River Mersey
Overview
 
The River Mersey is a river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 in North West England
North West England
North West England, informally known as The North West, is one of the nine official regions of England.North West England had a 2006 estimated population of 6,853,201 the third most populated region after London and the South East...

. It is around 70 miles (113 km) long, stretching from Stockport
Stockport
Stockport is a town in Greater Manchester, England. It lies on elevated ground southeast of Manchester city centre, at the point where the rivers Goyt and Tame join and create the River Mersey. Stockport is the largest settlement in the metropolitan borough of the same name...

, Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester is a metropolitan county in North West England, with a population of 2.6 million. It encompasses one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United Kingdom and comprises ten metropolitan boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and the...

, and ending at Liverpool Bay
Liverpool Bay
Liverpool Bay is a bay of the Irish Sea between northeast Wales, Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside to the east of the Irish Sea. The bay is a classic example of a region of freshwater influence...

, Merseyside
Merseyside
Merseyside is a metropolitan county in North West England, with a population of 1,365,900. It encompasses the metropolitan area centred on both banks of the lower reaches of the Mersey Estuary, and comprises five metropolitan boroughs: Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral, and the city of Liverpool...

. For centuries, it formed part of the ancient county divide
Historic counties of England
The historic counties of England are subdivisions of England established for administration by the Normans and in most cases based on earlier Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and shires...

 between Lancashire
Lancashire
Lancashire is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in the North West of England. It takes its name from the city of Lancaster, and is sometimes known as the County of Lancaster. Although Lancaster is still considered to be the county town, Lancashire County Council is based in Preston...

 and Cheshire
Cheshire
Cheshire is a ceremonial county in North West England. Cheshire's county town is the city of Chester, although its largest town is Warrington. Other major towns include Widnes, Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow...

.
The Mersey is formed from three tributaries
Tributary
A tributary or affluent is a stream or river that flows into a main stem river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean...

: the River Etherow
River Etherow
The River Etherow is a river in northern England, and a tributary of the River Goyt. Although now passing through South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Greater Manchester, it historically formed the ancient county boundary between Cheshire and Derbyshire. The upper valley is known as Longdendale...

, the River Goyt, and the River Tame
River Tame, Greater Manchester
The River Tame flows through Greater Manchester, England.-Source:The Tame rises on Denshaw Moor in Greater Manchester, close to the border with West Yorkshire but within the historic West Riding of Yorkshire.-Course:...

. The modern accepted start of the Mersey is at the confluence of the Tame and Goyt, in central Stockport
Stockport
Stockport is a town in Greater Manchester, England. It lies on elevated ground southeast of Manchester city centre, at the point where the rivers Goyt and Tame join and create the River Mersey. Stockport is the largest settlement in the metropolitan borough of the same name...

, Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester is a metropolitan county in North West England, with a population of 2.6 million. It encompasses one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United Kingdom and comprises ten metropolitan boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and the...

. However, older definitions, and many older maps, place its start a few miles up the Goyt; for example the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica states "It is formed by the junction of the Goyt and the Etherow a short distance below Marple
Marple, Greater Manchester
Marple is a small town within the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport, in Greater Manchester, England. It lies on the River Goyt southeast of Stockport.Historically part of Cheshire, Marple has a population of 23,480 .-Toponymy:...

 in Cheshire on the first-named stream." The 1784 John Stockdale map shows the River Mersey extending to Mottram, and forming the boundary between Cheshire
Cheshire
Cheshire is a ceremonial county in North West England. Cheshire's county town is the city of Chester, although its largest town is Warrington. Other major towns include Widnes, Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow...

 and Derbyshire
Derbyshire
Derbyshire is a county in the East Midlands of England. A substantial portion of the Peak District National Park lies within Derbyshire. The northern part of Derbyshire overlaps with the Pennines, a famous chain of hills and mountains. The county contains within its boundary of approx...

.

From Stockport it flows through Didsbury
Didsbury
Didsbury is a suburban area of the City of Manchester, in Greater Manchester, England. It lies on the north bank of the River Mersey, south of Manchester city centre, in the southern half of the Greater Manchester Urban Area...

