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Catchment area

Catchment area

Water code DE : 5, CZ : 1-01-01-001
location Czech Republic and Germany
River system Elbe
River basin district Elbe
source In the Giant Mountains
50 ° 46 ′ 32 ″  N , 15 ° 32 ′ 11 ″  E
Source height 1386  m nm
muzzle At Cuxhaven in the North Sea (km 727.73) coordinates: 53 ° 53 '36 "  N , 8 ° 42' 20"  O 53 ° 53 '36 "  N , 8 ° 42' 20"  O
Mouth height m above sea level NN
Height difference 1386 m
Bottom slope 1.3 ‰
length 1094 km (1245 km including the Vltava)
Catchment area a total of 148,268 km² 
Germany : 97,175 km² (65.38%)

Czech Republic : 49,933 km² (33.84%)

Austria : 921 km² (0.62%)

Poland : 239 km² (0.16%)
Discharge at the Wittenberg
A Eo gauge: 61,879 km²
Location: 513.63 km above the mouth
NNQ (August 20, 1952)
MNQ 1961–2014
MQ 1961–2014
Mq 1961–2014
MHQ 1961–2014
HHQ (June 18, 2013)
59.2 m³ / s
138 m³ / s
368 m³ / s
5.9 l / (s km²)
1470 m³ / s
4210 m³ / s
Discharge at the Neu Darchau
A Eo gauge: 131,950 km²
Location: 191.33 km above the mouth
NNQ (September 1, 1904)
MNQ 1926–2014
MQ 1926–2014
Mq 1926–2014
MHQ 1926–2014
HHQ (June 11, 2013)
128 m³ / s
276 m³ / s
712 m³ / s
5.4 l / (s km²)
1960 m³ / s
4080 m³ / s
at the mouth
861 m³ / s
Left tributaries Adler (Orlice), Moldau (Vltava), Eger (Ohře), Bílina (Biela), Gottleuba , Müglitz , Weißeritz , Jahna , Döllnitz , Mulde , Saale , Ohre , Tanger , Aland , Jeetzel , Ilmenau , Seeve , Este , Lühe , Schwinge , Oste , Medem
Right tributaries Jizera (Iser), Ploučnice (Polzen), Kamenice (Kamnitz), Kirnitzsch (Křinice), Lachsbach , Wesenitz , Prießnitz , Schwarze Elster , Nuthe , Ehle , Havel , Stepenitz , Löcknitz , Elde , Sude , Bille , Alster , Pinnau , Krückau , Sturgeon
Big cities Dresden , Magdeburg , Hamburg
Medium-sized cities Hradec Králové (Königgrätz), Pardubice (Pardubitz), Kolín (Kolin), Litoměřice (Leitmeritz), Ústí nad Labem (Aussig), Děčín (Tetschen), Pirna , Radebeul , Meißen , Riesa , Torgau , Wittenberg , Dessau-Roßlau , Schönebeck , Geesthacht , Wedel , Cuxhaven
Small towns Hohenelbe (Vrchlabí), Nimburg (Nymburk), Melnik (Mělník), Bad Schandau , Königstein , Stadt Wehlen , Heidenau , Aken , Tangermünde , Havelberg , Wittenberge , Schnackenburg , Lenzen , Dömitz , Hitzacker (Elbe) , Bleckede , Boizenburg , Lauenburg , Glückstadt , Brunsbüttel , Otterndorf
Communities Spindleruv Mlyn (Špindlerův mlýn), Rathen , Elster
Residents in the catchment area 24.5 million
Navigable from Pardubice

The Elbe ? / i ( Elv in Low German , Labe in Czech , Albis in Latin ) is a Central European river that originates in the Czech Republic, flows through Germany and flows into the North Sea. Among other things, it drains a large part of eastern Germany and almost all of Bohemia, which is surrounded by low mountain ranges . The Vltava , the Mulde , the Saale , the Havel with the Spree and the Elde with the Müritz are among the best-known bodies of water in their catchment area . Characterized in the upper reaches by the low mountain range, it follows two glacial valleys of the North German lowlands . Audio file / audio sample

Measured by the size of its catchment area of 148,300 km², according to the list of rivers in Europe , it ranks fourth for Central Europe after the Danube , the Vistula and the Rhine , followed by the Oder and Memel .


The Low German Elv , the High German name Elbe and the Czech name of the river are of the same origin; the Slavic name Labe was borrowed early from Germanic or Latin due to its phonetic shape:

In ancient times, the Greeks, Celts and Romans, such as Pliny and Tacitus, called the river Albis and the Germanic tribes Albia . The Old High German name of the river is Elba , the Old English Ælf , Ielf and the Old Norse Saxelfr . It is probably etymologically identical with Old Norse elfr "river", which lives on in today's Scandinavian languages as Swedish älv , Norwegian elv and Icelandic elfur . The name, which was documented by Strabo as early as 18 AD, is therefore likely to go back to a primitive Germanic appellative * albijō- (cf. the Latinized form Albia ) with the meaning "river", which outside of the Nordic region was soon out of use. The Elbe was simply called “the river” by the early Germans, which fits the dominant position of the river in the North German Plain, the presumed cradle of the Germanic languages ​​- but certainly of the West Germanic.

The name could be interpreted analogously to the Gallic river name Albis (today Aube ) as "white water", in contrast to the name Dubis (today Dub ) for "black water". The name probably goes back to the Indo-European adjective * h₂elbʰ-o- "white" and is related to the Latin albus "white".

