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The river rises south of Kirkby Stephen on the Cumbria /Yorkshire border and flows northwards to Carlisle before discharging to the Solway Firth. The eastern part of the catchment is drained by short, relatively steep streams from the Pennines; the western part includes tributaries of the Eamont system which arise in the eastern hills of the Lake District, and the major lakes, Ullswater and Haweswater. The catchment is largely rural, with farming the main industry. There are significant settlements on the upper part of the river at Kirkby Stephen and Appleby-in-Westmorland. Water quality in the upper reaches is classified as good and drinking water is abstracted to supply the city of Carlisle.
The river is excellent for salmon (Salmo salar) fishing and also supports a sea trout (Salmo trutta) run. Many other species of fish are also found, eg brown trout (Salmo trutta fario), grayling (Thymallus thymallus), chub (Leuciscus cephalus), dace (Leuciscus leuciscus, eel, minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus), loach (Barbatula barbatula), river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis), sea lamprey (Petromygon marinus), and brook lamprey (Lampetra planeri), stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and bullhead (Cottus gobio). Otters and native crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) are also found in the Eden catchment. The Eden at Temple Sowerby is within the "River Eden and Tributaries" SSSI, and the proposed Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EC Habitats and Species Directive.
- River level on the Eden at Temple Sowerby (Environment Agency)