The River Mersey / is a river in the
North West of
England. Its name is derived from the
Anglo-Saxon language and translates as "boundary river". The river may have been the border between the ancient kingdoms of
 and for centuries it formed part of the boundary between the
historic counties of
The start of the Mersey is at the
confluence of the
River Tame and
River Goyt in
Stockport. It flows westwards through the suburban areas of south
Manchester, then into the
Manchester Ship Canal at
Irlam, becoming a part of the canal and maintaining the canal's water levels. After 4 miles (6.4 km) the river exits the canal, flowing towards
Warrington where the river widens. It then narrows as it passes between the towns of
Widnes. From Runcorn the river widens into a large
estuary, which is 3 miles (4.8 km) across at its widest point near
Ellesmere Port. The course of the river then turns north as the estuary narrows between
Birkenhead on the
Wirral Peninsula to the west, and empties into
Liverpool Bay. In total the river flows 70.33 miles (113 km).
A railway tunnel between Birkenhead and Liverpool as part of the
Mersey Railway opened in 1886. Two road tunnels pass under the estuary from Liverpool: the
Queensway Tunnel opened in 1934 connecting the city to Birkenhead, and the
Kingsway Tunnel, opened in 1971, to
Wallasey. A road bridge, completed in 1961 and later named the
Silver Jubilee Bridge, crosses between Runcorn and Widnes, adjacent to the
Runcorn Railway Bridge which opened in 1868. A second road bridge, the "
Mersey Gateway", opened in October 2017, carrying a six-lane road connecting Runcorn's Central Expressway with
Speke Road and Queensway in Widnes.
Mersey Ferry operates between
Pier Head in Liverpool and
Woodside in Birkenhead and
Seacombe, and has become a tourist attraction offering cruises that provide an overview of the river and surrounding areas.
Water quality in the Mersey was severely affected by industrialisation, and in 1985, the
Mersey Basin Campaign was established to improve water quality and encourage waterside regeneration. In 2009 it was announced that the river is "cleaner than at any time since the industrial revolution" and is "now considered one of the cleanest in the UK". The Mersey Valley Countryside Warden Service manages local nature reserves such as
Chorlton Ees and
Sale Water Park. The river gave its name to
Merseybeat, developed by bands from Liverpool, notably
the Beatles. In 1965 it was the subject of the top-ten hit single "
Ferry Cross the Mersey" by
Gerry and the Pacemakers.