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River Conwy

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River Conwy

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The River Conwy (Welsh: Afon Conwy) is a river in North Wales, United Kingdom. From its source to its discharge in Conwy Bay it is a little over 27 miles long.

It rises on the Migneint moor where a number of small streams flow into Llyn Conwy, then flows in a generally northern direction, being joined by the tributaries of the rivers Machno and Lledr before reaching Betws-y-Coed, where it is also joined by the River Llugwy. From Betws-y-coed the river continues to flow north through Llanrwst, Trefriw (where it is joined by the River Crafnant) and Dolgarrog (where it is joined by Afon Porth-llwyd and Afon Ddu) before reaching Conwy Bay at Conwy. During spring tides the river is tidal as far as Llanrwst.

List of tributaries
The named tributaries of the River Conwy (and their tributaries), listed from source to sea, are -

Afon Machno
Afon Lledr
Afon Llugwy
Afon Gallt y Gwg
Nant y Goron
Afon Crafnant
           Afon Geirionydd
Afon Ddu
Afon Porth-llwyd
Afon Dulyn
           Afon Ddu
           Afon Garreg-wen
           Ffrwd Cerriguniauwn
           Afon Melynllyn
Afon Roe
           Afon Tafolog
Afon Gyffin

Geology and geomorphology
The Conwy is bounded to the East by the rolling ancient mudstone hills of the Silurian period, the Migneint Moors. These acid rocks are generally covered in thin, often acid soils and for large parts of the upland areas the cover is of moor-grass Mollinia spp and Erica communities. As a result the water entering the river tends to be acidic and often coloured brown with humic acids

To the West, the catchment is underlain by older Cambrian rocks which are harder and the landscape is, as a consequence, more dramatic with high craggy hills and mountains through which the river falls in cascades and waterfalls. Excellent examples of torrential river geomorphology can be seen at Conwy falls and in the Lledr gorge. The land to the East is highly forested with planted non-native conifers.

The western side of the valley is rich in lakes and reservoirs some of which provide drinking water supplies. The rocks are also rich in minerals and there are many abandoned mine sites where Copper, Lead and Silver have been mined since Roman times.

The central river valley down-stream of Betws-y-Coed is relatively wide and fertile, and supports dairying and sheep rearing. In winter time these pastures are used to nurture the sheep brought down out of the mountains to avoid the worst of the winter weather.

Culture and history
The scattered communities along the Conwy valley have ancient traditions with archeological evidence of habitation back to the Stone Age. The Romans occupied this area up to 400 AD and there has been continuous habitation since that time. The valley is home to two of the oldest churches in Wales, those at Llanrhychwyn and Llangelynin, which respectively date back to the 11th and 12th centuries.

Much of the Conwy valley was laid waste in the Wars of the Roses by the Earl of Pembroke, under the orders of Edward IV, the Yorkist king, following a Lancastrian attack on the town of Denbigh in 1466.

At the mouth of the Conwy as it discharges into Conwy Bay is the town of Conwy with its World Heritage Site castle Conwy Castle and two famous bridges. One of the earliest road suspension bridges by Thomas Telford now carries a footpath whilst Robert Stephenson's tubular iron bridge still carries the main Holyhead to London railway line. A third bridge now takes road traffic, and more recently still the A55 now runs in a tunnel under the estuary.

Water quality
The River Conwy is routinely monitored for quality by the Environment Agency. The river quality tends to be acidic in the headwaters with very low concentrations of the common anions and cations. Whilst conductivity rises as the river flows towards the sea, the overall organic quality remains very good despite some slight increases in ammonia due to diffuse agricultural inputs.

Ecology
The Conwy is noted for its Salmon and Sea trout although increasing acidification in the second half of the 20th century, especially in the poorly buffered upland waters has significantly impacted upon their spawning success. The construction of an artificial fish pass in the 1990s to allow migratory salmonids access to the river above Conwy falls was intended to help mitigate the affects of acidification


 

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