, Northenden
Northenden
Northenden is a suburban area and electoral ward of the city of Manchester in North West England. It lies on the south side of both the River Mersey and the M60 motorway, west of Stockport and south of Manchester city centre. Northenden is bounded by the districts of Didsbury, Gatley and...

, Stretford
Stretford
Stretford is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, in Greater Manchester, England. Lying on flat ground between the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal, it is to the southwest of Manchester city centre, south-southwest of Salford and northeast of Altrincham...

, Urmston
Urmston
Urmston is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of around 41,000. Historically a part of Lancashire, it lies about six miles to the southwest of Manchester city centre. The southern boundary is marked by the River Mersey and the...

 and Flixton
Flixton, Greater Manchester
Flixton is a village and electoral ward within the Urmston area of the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford in Greater Manchester, England. It lies about six miles to the southwest of Manchester city centre, within the historic county boundaries of Lancashire.Flixton's present-day population is...

, then at Irlam
Irlam
Irlam is a suburban town and unparished area within the City of Salford in Greater Manchester, England. At the 2001 census it had a population of 18,504. The town lies on flat ground on the south side of the M62 motorway and the north bank of the Manchester Ship Canal, and is west-southwest of...

 it flows into the Manchester Ship Canal
Manchester Ship Canal
The Manchester Ship Canal is a river navigation 36 miles long in the North West of England. Starting at the Mersey Estuary near Liverpool, it generally follows the original routes of the rivers Mersey and Irwell through the historic counties of Cheshire and Lancashire. Several sets of locks lift...

, which is the canalised River Irwell
River Irwell
The River Irwell is a long river which flows through the Irwell Valley in the counties of Lancashire and Greater Manchester in North West England. The river's source is at Irwell Springs on Deerplay Moor, approximately north of Bacup, in the parish of Cliviger, Lancashire...

 to this point.
Encyclopedia
The River Mersey is a river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 in North West England
North West England
North West England, informally known as The North West, is one of the nine official regions of England.North West England had a 2006 estimated population of 6,853,201 the third most populated region after London and the South East...

. It is around 70 miles (113 km) long, stretching from Stockport
Stockport
Stockport is a town in Greater Manchester, England. It lies on elevated ground southeast of Manchester city centre, at the point where the rivers Goyt and Tame join and create the River Mersey. Stockport is the largest settlement in the metropolitan borough of the same name...

, Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester is a metropolitan county in North West England, with a population of 2.6 million. It encompasses one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United Kingdom and comprises ten metropolitan boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and the...

, and ending at Liverpool Bay
Liverpool Bay
Liverpool Bay is a bay of the Irish Sea between northeast Wales, Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside to the east of the Irish Sea. The bay is a classic example of a region of freshwater influence...

, Merseyside
Merseyside
Merseyside is a metropolitan county in North West England, with a population of 1,365,900. It encompasses the metropolitan area centred on both banks of the lower reaches of the Mersey Estuary, and comprises five metropolitan boroughs: Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral, and the city of Liverpool...

. For centuries, it formed part of the ancient county divide
Historic counties of England
The historic counties of England are subdivisions of England established for administration by the Normans and in most cases based on earlier Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and shires...

 between Lancashire
Lancashire
Lancashire is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in the North West of England. It takes its name from the city of Lancaster, and is sometimes known as the County of Lancaster. Although Lancaster is still considered to be the county town, Lancashire County Council is based in Preston...

 and Cheshire
Cheshire
Cheshire is a ceremonial county in North West England. Cheshire's county town is the city of Chester, although its largest town is Warrington. Other major towns include Widnes, Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow...

.

Course

The Mersey is formed from three tributaries
Tributary
A tributary or affluent is a stream or river that flows into a main stem river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean...

: the River Etherow
River Etherow
The River Etherow is a river in northern England, and a tributary of the River Goyt. Although now passing through South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Greater Manchester, it historically formed the ancient county boundary between Cheshire and Derbyshire. The upper valley is known as Longdendale...

, the River Goyt, and the River Tame
River Tame, Greater Manchester
The River Tame flows through Greater Manchester, England.-Source:The Tame rises on Denshaw Moor in Greater Manchester, close to the border with West Yorkshire but within the historic West Riding of Yorkshire.-Course:...