Geographical overview

With a length of 1094.26 km, the Elbe is the twelfth longest river in Europe and one of the 100 longest rivers on earth . If you consider the largest tributary, the Vltava, as a source river, the total length is 1245 km (ninth place in Europe). The Czech part is 370.74 km long, with the sections above and below the mouth of the Vltava being separately kilometers with a common zero point at the mouth of the Vltava. The part of the Elbe flowing through Germany to the Kugelbake near Cuxhaven is 726.95 km long; there the Inner Elbe ends.

Czech and German kilometers overlap in the 3.43 km long area in which the border runs in the middle of the river. The Czech one runs on the right bank of the Elbe to the Schmilka / Hřensko border crossing . The German kilometers begin on the left bank of the Elbe (mouth Gelobtbach ). The German kilometrage also includes the Outer Elbe and ends at kilometer 769.40 in the open North Sea . The kilometering at kilometer 121 has an error from the Elbe survey around 1880, which the kingdoms of Prussia and Saxony carried out each for themselves, so that suddenly there was one kilometer too much at the state border at that time. Therefore, after kilometer 121, kilometer 121A follows. In 1933/34 the short litter near Vockerode was straightened and shortened by approx. 1.5 km. The kilometrage has not been changed, so that now 500 meters after 250 kilometers already follows 252 kilometers.

As a large river that flows directly into the sea , the Elbe is classified as a current . It drains a catchment area of 148,268 km². With an average discharge of 861 m³ / s at the mouth, it ranks in Germany after the Rhine , the Danube and in front of the Inn (compare: List of rivers in Germany ).

First the river crosses the northern Czech Republic ( Bohemia ) in a wide arc, then flows through Germany and among other things through the cities of Dresden , Magdeburg and Hamburg and finally flows into the North Sea at Cuxhaven . During the division of Germany until 1990, the Middle Elbe was also a border river between Schnackenburg and Lauenburg for almost 100 km . At times she was exposed to extremely high levels of heavy metals and other pollutants. In recent years, however, the water quality has improved significantly. The organic pollution is still high, however, classified in the saprobic index as “moderately polluted” to “heavily polluted”. The main reason for this is the intensive agricultural use of the floodplain and the poor structural quality and inhibited self-cleaning ability due to the technical expansion into the “ Europawasserstraße ” . Nevertheless, there are a number of biotopes that are very worthy of protection, especially on the middle reaches .

The course of the Elbe

The first town on the Elbe is Špindlerův Mlýn

Upper Elbe

The Upper Elbe is the name given to the course from the source to where the valley loses its low mountain range character and enters the North German lowlands .

The Elbe rises in the Giant Mountains (Krkonoše) at an altitude of almost 1400 m, about 7.5 km northwest of the Czech town of Špindlerův Mlýn (Spindleruv Mlyn), 400 m from the border with Poland . Shortly behind the source area is the Elbe Falls . The Elbe leaves the Giant Mountains in a south-easterly and southerly direction, i.e. against its later main direction of flow. From Pardubice , after a sharp bend, it runs westwards, shortly afterwards it takes on its main north-west direction, which it maintains with a few exceptions. At Mělník , the 430 km longest tributary, the Vltava , flows on the left into the Elbe, which was much shorter and less watery until then. The fact that the Vltava is not considered to be the Elbur jump today is due to the names of the two rivers chosen in the Middle Ages, which in turn go back either to ignorance of the relationship between the rivers or to their differently weighted economic importance at the time. Behind Litoměřice (Leitmeritz) the Elbe runs for about 50 km mainly in a north-northeast direction and leaves the Czech Republic behind Děčín (Tetschen) . The Czech part is characterized by a large number of barrages , which were mainly built since the 1950s. In the Czech Republic, the part of the river there is divided into the Horní Labe (Upper Elbe), above Kolín , the Střední Labe (middle Elbe) and the Dolní Labe (lower Elbe), from the mouth of the Vltava to the German border.

From there, after a few kilometers, it initially runs in a wide meander and then resumes the previous direction of flow to the northwest. After crossing Dresden , the gradient gradually decreases. The German share of the upper reaches, if one determines it geologically or geomorphologically , is quite small. At the latest from Torgau , more likely from Riesa , the Elbe merges into its middle course. In 1992, the International Commission for the Protection of the Elbe determined a geographical breakdown of the Elbe, according to which the upper course ends at Hirschstein Castle between Meißen and Riesa at the German river kilometer 96.0.

View from Königstein Fortress to the large Elbe arch, the city of Königstein and the Lilienstein

Middle Elbe

Middle Elbe refers to the Elbe as a lowland river. It reaches the North German lowlands between Riesa and Torgau and continues to flow in a north-westerly direction until it turns north for about 80 kilometers near Magdeburg , and in parts also to the north-east. It is believed that in the Neolithic , the Elbe flowed from Magdeburg directly onto the lakes near the city of Brandenburg an der Havel and then turned northwest over today's Unterhavel. Here the river reaches the Elbe glacial valley , which leads it into the North Sea. After the mouth of the Havel , the longest right tributary, the Elbe turns again in a north-westerly direction, following the glacial valley. Shortly before Hamburg, the middle course ends at the Geesthacht barrage , behind which the Elbe is exposed to the tides of the North Sea.

