roach have not been recorded
for several years.
Several different tours by boat are available for
visitors to the Park, from short trips to Inisfallen
Island, to the full passage of the lake system from Lough Leane
to the top of the Upper Lake.
Killarney National Park
Photo Gallery ~
What's Happening? ~
Noteworthy Species ~
Bird life ~
Red Deer ~
Muckross House ~
Yew Wood ~
Park Rangers ~
Cultural Heritage ~
Visiting the Park ~
Killarney National Park Education
Recent Visits ~
Primary Schools ~
Post-primary Schools ~
Third Level Groups ~
Tour Groups ~
Youth Groups ~
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