. The modern accepted start of the Mersey is at the confluence of the Tame and Goyt, in central Stockport
Stockport
Stockport is a town in Greater Manchester, England. It lies on elevated ground southeast of Manchester city centre, at the point where the rivers Goyt and Tame join and create the River Mersey. Stockport is the largest settlement in the metropolitan borough of the same name...

, Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester is a metropolitan county in North West England, with a population of 2.6 million. It encompasses one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United Kingdom and comprises ten metropolitan boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and the...

. However, older definitions, and many older maps, place its start a few miles up the Goyt; for example the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica states "It is formed by the junction of the Goyt and the Etherow a short distance below Marple
Marple, Greater Manchester
Marple is a small town within the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport, in Greater Manchester, England. It lies on the River Goyt southeast of Stockport.Historically part of Cheshire, Marple has a population of 23,480 .-Toponymy:...

 in Cheshire on the first-named stream." The 1784 John Stockdale map shows the River Mersey extending to Mottram, and forming the boundary between Cheshire
Cheshire
Cheshire is a ceremonial county in North West England. Cheshire's county town is the city of Chester, although its largest town is Warrington. Other major towns include Widnes, Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow...

 and Derbyshire
Derbyshire
Derbyshire is a county in the East Midlands of England. A substantial portion of the Peak District National Park lies within Derbyshire. The northern part of Derbyshire overlaps with the Pennines, a famous chain of hills and mountains. The county contains within its boundary of approx...

.

Stockport to Warrington

From Stockport it flows through Didsbury
Didsbury
Didsbury is a suburban area of the City of Manchester, in Greater Manchester, England. It lies on the north bank of the River Mersey, south of Manchester city centre, in the southern half of the Greater Manchester Urban Area...

, Northenden
Northenden
Northenden is a suburban area and electoral ward of the city of Manchester in North West England. It lies on the south side of both the River Mersey and the M60 motorway, west of Stockport and south of Manchester city centre. Northenden is bounded by the districts of Didsbury, Gatley and...

, Stretford
Stretford
Stretford is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, in Greater Manchester, England. Lying on flat ground between the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal, it is to the southwest of Manchester city centre, south-southwest of Salford and northeast of Altrincham...

, Urmston
Urmston
Urmston is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of around 41,000. Historically a part of Lancashire, it lies about six miles to the southwest of Manchester city centre. The southern boundary is marked by the River Mersey and the...

 and Flixton
Flixton, Greater Manchester
Flixton is a village and electoral ward within the Urmston area of the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford in Greater Manchester, England. It lies about six miles to the southwest of Manchester city centre, within the historic county boundaries of Lancashire.Flixton's present-day population is...

, then at Irlam
Irlam
Irlam is a suburban town and unparished area within the City of Salford in Greater Manchester, England. At the 2001 census it had a population of 18,504. The town lies on flat ground on the south side of the M62 motorway and the north bank of the Manchester Ship Canal, and is west-southwest of...

 it flows into the Manchester Ship Canal
Manchester Ship Canal
The Manchester Ship Canal is a river navigation 36 miles long in the North West of England. Starting at the Mersey Estuary near Liverpool, it generally follows the original routes of the rivers Mersey and Irwell through the historic counties of Cheshire and Lancashire. Several sets of locks lift...

, which is the canalised River Irwell
River Irwell
The River Irwell is a long river which flows through the Irwell Valley in the counties of Lancashire and Greater Manchester in North West England. The river's source is at Irwell Springs on Deerplay Moor, approximately north of Bacup, in the parish of Cliviger, Lancashire...

 to this point. The course of the Mersey has been obliterated by the Canal past Hollins Green
Hollins Green
Hollins Green is a village located on the eastern edge of Warrington, England close to the border of the City of Salford, as designated by the River Glaze...

 to Rixton although the old river bed can be seen outside Irlam and also at Warburton
Warburton, Greater Manchester
Warburton is a village and civil parish within the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford in Greater Manchester, England. Historically a part of Cheshire, Warburton lies on the south bank of the River Mersey between the borough of Warrington and Greater Manchester. Today, the village remains...