Lower Elbe

Elbe-Weser triangle and Helgoland bay

Lower Elbe (also Tideelbe) refers in a broader sense to the tidal section of the river, the Elbe estuary, nowadays from the weir in Geesthacht . In the narrower sense, it is the Lower Tide Elbe, from the division into North and South Elbe in Hamburg. Downstream of the Geesthacht barrage to the Mühlenberger Loch, the estuary is between 300 and 500 m wide (North and South Elbe initially only 200 m) and from Mühlenberger Loch to Brunsbüttel between 1 and 2.5 km. It then widens between Brunsbüttel and Cuxhaven to last around 17.5 km. The seaward boundary of the Elbe, i.e. the end of the Inner Elbe, is determined according to the Federal Waterways Act by the connecting line between the Kugelbake at Döse and the western edge of the Trischendamm in the municipality of Friedrichskoog ( Dieksand ).

An inland delta has formed in the tidal build-up at the transition between the Middle and Lower Elbe , in which the widely ramified port of Hamburg is now located. The upper part with the arms Dove Elbe and Gose Elbe was diked as Vierlande in the Middle Ages . In the 19th and 20th centuries, the river arms between the Norder- and Süderelbe harbor extensions fell victim. Some of the formerly numerous Elbe islands of the Lower Elbe are still in the river today, others have become part of the banks through dykes. Along the Lower Elbe there are some sandy beaches that are also more important as bathing areas, for example in Övelgönne , Wittenbergen in Hamburg and Brokdorf . The tidal range in Hamburg is currently around 3.6 m higher than on the open North Sea. Although the water flows upriver with every high tide , the Lower Elbe contains mostly fresh water .


The Elbe flows into the North Sea in Cuxhaven
Elbe estuary around 1721

The mouth of the Elbe is of great importance for shipping, as the funnel forms the access to the port of Hamburg and the entrance to the Kiel Canal is on the north side (near Brunsbüttel ) . The lower part of the Elbe estuary is therefore one of the busiest waterways in Europe. The mouth of the Elbe used to be marked from the open sea by five up to 45 m high lightships , which are now replaced by fixed navigation marks. Large ships are navigated through the waterway with the help of pilots .

The Elbe estuary is navigable for ships up to 12.7 m draft regardless of the tide. Due to the tides , the Lower Elbe allows incoming ships to have a draft of up to 15.1 m at high tide. The Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration updates the information as necessary.

The riverbed of the estuary consists mainly of fine sand. Because of the high flow speed, constant and increasing maintenance dredging is required in the fairway in order to maintain the depth of the fairway. A further deeper dredging of the Elbe is currently requested, but this is controversial. Although the estuary is up to 15 kilometers wide, there is only a relatively narrow channel for shipping with a width of 400 m ; the rest is taken up by broad mud flats like the medem sand . Also shallows like the birds sand in the Outer Elbe are dangerous for shipping.

Outer Elbe

The Kugelbake in Cuxhaven marks the transition from the Elbe to the North Sea

In contrast to the Inner Elbe, the Outer Elbe is called the continuation of the estuary through the Wadden Sea . The Elbe stream differs from the Wadden Sea in its depth, the direction and speed of the current and the lower salinity. In this area, the Elbe is no longer an inland waterway , but part of the North Sea sea ​​waterway .

The islands of Neuwerk , Scharhörn and Nigehörn , which belong to Hamburg, are located on the 20 km stretch of mudflat between the Outer Elbe and the neighboring Outer Weser to the west .

During the Vistula glaciation , when so much water was bound as ice in the polar caps that the sea level was about 100 m lower than today and the southern North Sea was dry, the Elbe only flowed into the North Sea west of the Jutland Bank. At that time the Weser was also a tributary of the Elbe.


Flow rate

With medium water flow , the Elbe needs eight days from the German-Czech border to Geesthacht near Hamburg. Converted to this 586 km long, barrage-free route, this means an average flow speed of around 3 km / h or 0.8 m / s. These are average values ​​from which the actual flow rates can differ significantly depending on the seasonal water flow.

A meaningful figure for the flow velocity is not possible for the Czech upper reaches because of the many barrages.

In the Lower Elbe, the focus is on the pendulum movement of the water through the tides. As a result, the water transport is much slower than the periodically changing current flow velocity. On its way to the sea, the water in the Middle Elbe takes between 1 and 2.5 days for the 112 km stretch from Schnackenburg to Geesthacht, and between 4 and 70 days for the 142 km from Geesthacht to the North Sea.


Ice drift on the Elbe in Dresden in January 2006

The surface of the Elbe only freezes completely in very severe winters. The current at the Dresden gauge was last frozen from January 31 to March 6, 1963, and before that also in 1954, 1942, 1940, 1929, 1912, 1909, 1902 and 1901. In the years 1784 and 1799 the Elbe near Dresden was frozen over from the end of December to February. In 1784 the ice sheet was more than 110 cm thick. The ice sheet that broke up in February resulted in floods that made ice floes more dangerous because they damaged dikes and even dammed the river when they became wedged on bridges. The situation was also comparable during the Elbe flood in 1845 .

The Elbe tends to freeze over in the middle reaches - due to the lower flow velocity there - than on its steeper and maritime sections. The formation of ice is reduced in the area of ​​the nuclear power plants, since the water is heated by the returned cooling water.

