The dark river that rose in the Mountains of Mirkwood, and flowed northwards in a great loop to meet the Forest River under the canopy of the trees of Mirkwood. Its water was black, and carried a curse that gave the river its name - any person coming into contact with its enchanted water immediately fell into a long, deep sleep.1
About halfway along its length, the Enchanted River flowed across the Elf-path that led west to east through Mirkwood to Thranduil's halls, and it seems that a ferry was maintained there, presumably for the use of the Wood-elves. At least, Bilbo and the Dwarves found a boat kept on the eastern bank of the River, which they used to cross it on their journey to Erebor.
The source of this strange curse is never explained, but it may be connected to the giant spiders that inhabited northern Mirkwood. During the First Age, we're told that the offspring of Ungoliant defiled the waters that flowed out of Ered Gorgoroth, so that those drinking from them would be '...filled with shadows of madness and despair' (Quenta Silmarillion 14, Of Beleriand and its Realms). Though this effect isn't identical to that of the Enchanted River, the connection seems telling, especially as the spiders of Mirkwood were also descendants of Ungoliant.
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