. At Rixton the River Bollin
River Bollin
The River Bollin is a major tributary of the River Mersey in the north-west of England.It rises in Macclesfield Forest at the western end of the Peak District, and can be seen in spring form, from the Buxton to Macclesfield road. The stream then descends the through Macclesfield and Wilmslow where...

 enters the Canal from the south and the Mersey leaves the Canal to the north, meandering through Woolston, where the Ship Canal Company's dredgings have formed a nature reserve (Woolston Eyes), and Warrington
Warrington
Warrington is a town, borough and unitary authority area of Cheshire, England. It stands on the banks of the River Mersey, which is tidal to the west of the weir at Howley. It lies 16 miles east of Liverpool, 19 miles west of Manchester and 8 miles south of St Helens...

. It is tidal from Howley Weir in Warrington, although high spring tides often top the weir. A small bypass around Howley Weir, Howley Lock, was created before the ship canal existed, but is now redundant. The lock is still visible.

Runcorn Gap

West of Warrington the river widens, and then narrows as it passes through the Runcorn Gap between the towns of Runcorn
Runcorn
Runcorn is an industrial town and cargo port within the borough of Halton in the ceremonial county of Cheshire, England. In 2009, its population was estimated to be 61,500. The town is on the southern bank of the River Mersey where the estuary narrows to form Runcorn Gap. Directly to the north...

 and Widnes
Widnes
Widnes is an industrial town within the borough of Halton, in Cheshire, England, with an urban area population of 57,663 in 2004. It is located on the northern bank of the River Mersey where the estuary narrows to form the Runcorn Gap. Directly to the south across the Mersey is the town of Runcorn...

, in Halton
Halton (borough)
Halton is a local government district in North West England, with borough status and administered by a unitary authority. It was created in 1974 as a district of Cheshire, and became a unitary authority area on 1 April 1998. It consists of the towns of Widnes and Runcorn and the civil parishes of...

. The Manchester Ship Canal
Manchester Ship Canal
The Manchester Ship Canal is a river navigation 36 miles long in the North West of England. Starting at the Mersey Estuary near Liverpool, it generally follows the original routes of the rivers Mersey and Irwell through the historic counties of Cheshire and Lancashire. Several sets of locks lift...

 lies in the Gap on the southern bank of the river. The Gap is bridged by the Silver Jubilee Bridge and Runcorn Railway Bridge
Runcorn Railway Bridge
The Runcorn Railway Bridge, which is also known as the Ethelfleda Bridge or the Britannia Bridge, crosses the River Mersey at Runcorn Gap from Runcorn to Widnes in Cheshire, England. It was built for the London and North Western Railway to a design by William Baker, chief engineer of the railway...

; as of 2008 a project known as Mersey Gateway
Mersey Gateway
The Mersey Gateway is a proposed new road bridge across the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal in north-west England. The bridge will be located approximately to the east of the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge that connects the towns of Widnes and Runcorn...

 to build a new road bridge further east is under consideration and has received some government support.

Estuary

From the Runcorn Gap, the river widens into a large estuary
Estuary
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

, which is three miles (5 km) wide at its widest point near Ellesmere Port
Ellesmere Port
Ellesmere Port is a large industrial town and port in the unitary authority of Cheshire West and Chester and the ceremonial county of Cheshire, England. It is situated on the south border of the Wirral Peninsula on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal, which in turn gives access to the River...

. The course of the river then heads north, with Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

 to the east and the Wirral Peninsula
Wirral Peninsula
Wirral or the Wirral is a peninsula in North West England. It is bounded by three bodies of water: to the west by the River Dee, forming a boundary with Wales, to the east by the River Mersey and to the north by the Irish Sea. Both terms "Wirral" and "the Wirral" are used locally , although the...

 to the west. The Manchester Ship Canal
Manchester Ship Canal
The Manchester Ship Canal is a river navigation 36 miles long in the North West of England. Starting at the Mersey Estuary near Liverpool, it generally follows the original routes of the rivers Mersey and Irwell through the historic counties of Cheshire and Lancashire. Several sets of locks lift...

 enters the river at Eastham Locks
Eastham, Merseyside
Eastham is a village and an electoral ward of the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, in Merseyside, England. It is situated on the Wirral Peninsula, to the south of Bromborough...