Drift ice often forms, which due to the flowing movement and mutual friction forms into distinctive, rounded clods, the so-called "Bohemian cake". If there is heavy ice , shipping (e.g. ferries) must be stopped. In such situations, the use of icebreakers is necessary between the barrage in Geesthacht and the Port of Hamburg .


At the source of the Elbe: coats of arms of 28 Elbe cities

Elbe source

The source of the Elbe is located in the north of the Czech Republic on the border with Poland , on the main ridge of the Giant Mountains . It is located northwest of Špindlerův Mlýn (Spindleruv Mlyn) between the mountains Kotel (Kesselkoppe), Szrenica (Reifträger) and Vysoké Kolo ( High Wheel ) at an altitude of 1386 m above sea level . (Coordinates: 50 ° 46 ′ 32 ″  N , 15 ° 32 ′ 10 ″  E ). The water is symbolically collected from a large number of small spring brooks on the plateau above the Labská Bouda (Elbe Falls House) in a water hole set with stones.


Elbe valley in the Giant Mountains

Elbfall and Elbfallbaude (1900)

About a kilometer away from the source, the young river plunges as the Elbe falls 40 m deep into the rocky head of the Labská jáma (German: Elbkessel ). The valley called Labský důl (German: Elbgrund ), formed by Ice Age glaciers, stretches from there about 4.5 km to the southeast. The valley of the Elbe and the Bílé Labe (German: Weißwasser ; literally White Elbe ) flowing towards the east divide the main ridge of the mountains from the southern and lower Bohemian ridge. The legendary Sedmidolí (German: Seven Reasons ) flow into both . The Bohemian ridge (also: Inner ridge) is broken through by the Elbe as well as other, lower ridges in a southerly direction. In doing so, large differences in altitude are overcome over a short distance.

As it continues through the Giant Mountains, the Elbe is dammed by the Krausebauden dam .

Another dam on the upper reaches is the Přehrada Les Království in Les Království (Kingdom Forest ) in the breakthrough valley through the Kocléřovský hřbet . In Hradec Králové (Königgrätz) , about 66 km south of the source of the Elbe, the river has already reached an altitude of 235  m nm .

From now on the course describes a long arc, initially to the west, later to the northwest through the Bohemian Basin .

Further breakthrough valleys and fault zones

Elbe in the Bohemian Elbe Sandstone Mountains
Elbe near Bad Schandau

The Elbe breaks through geologically and geomorphologically different low mountain ranges between Litoměřice (Leitmeritz) and Dresden. At Porta Bohemica , the Elbe reaches the Bohemian Central Uplands , which it flows through for the next 50 kilometers in a deeply indented and partly rocky valley and divides it into western and eastern parts. Here, the same bed at reaches Male Žernoseky (Klein Zernosek) the bedrock with gneiss , phyllite , mica and amphibolite rocks of the Czech massif . Between the Porta Bohemica and Děčín (Tetschen) only a few larger watercourses from transverse valleys meet the Elbe, of which the Ploučnice ( Polzen ) is the most important tributary . Its valley also marks a section of the most important tectonic lineament in the Bohemian Central Uplands.

This valley landscape in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains continues almost seamlessly as a classic canyon as far as Pirna. The Cretaceous sedimentary rocks continue to Meißen and Weinböhla , but are only extensively present on the left bank of the Elbe.

The entire breakthrough of the Elbe through the Elbe Sandstone Mountains is about 40 km long. The landscape areas of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains are Bohemian Switzerland on the Czech side and Saxon Switzerland on the German side. Then the Elbe flows into the Elbe zone named after it , which is flanked on its north side by the Lausitz anticline and part of the Meißen massif and in the south by the Elbe valley slate mountains , the Döhlen depression and the main part of the Meißen massif . A valley shape developed as a result of sideways, tectonically caused movements (strike-slip zone) between the rock complexes of the Lausitz and the Ore Mountains. In this shear zone area between the current Elbtal extending Lausitzer thrust and Mittelsächsischen disorder . The Elbe valley basin received its current training mainly through glacial influences and subsequent erosion processes . Further to the northwest, the Elbe runs into flatter landscapes and no longer breaks through mountains.

Glacial valleys

The Elbe is a sand river with partly natural banks

Behind the Elbe valley, the Elbe leaves the area of ​​the tectonically old Saxon-Thuringian basement. From now on she runs through Pleistocene landscapes in the northeast German lowlands . The current now also mainly follows a north-westerly direction of flow. This rough straightness can be explained by the fact that the Elbe now flows within the glacial glacial valleys, in the large meltwater channels of the various ice ages . These have all formed parallel to the ice edge layers in a northwest-southeast orientation. During the last glacials and before the Ice Age, there were courses that differed greatly from the current course of the river, which are named after today's locations along the river course at that time. Before the Elster Ice Age there was the Bautzen and Senftenberg Elbe races, and between the Elster and Saale Ice Age there was the Berlin Elbe races. Only after the Saale Ice Age did the Elbe take about its current course. In the event of strong ice advances such as the Drenthe stage of the Saale Ice Age or the Elster Ice Age , the Elbe was also dammed, as the inland ice sometimes reached as far as the low mountain range threshold.

