Where rivers meet the valley floor: typically 180-500 metres above sea level

The Rivers Dee, Gairn, Clunie and Gleann Beag wend through the land creating ideal habitats for insects, fish, birds, molluscs and mammals.

Salmon Fishing on the Dee at Invercauld Estate
The Dee is one of the most famous salmon rivers in the world


Salmon are drawn back to spawn in the very rivers they left several years before. Their journeys start well out to sea and only a tiny fraction of them will survive. Fishing for salmon, mainly on the River Dee, brings tourists to the area and generates revenue to fund conservation of the river environment. All caught fish are returned to the water to continue their mating odyssey. Elsewhere in the riparian zone, other life starts to emerge from the winter, such as water voles and newts. Riverbank vegetation becomes verdant.

Dipper taken at Invercauld Estate (C) (Steven Rennie)
A Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) feeding on the River Dee

Summer and Autumn

In recent years, many trees have been planted along the edges of the Rivers Gairn and Clunie, in particular. As these grow, they will provide increasing shade to help salmon and pearl mussels cope with rising temperatures as well as encouraging insect life as a food source. Pearl mussels are not harvested nowadays with the hope of increasing their numbers.

Salmon fishing continues until the end of September with trout fishing in a few of the lesser water courses, too. Canoeists can sometimes be seen paddling along stretches of the river. Recently, a pair of ospreys have started breeding on the Estate and fish in the river too.

The River Dee at Invercauld Estate (C) (Steven Rennie)
The Rivers Dee, Gairn, Clunie and Gleann Beag look magical when the snow starts to fall


Salmon lay their eggs in shallow depressions, called redds, made in the gravel bottoms of water courses, including some of the higher burns. A year or so after hatching, the young fish, or smolts, will head out to sea.

When ice forms on water courses it can cause damage to fences as it fragments and floats downstream, especially if the rivers flood.

Floating circular discs of ice, called ‘ice pancakes’, sometimes form when lumps of frozen river water bump into each other and their edges are rounded off, making them circular. Water levels can be quite low at times but when they surge with heavy rain and melting snow problems can occur further downstream.