. The eastern part of this estuary is much affected by silting, and part of it is marked on modern maps as dry land instead of as tidal. These wetlands are of importance to wildlife, and are listed as a Ramsar site.

The estuary then narrows to flow between Liverpool and Birkenhead
Birkenhead
Birkenhead is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral in Merseyside, England. It is on the Wirral Peninsula, along the west bank of the River Mersey, opposite the city of Liverpool...

, where it is constricted to a width of 1.2 kilometre (0.745647283979768 mi), between Albert Dock
Albert Dock
The Albert Dock is a complex of dock buildings and warehouses in Liverpool, England. Designed by Jesse Hartley and Philip Hardwick, it was opened in 1846, and was the first structure in Britain to be built from cast iron, brick and stone, with no structural wood...

 in Liverpool and the Woodside
Woodside, Merseyside
Woodside is a small riverside locality in Birkenhead, on the Wirral Peninsula, England, situated almost opposite Liverpool Pier Head across the River Mersey.-History:...

 ferry terminal in Birkenhead. The river then continues into Liverpool Bay
Liverpool Bay
Liverpool Bay is a bay of the Irish Sea between northeast Wales, Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside to the east of the Irish Sea. The bay is a classic example of a region of freshwater influence...

 on the Irish Sea
Irish Sea
The Irish Sea separates the islands of Ireland and Great Britain. It is connected to the Celtic Sea in the south by St George's Channel, and to the Atlantic Ocean in the north by the North Channel. Anglesey is the largest island within the Irish Sea, followed by the Isle of Man...

, after a total course of 68 miles.

The Estuary is also the home of Seaforth Dock
Seaforth Dock
Seaforth Dock is a purpose-built dock and container terminal, on the River Mersey, England, at Seaforth, to the north of Liverpool. As part of the Port of Liverpool and Liverpool Freeport, it is operated by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company...

, a Freeport
Free port
A free port or free zone , sometimes also called a bonded area is a port, port area or other area with relaxed jurisdiction with respect to the country of location...

 on the Liverpool side of the river, where the river meets Liverpool Bay. The dock construction began in the 1960s opening in 1971. The dock deals with around 500,000 containers, 1,236,000 tonnes of oil, over 2.5 million tonnes of grain and animal feed, 452,000 tonnes of wood per year and with 25% of all container traffic between UK and USA making the port one of the most successful in the world. It is known world over as the "Atlantic Gateway". Liverpool was the first UK port with radar assisted operations.

On the Liverpool side of the estuary Liverpool Docks stretch for over 12 kilometres (7.5 mi). This is the largest enclosed interconnected dock system in the world. American author Herman Melville described Liverpool Docks as being comparable to the pyramids in the vast scale of the construction. The docks were built out into the river bed. The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board owned a granite quarry in Scotland to source the stone for the quays, so much was used in the construction.

The conurbation on both sides of the river in this area is known as Merseyside
Merseyside
Merseyside is a metropolitan county in North West England, with a population of 1,365,900. It encompasses the metropolitan area centred on both banks of the lower reaches of the Mersey Estuary, and comprises five metropolitan boroughs: Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral, and the city of Liverpool...

.

At 4 metres (13.1 ft) neap tide to 10 metres (32.8 ft) spring tide, the River Mersey has the second highest tidal range in Britain – second only to the River Severn
River Severn
The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain, at about , but the second longest on the British Isles, behind the River Shannon. It rises at an altitude of on Plynlimon, Ceredigion near Llanidloes, Powys, in the Cambrian Mountains of mid Wales...

. The bottleneck in the river estuary forces water to flow faster creating a deep channel at the narrows.

The strong river water currents has led to proposals for the future construction of a tidal barrage to generate electricity and create another crossing. Very high spring tides often generate a tidal bore
Tidal bore
A tidal bore is a tidal phenomenon in which the leading edge of the incoming tide forms a wave of water that travel up a river or narrow bay against the direction of the river or bay's current...

 starting at Hale penetrating as far upstream as Warrington.