A special feature of the course of the Elbe are the terrain shortly after Magdeburg, which force the river to change the glacial valley. Until then, it moves in the Breslau-Magdeburg glacial valley , which is still occupied further to the northwest by the Aller and the lower Weser . However, the Elbe suddenly continues to flow for a longer stretch to the north and north-northeast. It soon reaches the Glogau-Baruther glacial valley in the Vistula Ice Age . This is more recent in terms of its history and therefore geomorphologically well preserved. This is noticeable in places where there are abrupt differences in the altitude between the valley floor and the boundaries of the Geestrands. From the mouth of the Havel, one speaks of the Elbe glacial valley . The reason for the change of the glacial valleys lies in the penultimate glacial: the Saale Ice Age formed inland glaciers, the edge of which in a phase of the Drenthe stage extended approximately to today's Magdeburg. At the point of the later change of direction, the glacier formed a kind of nose that scoured the Magdeburg-Breslau glacial valley and leveled existing terminal moraines. For this purpose, bed load material was deposited, which eventually blocked the valley there and thus forced the Elbe into another river bed. Later on, the Elbe could not be distracted from the ice edge of the Warthe stage of the Saale Glaciation, which reached north to just before Magdeburg, and penetrated this terminal moraine series. The distinctive changes in direction can be read off the gradient map (above).

The same can almost total be called a "Sand River" - on the one hand because they sandstone above all because the lowland portion of Elbverlaufes mountains breaks through and eroded in the glacial valleys on Pleistocene sandy deposits and Holocene runs sediments of the river. Relics of the Ice Ages are also foundlings in the middle and lower reaches , which were either salvaged from the Elbe due to shipping or are still lying in the bottom of the river. Of particular importance are tightly defined rock outcrops in the river bed, especially at Torgau and the cathedral rock in Magdeburg , which represent a dangerous obstacle for shipping when the water is low.

Elbe estuary

Estuary of the Elbe with the island of Trischen

The mouth area has undergone considerable geomorphological changes in the recent geological past. The entire southern part of today's North Sea was land at the end of the Vistula glacial . The mouth of the Elbe was probably several hundred kilometers to the northwest at a point that is now in the middle of the sea. Around 5000 BC Because of the rise in sea level in the Holocene, the mouth of the Elbe had already moved closer to today's area, but the coastline was still different. Sections of the Elbe glacial valley can still be identified today as an elongated and approximately 40 to 50 kilometer wide depression at the bottom of the North Sea.


Rivers over 100 km in length

The Vltava flows into the Elbe

The largest tributary of the Elbe is the Vltava ( Vltava in Czech ) with a length of 430 km. It unites at Mělník (Melnik) , 30 km north of Prague , with the Elbe, 279 km downstream from the source of the Elbe. At the point of confluence, the normal flow rate of the Vltava with 150 m³ / s is greater than that of the Elbe. The catchment area of ​​the Vltava extends to Bavaria and Austria .

The second largest tributary is the Saale with 413 km and 115 m³ / s, which rises in the Fichtelgebirge in Bavaria and flows into the Elbe near Barby in Saxony-Anhalt. Its catchment area includes the northeast of Upper Franconia, the west of Saxony , most of Thuringia and the eastern Harz.

The longest right tributary of the Elbe is the Havel with 325 km ( 542 km with the Spree ). Their discharge rate at the mouth near Havelberg averages 108 m³ / s.

The Eger (on the Czech territory Ohře ), which also rises in the Fichtel Mountains, has a length of 291 km. It roughly follows the course of the Egergraben, named after it, at the southern foot of the Ore Mountains , which it drains to the south, and flows into the Elbe near the Czech town of Litoměřice (Leitmeritz) .

The Mulde (124 km, with Zwickauer Mulde 290 km) is created near Colditz from the union of the Freiberger Mulde (124 km) and the Zwickauer Mulde (166 km). Most of the water from the north side of the Ore Mountains collects in it.

The Elde (208 km) flows into Mecklenburg near Dömitz . Large parts of the course of the river were blocked as a shipping route from the Elbe to the Schweriner See and Müritz .

The Black Elster flows after 188 km length of the right side into the Elbe. It rises in Upper Lusatia a few kilometers west of the Spree Valley. On its way through sand and swamp areas, it carries little sediment - in contrast to the White Elster , which flows over the Saale and flows through clay soils for almost its entire length.

The Oste (153 km) flows into the estuary of the Elbe. It has a canal connection to the Weser tributaries through the Teufelsmoor , but it is no longer used for shipping.

The Ohre (110 km) in turn marks the border between Magdeburg Börde and Altmark . The Mittelland Canal was built in its lowland .

The Chrudimka (104 km), which flows into Pardubice , brings its water from the Žďárské vrchy (Saar Mountains) , Železné hory (Iron Mountains) and the Chrudimer Tafel. The 102 km long Ploučnice , the Polzen , drains the south side of the Lusatian Mountains and the eastern part of the Bohemian Central Mountains and flows into Děčín (Tetschen) , a few kilometers south of the German-Czech border.

More tributaries

Tributaries of the Elbe

The uppermost tributaries of the Elbe still bear this name (there is something similar with the Rhine): Bílé Labe (white water , literally translated: White Elbe) and Malé Labe (Little Elbe) .

At Bad Schandau the Elbe flows into the Kirnitzsch (Czech: Křinice ) from the Lusatian Mountains near Krásná Lípa (Schönlinde) and through the Elbe Sandstone Mountains .

