Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The River Tay, in terms of flow (193 km or 120 miles), is the largest river in Scotland, and drains much of the southern Highlands. The source of the Tay is high on the slopes of Ben Lui, only 20 or so miles from the west coast town of Oban, but the waters flow through Perthshire to the North Sea, some 100 miles east.
The river has a variety of names in the upper catchment: for the first few miles the river is known as the River Connonish; then it is called the River Fillan, and then the name changes again to the River Dochart until it flows into Loch Tay at Killin .
The River Tay emerges from Loch Tay at Kenmore , and flows from there to Perth, which was in historical times the lowest bridging point of the river. Below Perth the river becomes tidal and enters the Firth of Tay. The largest city on the river, Dundee, lies on the north band of the Firth.
The catchment of the Tay system covers an area of 4970 square kilometres. The average annual flow of the River Tay at Perth is about 170 cubic metres per second (m3 s-1). The maximum recorded flow of 2269 m3 s-1 was recorded on January 17 1993, when the river rose 6.48 m above its usual level at Perth, and caused extensive flooding in the city. Were it not for the hydro-electric schemes upstream which impounded run-off, the peak would have been considerably higher. The highest ever flood at Perth occurred in 1814, when the river rose 7 m above the usual level, partly caused by a blockage of ice under the Smeaton Bridge. Other severe flood events occurred in 1210 and 1648 when earlier bridges over the Tay at Perth were destroyed.
In the 19th Century the Tay Rail Bridge was built across the Firth at Dundee as part of the East Coast Main Line, which linked Aberdeen in the north with Edinburgh and, eventually, London to the south. On December 28th 1879 the bridge collapsed as a train passed over it. The entire train fell into the Firth, with the loss of 75 passengers and traincrew. The event was 'immortalised' in a poem, The Tay Bridge Disaster, written by William McGonagall. McGonagall, who lived in Dundee for much of his life, is regarded as being one of the worst poets in the English Language.
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