River crossings

Two road tunnel
Tunnel
A tunnel is an underground passageway, completely enclosed except for openings for egress, commonly at each end.A tunnel may be for foot or vehicular road traffic, for rail traffic, or for a canal. Some tunnels are aqueducts to supply water for consumption or for hydroelectric stations or are sewers...

s run under the Mersey from Liverpool. The older Queensway Tunnel
Queensway Tunnel
The Queensway Tunnel is a road tunnel under the River Mersey, in the north west of England, between Liverpool and Birkenhead. It is often called the Birkenhead Tunnel, to distinguish it from the Kingsway Tunnel, which serves Wallasey.-History:...

 opened in 1934 connecting the city to Birkenhead, and the Kingsway Tunnel
Kingsway Tunnel
The Kingsway Tunnel is a road tunnel under the River Mersey in Merseyside, northwest England, and runs between Liverpool and Wallasey. It is one and half miles long and is often called the Wallasey Tunnel to distinguish it from the older Queensway Tunnel which runs between Liverpool and...

 opened in 1971 to connect with Wallasey
Wallasey
Wallasey is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, in Merseyside, England, on the mouth of the River Mersey, at the northeastern corner of the Wirral Peninsula...

. A third crossing is the Mersey Railway Tunnel dating back to 1886, which now forms a part of the Merseyrail
Merseyrail
Merseyrail is a train operating company and commuter rail network in the United Kingdom, centred on Liverpool, Merseyside. The network is predominantly electric with diesel trains running on the City Line. Two City Line branches are currently being electrified on the overhead wire AC system with...

 commuter rail network. Initially a part of the Mersey Railway
Mersey Railway
The Mersey Railway connected Liverpool and Birkenhead, England, via the Mersey Railway Tunnel under the River Mersey. Opened in 1886, it was the second oldest urban underground railway network in the world. The railway contained the first tunnel built under the River Mersey. It was constructed by...

, the Mersey Railway Tunnel was the first deep-level urban railway in the world, and was first electrified in 1903. The centre of the tunnel is the deepest part, and at low tide the river depth at this point is 27.5 metres (90.2 ft).

The Mersey Ferry
Mersey Ferry
The Mersey Ferry is a ferry service operating on the River Mersey in north west England, between Liverpool and the Wirral Peninsula. Ferries have been used on this route since at least the 12th century, and continue to be popular for both local people and visitors.The current fleet consists of...

 runs between the Pier Head
Pier Head
The Pier Head is a riverside location in the city centre of Liverpool, England. It is part of the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was inscribed in 2004....

 at Liverpool, and the Wirral terminals at Seacombe
Seacombe
Seacombe is a district of the town of Wallasey, on the Wirral Peninsula, England. Administratively, Seacombe is a ward of the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral. Before local government reorganisation in 1 April 1974, it was part of the County Borough of Wallasey, within the geographical county of...

, Wallasey and Woodside, Birkenhead.

Etymology

Anglo-Saxon Mǽres-ēa =border river, possibly the border between Mercia
Mercia
Mercia was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. It was centred on the valley of the River Trent and its tributaries in the region now known as the English Midlands...

 and Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

.

Environment

Water quality in the River Mersey had been severely affected by industrialisation in the region, and in 1985, the Mersey Basin Campaign
Mersey Basin Campaign
The Mersey Basin Campaign worked within the catchments of the River Mersey and the River Ribble, in the counties of Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire and in the High Peak area of Derbyshire in the UK...

 was established to improve water quality and encourage waterside regeneration. In 2002, oxygen levels that could support fish along the entire length were witnessed for the first time since industry began on the Mersey. Salmon
Salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

 are now found in the river. They can be viewed jumping at Woolston and Howley Weirs between the months of September and November. Salmon parr and smolt have also been caught in tributaries of the Mersey, the Rivers Goyt and Bollin. Since 2006 Atlantic Grey Seals have also ventured as far inland as Woolston.

In 2009 it was announced that the river is "cleaner than at any time since the industrial revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

" and is "now considered one of the cleanest [rivers] in the UK".