Important tributaries of the Elbe in the space of Osterzgebirges are in Usti nad Labem (Aussig) opens Bílina (Biela) , which in the Czech Republic as Mohelnice springing Müglitz that in Pirna opens Gottleuba and in Dresden opens Weißeritz .

Smaller but important tributaries in northern Germany are the Stepenitz in the Prignitz , the Jeetzel in the Wendland , the Delvenau near Lauenburg (used for the forerunner of today's Elbe-Lübeck Canal ), the Alster , which characterizes the Hamburg cityscape, and the Alster that flows into the Holstein Elbe marshes Pinnau , Krückau and Stör rivers .

Natural spaces, flora and fauna, nature conservation

Natural units

Upper Elbe in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains

The Elbe flows through the following " natural spatial main unit groups " in German territory :

  • D15 - Saxon-Bohemian chalk sandstone area
  • D19 - Saxon hill country and Erzgebirge foothills
  • D10 - Elbe-Mulde lowlands
  • D09 - Elbe valley lowlands
  • D24 - Lower Elbe lowlands (Elbmarsch)

The three last-named natural areas within the North German lowlands are essentially determined and defined by the Elbe itself.

The "Saxon-Bohemian chalk sandstone area" extends within the German area from the state border with the Czech Republic to around Pirna (southeast of Dresden). In terms of landscape, the area is known as the Elbe Sandstone Mountains or the German part of the mountains as Saxon Switzerland . The "Saxon hill country and Erzgebirgsvorland" passes the Elbe from Pirna / Dresden to shortly before Riesa. From there , the long course of the "Elbe-Mulde lowlands" extends to just below Magdeburg, to about the confluence of the Niegripper connecting canal . Then another very long section, the "Elbe Valley Lowlands", extends to the south-eastern gates of Hamburg. All of these sections and natural spaces belong to the continental biogeographical region .

From the Geesthacht barrage one speaks of the Lower Elbe , more precisely of the natural area "Lower Elbe lowlands". This is included in the Atlantic biogeographical region . By the maritime estuary ( estuary separated on the northeast side -) the Elbe into the North Sea is still a natural space boundary between the Lower Elbe valley by the Lower Saxon south shore and the natural environment "Schleswig-Holstein marshes D21" pulls.

The named main unit groups can be differentiated into main units and sub-units (examples: "Dessau Elbe Valley", "Lower Middle Elbe Valley") - this finer structure, which is not always uniformly defined depending on the federal state, will not be discussed here.

Characteristic biotope types of the floodplain

The "Elbholz" - a hardwood riparian forest as a fragment of the natural riparian vegetation
Inland dune near Dömitz (location)

Since the Elbe runs through very different landscapes, the biotopes that accompany it are correspondingly different depending on the natural conditions and the degree of change caused by humans. On the Czech side and in the Saxon low mountain range, the floodplain is predominantly limited to a narrow, sometimes gorge-like valley , which only opens in parts . Such areas are often covered with settlements, traffic routes or agriculture. The long middle course has a higher degree of natural or near-natural biotopes. It is comparatively sparsely populated and has lost a large part of the original floodplain landscape within the glacial valleys due to the construction of dikes. The lower course, in turn, has its own character due to the dimensioning of the estuary, the influence of the tides and its use as a waterway .

The natural biotope types of a Central European lowland river include mainly softwood and hardwood alluvial forests . While the long flood-tolerant softwood floodplains made of willow and poplar are still present at least linearly on larger sections, hardwood floodplains with oak , elm and ash have only survived in fragments. Often they had to give way to agricultural areas or were cut off from the regular, vital flooding by building dykes. The largest contiguous remnants of "real" alluvial forest - including all of Central Europe - can be found today in the Dessau Elbe Valley, especially between the mouths of the Mulde and Saale.

The predominantly open landscapes of the middle Elbe floodplains are characterized by grassland use, and in flood-proof areas also by arable land. In between, biotope types such as fens , in the form of alder swamp forests , large sedges , reeds and various types of still water can be found. Especially before the regulation of the flow path by dikes and groynes (floods, the course changes) constantly new boundary waters such as flood channels and -mulden, could by the river dynamics bayous and Bracks arise. A characteristic of the Elbe has been preserved even after the dike was dyed: in the event of flooding, the groundwater level rises with a delay and presses under the dykes, benefiting from the coarse-pored, sandy soil. On the other hand, this water comes back to the surface as so-called pushing, pressure or smoke water . In this way, temporary bodies of water are created in which many very rare animal and plant species have a refuge - a certain substitute for the original flood biotopes that were lost due to the dike. The sandy banks of the Elbe itself with the constant alternation between flooding and drought is also the habitat of specialized flora and fauna. The same applies to Pleistocene geest ridges and periglacial drift sand dunes, which either lie as islands within the floodplain or delimit it (compare for example: Höhbeck ).

In the more urban areas of the banks of the Elbe, there are often grassland areas on the floodplain sites, so-called Elbe meadows. These are generally cultivated extensively as pastures or hay meadows and also serve as recreational and event areas. However, remnants of floodplain forest remained, some of which are under nature protection. They often also play a role as retention areas and, together with silted-up oxbow lakes, serve to protect against flooding . Side arms of the Elbe were either artificially drained or silted up by themselves and are now preserved as wet meadows within built-up areas. These oxbow lakes, which themselves quickly have high water levels and flow speeds during floods, were not kept free of construction everywhere.

