to be the longest river in
Jamaica but has more recently lost that title to the Rio Minho, the
Black River, originates in the mountains of Manchester and
flows west where it disappears underground and re-emerges in St
kilometres (33 miles), it is
navigable for about 40 kilometres (25 miles), and is supported by many
Y.S., Broad, Grass and Horse Savannah.
The river get's its name from the darkness of the river bed that has
over the years been lined with thick layers of decomposing vegetaion.
This gives the river a dark almost black hue especially in the more
thickly vegetated areas.
Black river begins as
an underground stream in the Cockpit Country and emerges north of
Siloah on the southern border of the Cockpits.
At Maggotty, the river runs
alongside the road where it is convenient to explore its banks and to
view the many small waterfalls and the Black River Gorge. The
vegetation is dense and overgrown in places but the Apple Valley Park
maintains a cleared trail to the gorge and will also provide a guide.
To the south of Maggotty past Newton, the river flows into the Upper
Morass where the waters merge with those of the Smith River and other
smaller tributaries. It is dominated by thick rushes and is easily
explored by canoe. Sugar cane is grown on the land to the north of the
Upper Morass where the fertilizer and pesticide run off has polluted
In the Elim
area, a variety of African perch known
locally as the ‘Jesus fish’ is being farmed to help combat the
overfishing of Jamaica's coastal waters. Its local name refers to the
miracle of the multiplication of fishes because it is a prolific
Also found in these swamps is the ‘Jesus bird,’ a jacana that
wades among the floating leaves of aquatic plants giving the impression
of walking on water. Jamaican colloquialism is uniquely descriptive and
frequently imbued with biblical references.
river flows to the
plain known as the Savannah, through the Great Morass and to the sea at
Black River, the capital of the parish.
passing through Lacovia, the river flows into the Lower
Morass, the largest (14,085 acres) swamp environment exhibiting the
greatest biodiversity in the entire Caribbean.
river merges with the waters of the YS River near Middle Quarters, an
area well known for its crayfish that is sold at roadside stands as
‘hot pepper shrimps.’ It is in this region of the Lower Morass that
‘shrimp’ fishermen can be found tending their trap baskets that are
similar in design to those still used by fishermen on the Niger River
in Africa and brought to the island by slaves over 300 years ago.
Upriver, the YS Falls are a delightful
contrast to the somnolence of the Lower Black River. The cool, clear
water rushes over three levels for 120 feet to form one of the largest
and prettiest waterfalls in Jamaica. Large pools at each level allow
for a refreshing swim and are accessed by stairs alongside the river.