Navigation

Since the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal
Manchester Ship Canal
The Manchester Ship Canal is a river navigation 36 miles long in the North West of England. Starting at the Mersey Estuary near Liverpool, it generally follows the original routes of the rivers Mersey and Irwell through the historic counties of Cheshire and Lancashire. Several sets of locks lift...

, large commercial vessels do not normally navigate the estuary further upstream than Garston
Garston, Merseyside
Garston is a district of Liverpool, Merseyside, England. It is bordered by Aigburth, Allerton, and Speke.-History:Gaerstun, meaning 'grazing settlement' or 'grazing farm' in Old English, is one possible root of the name....

 on the North Bank, or the locks into the Ship Canal at Eastham
Eastham, Merseyside
Eastham is a village and an electoral ward of the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, in Merseyside, England. It is situated on the Wirral Peninsula, to the south of Bromborough...

. Deep-water channels are maintained to both. Until the early 20th century, commercial traffic bound for further upstream was mainly carried in large flat-bottomed sailing barges known as Mersey Flat
Mersey Flat
A Mersey flat is a type of doubled-ended barge with rounded bilges, carvel build and fully decked. Traditionally, the hull was built of oak and the deck was pitch pine. Some had a single mast, with a fore and aft rig, while some had an additional mizzen mast. Despite having a flat bottom and curved...

s. These could carry cargo as far inland as Howley Wharf in Warrington and (via the Sankey Canal
Sankey Canal
The Sankey Canal, which is also known as the Sankey Brook Navigation and the St Helens Canal, is a canal in Cheshire, extending into Merseyside, in the northwest of England, connecting St Helens with the River Mersey...

) to St Helens
St Helens, Merseyside
St Helens is a large town in Merseyside, England. It is the largest settlement and administrative centre of the Metropolitan Borough of St Helens with a population of just over 100,000, part of an urban area with a total population of 176,843 at the time of the 2001 Census...

. Motor barges continued to deliver to riverside factories at Warrington until at least the 1970s, but nowadays only pleasure craft
Pleasure craft
A pleasure craft is a boat used for personal, family, and sometimes sportsmanlike recreation. Typically such watercraft are motorized and are used for holidays, for example on a river, lake, canal or waterway. Pleasure craft are normally kept at a marina...

 and yachts use the upper estuary and the tidal river, with a number of sailing clubs based at this point in the river. On most high tides, seagoing yachts with their masts raised can navigate as far upstream as Fiddlers Ferry
Penketh
Penketh is a civil parish in the Borough of Warrington in Cheshire, England. It is about west of Warrington town centre. It has a population of 8,699.The emblem/badge of Penketh is three kingfishers.-History:...

 – about 5 km (3.1 mi) downstream of Warrington – where there is a small marina accessed via a river lock. Although river craft can continue as far upstream as Howley Weir, there are no landing or mooring facilities. Portable craft can penetrate as far as Woolston. The barrier to further navigation here is a legal one in that the Mersey then shares its course with the Manchester Ship Canal for some miles upstream.

In popular culture

The river is now internationally famous thanks to the music of the 1960s known as Merseybeat
Beat music
Beat music, British beat, or Merseybeat is a pop and rock music genre that developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1960s. Beat music is a fusion of rock and roll, doo wop, skiffle, R&B and soul...

 or the Mersey Sound and its strong association with Liverpool. The Mersey itself was popularized in the Merseybeat song Ferry Cross the Mersey
Ferry Cross the Mersey
"Ferry Cross the Mersey" is a song written by Gerry Marsden. It was first recorded by his band Gerry and the Pacemakers and released in late 1964 in the UK and in 1965 in the United States. It was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching number six in the United States and number eight in the...

by Gerry & The Pacemakers
Gerry & the Pacemakers
Gerry and the Pacemakers were a British beat music group prominent during the 1960s. In common with The Beatles, they came from Liverpool, were managed by Brian Epstein and recorded by George Martin. They are most remembered for being the first act to reach number one in the UK Singles Chart with...