In the lower reaches, the North Sea already has a noticeable influence on the landscape and the living world. The extensive grassland complexes along the Elbe, criss-crossed by drainage ditches, are referred to here as marshes .

plants and animals


Rush reeds are typical for near-natural riparian zones on the Tidal Elbe

The natural flora of the Elbe, its banks and floodplains is primarily characterized by the constant alternation of dry and wet conditions - this applies both spatially and temporally. Comparatively few plants grow in the river itself today. This is related to human intervention in the course, flow speed and water quality. But even on the sandy to muddy flushing line you will find specialized, partly amphibious plants such as the deer leap , the muddy , various two-tooth and goose-foot species, reeds, sedge reeds and tall herbaceous meadows. Among the herbaceous plants are many so-called river valley plants , which occur mainly or even exclusively along larger river courses. Their settlement is favored by locations that are favored by small climates and are alternately humid as well as by spreading through drifting, shipping and water birds. One of the species that occur mainly in the Elbe Valley is the Elbe pointed burdock . Among the trees and shrubs, willows, especially white willow , black poplar and old pedunculate oak are particularly characteristic of the landscape.

The side waters in the Elbe meadows show a wide variety of aquatic, marsh and bank plants, including rarer species such as the crab claw , the swan flower and the sea ​​can . In late spring and early summer, many pools and flood basins are covered by a white carpet of blooming water cockfoot. At the same time, wet meadows are pink from the flower aspects of the cuckoo carnation and yellow from various species of buttercups . In very small areas, wet and dry biotopes can alternate, so that a few meters away you can find plants of the poor grassland and sandy dry grassland .

On the Lower Elbe, floral elements from Atlantic and salt-compatible locations blend into the bank vegetation. This includes, for example, the common beach ledge . Large freshwater and brackish water reeds in the sandy, silty bank and tidal zones also form tall species such as pond rushes , narrow-leaved cattails and reeds . A rarity that is endemic only in a few places in the Lower Elbe is the hemlock water fennel ( Oenanthe conioides ). This specializes in the extremely rare habitat "tidal freshwater tidal flats". This became known through the partial filling of the " Mühlenberger Loch " near Hamburg in the course of the expansion of the aircraft manufacturer EADS / Airbus . Due to numerous anthropogenic interventions, its habitat is less and less to be found in its original form. Since its populations are strongly declining, the hemlock water fennel is under strict nature protection.



Notable mammal species on the Elbe are the otter and the beaver . For several years now, the Elbe beaver's distribution area has been expanding again - starting from their refuge in the Dessau alluvial forest - thanks to intensive nature conservation measures on the Middle Elbe and its tributaries. Since 1990, for example, the Elbe Valley floodplain in Lower Saxony has also been repopulated by this species (around 300 animals were counted there in 2004). Here the species has been considered extinct since 1819 - the result of intensive hunting.


A large number of Central European species occur as breeding birds on the Elbe and in its floodplains. These include rarities such as the white-tailed eagle , the black stork and various Limikolen . There are also migratory birds that use the Elbe Valley as a resting area and hiking route, especially the lower Middle Elbe and the estuary. Examples include Nordic swans and geese from Western Siberia ( singing and Tundra Swan , Bless- and bean goose and others). The white storks , which breed in numerous villages along the Middle Elbe, are particularly popular among the large birds . The crane , which nests hidden in swamp and alluvial forests, is spreading as a breeding bird . In addition, many Nordic cranes migrate across the Elbe and rest there.


At least 12 of the 21 German amphibian species occur along the Elbe in the stagnant floodplain waters. Particularly noteworthy are the large populations of moor frogs and tree frogs , which are rarely found elsewhere. The Elbe valley plays a prominent role for the fire-bellied toad - it occurs mainly in the smoke waters behind the dike, but also in flood troughs in the Vordeichland, which are not reached with every flood. This species, threatened with extinction in Germany, is existentially dependent on the seasonal changes in water levels.


To go into the multitude of special insect species along the Elbe would go beyond the scope here. It is remarkable that many insect larvae ( dragonflies , mayflies, etc.) occur not only in the marginal waters but in the Elbe itself . However, the greatest diversity can be found in the dry biotopes that have been littered. The old oak trees along the Middle Elbe are also an important habitat for insects (including various large beetles).


So-called “ tadpole shrimp ” - gill- footed shrimp such as the fairy shrimp ( Eubranchipus grubii ) and the scallop or spring back shell ( Lepidurus apus ) can be found in smoke waters and other temporary pools . Their eggs can survive dry periods for years and then suddenly hatch when flooded and produce a new generation. A completely different phenomenon is the massive spread of the Chinese woolly crab . At the beginning of the 20th century, this reached northern Germany with the ballast water from cargo ships. This neozoon also conquered a large part of the Elbe as a habitat. Between the 1930s and the 1950s, there were several collapses in stocks as a result of water pollution. After forty years of absence, this species has been observed again en masse in the Elbe since the 1990s. The crabs overcome the weir at Geesthacht by millions of them either using the " fish ladder " or simply crawling across the country.