, which was released in 1965 and featured a music video in which the group performed their song on a boat crossing the river between Birkenhead
Birkenhead
Birkenhead is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral in Merseyside, England. It is on the Wirral Peninsula, along the west bank of the River Mersey, opposite the city of Liverpool...

 and Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

. It has since been covered by Ferry Aid (for a 1989 charity single to dedicated to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster
Hillsborough disaster
The Hillsborough disaster was a human crush that occurred on 15 April 1989 at Hillsborough, a football stadium, the home of Sheffield Wednesday F.C. in Sheffield, England, resulting in the deaths of 96 people, and 766 being injured, all fans of Liverpool F.C....

)and Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Frankie Goes to Hollywood were a British dance-pop band popular in the mid-1980s. The group was fronted by Holly Johnson , with Paul Rutherford , Peter Gill , Mark O'Toole , and Brian Nash .The group's debut single "Relax" was banned by the BBC in 1984 while at number six in the charts and...

.

Religious significance

The Mersey is considered sacred by British Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

s, and is worshipped in a similar way to the River Ganges. Festival of Immersion ceremonies
Ganesh Chaturthi
Ganesh Chaturthi , also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi is the Hindu festival of Ganesha also called Vinayagar in Tamil Nadu, the son of Shiva and Parvati, who is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all his devotees in the duration of this festival...

 are held each year on the river, in which clay figures representing the Hindu Lord Ganesh, the elephant deity riding a mouse, are submerged in the river from a ferry boat. Followers also throw flowers, pictures and coins into the river.

Tributaries

Moving upstream, tributaries of the Mersey include:
  • River Gowy
    River Gowy
    The River Gowy is a river in Cheshire, England and a tributary of the River Mersey.It rises in western Cheshire in the hills near Peckforton Castle, very close to the source of the River Weaver. While the Weaver flows south initially, the Gowy flows north and for several miles provides the valley...

  • Hornsmill Brook
  • River Weaver
    River Weaver
    The River Weaver is a river, navigable in its lower reaches, running in a curving route anti-clockwise across west Cheshire, northern England. Improvements to the river to make it navigable were authorised in 1720 and the work, which included eleven locks, was completed in 1732...

  • Ram's Brook
  • Sankey Brook
  • Padgate Brook
  • Morris Brook
  • Spittle Brook
  • Thelwall Brook
  • Fishington Brook
  • River Bollin
    River Bollin
    The River Bollin is a major tributary of the River Mersey in the north-west of England.It rises in Macclesfield Forest at the western end of the Peak District, and can be seen in spring form, from the Buxton to Macclesfield road. The stream then descends the through Macclesfield and Wilmslow where...

  • Marsh Brook
  • Red Brook
    Red Brook
    Red Brook is a minor river in the English county of Cheshire.Rising at the confluence of Caldwell Brook and Sinderland Brook at Covershaw Bridge near Sinderland Green, the river runs north west towards Partington, where it runs into the Manchester Ship Canal opposite the mouth of Glaze...

  • Glaze Brook
    Glaze Brook
    The Glaze Brook is a minor river in Greater Manchester, England.The brook drains a large area around Leigh and is formed at the outflow of Pennington Flash close to Aspull Common...

    /River Glaze
  • River Irwell
    River Irwell
    The River Irwell is a long river which flows through the Irwell Valley in the counties of Lancashire and Greater Manchester in North West England. The river's source is at Irwell Springs on Deerplay Moor, approximately north of Bacup, in the parish of Cliviger, Lancashire...

  • Old Eea Brook
  • Stromford Brook
  • Chorlton Brook
    Chorlton Brook
    Chorlton Brook is a stream in Greater Manchester, England. It heads westward through Chorlton-cum-Hardy, having been formed at the confluence of Platt Brook and Shaw Brook , and after passing north of Chorltonville it flows through Chorlton Ees into the River Mersey upstream of Sale Water...

  • Barrow Brook
  • Gatley Brook
  • Micker Brook
    Micker Brook
    Micker Brook is a minor river in Cheshire and Greater Manchester, England.Known early in its course as Bollinhurst Brook and Norbury Brook, then Lady Brook, the river runs westward and northward through Hazel Grove, Bramhall and Cheadle. It joins the River Mersey close to Junction 3 of the M60...

  • River Tame
  • River Goyt

External links

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