Fish stocks

Advertisement for Elbe caviar in the Kreuzzeitung newspaper from December 23, 1857

The Elbe was once considered to be one of the rivers rich in fish in Europe. Around 1900 the Elbe fishermen's yields were around 100 kilograms per hectare, twice as high as in lakes. This included stationary fish as well as migratory fish that switched back and forth between the river system and the open sea. One of the most spectacular migratory fish species was the sturgeon , of which specimens over three meters long were sometimes caught. Already in the 19th century the stocks declined - caused by the first expansion measures in the river, bank reinforcements and the removal of gravel banks. At the beginning of the 20th century, industrial wastewater was added, which reduced the oxygen content of the river water and poisoned it. In 1921 the last major Elbe sturgeon was probably caught near Wootz in Brandenburg. At the latest with the construction of the Geesthacht barrage in 1960, the free hiking between the river and the North Sea ended; an existing fish passage was practically ineffective (see main article Geesthacht barrage: fish ladders ). In addition, extreme water pollution in the 20th century contributed to the extinction of many fish species.

Since the significant improvement in water quality around 1990, some fish stocks have recovered and species diversity has increased again. At the same time, the lack of continuity of the barrages, which has meanwhile been recognized as a fundamental problem, was systematically researched. A bypass channel at the Geesthacht barrage , which was only built in 1998, was only able to improve patency for strong fish species of limited size. Only since August 2010 has the barrage been largely continuous again , with another flatter and larger fish ladder (550 m length with a 4 m drop height, 16 m width), which was built as a compensatory measure for the coal-fired power station Moorburg , also for weak species such as smelt and for the very large Atlantic sturgeon. The number of ascended individuals increased almost by a factor of 20, despite the less favorable situation compared to the preserved older system. The fish fauna of the Elbe River currently consists of 112 species. These include 47 limnic (living in fresh water), 17 euryhaline (migrating species between salt and fresh water) and 48 marine species. In addition to well-known names such as eel, pike, carp and pikeperch, there are also chub, hazel, tench, lead, burbot, perch, barbel, aland, gudgeon, bleak, sea trout, pike, zope and the rare North Sea bill. The lower reaches is smelt the quantitatively dominant by far way. However, some Elbfische must continue with increased the consumption of heavy metals are expected and other pollution, particularly in older, high-fat and living at the bottom animals. The lack of barrages (exception: Geesthacht ) in the German section is particularly positive compared to rivers such as the Upper Rhine or the Moselle .

The Atlantic salmon is also a migratory fish that used to be very common in the Elbe ("poor people's food") and was then completely displaced by water pollution and construction. In 1925 the salmon fishery, which had been very profitable until then, came to a standstill. After the division of Germany was overcome, attempts to reintroduce salmon from Scandinavia and Ireland began in Saxony. The first modest successes are visible, but not yet sustainable. The fact that a 1.04 meter tall salmon was caught on the German-Czech border in August 2006 can be seen as a success.

The constant deepening measures in the lower reaches (dredging the fairway to Hamburg) and other expansion measures, however, led to critical oxygen deficiency in the water again at times, so that many fish were suffocated. Extremely high and extremely low water levels also contribute to this - in the first case, for example, many nutrients are carried into the river from flooded fields, which lead to algae blooms and subsequent oxygen consumption.

Water quality

Waste water discharge from the cellulose and viscose wool plant in Wittenberge (1990)
Taking a water sample for water monitoring (1974)

The mining , iron and steel industry, pulp and chemical industry in the upper catchment area caused extremely high pollution of the water quality by heavy metals and other pollutants , especially in the second half of the 20th century .

After the reunification of Germany in 1990, especially in the area of ​​the Mulde tributary, a rehabilitation or even cessation of production was achieved and the heavy metal input could be significantly reduced. After reunification, the construction of municipal sewage treatment plants was accelerated in the Elbe neighboring communities . Until then, domestic wastewater had often flown untreated into the Elbe. Dresden, at that time one of the most populous cities in Germany, had been treating its wastewater since 1910 in what was then the most modern mechanical sewage treatment plant in Dresden-Kaditz . Before 1990, the Elbe “competed” with the Saale for the title of “dirtiest river in Central Europe” - sarcastically, Dresden residents said that one could also use Elbe water instead of asphalt for asphalt work.

Since the early 1990s, the loss of many branches of industry and the construction of sewage treatment plants have reduced the pollutant content of the water considerably, in some cases by around 90 percent. In certain sections - for example on the Czech side near the mouth of the Vltava - increased pollution levels are still measured today. In addition, “historical” pollutant accumulations can still be found in the sediment of the river and especially in the soils of the floodplains in the foreland of the dike. The input of nutrients and pesticides from agriculture is also currently causing problems. According to water quality classes , the Elbe is still rated as "critically polluted" on most stretches.

Significant new pollutant peak values ​​can arise as a result of floods, such as the summer floods of 2002. In the process, contaminated sites from poison dumps from the GDR era may have been released and washed into the river. A focal point of such contaminated sites is in the Bitterfeld region on the lower Mulde. Since then , the Federal Environment Agency has determined that the limit values ​​for HCH (compare: lindane ) have been exceeded by up to 18 times for the fish species bream . Since this pollution has been observed for several years in a row, in addition to the explanatory cause “flood” there is now the suspicion that there must be current, permanent HCH sources. The inadequately secured “Antonie” toxic waste dump and the highly contaminated Spittelwasser valley near Bitterfeld are considered to be such. Bream with HCH values ​​above those of the German maximum quantity regulation are still caught near Hamburg.

In the dike foreland of some downstream regions, high concentrations of the “super poison” dioxin were measured after the flood wave of 2002 , which is likely to contaminate these areas over the long term. These are deposits from magnesium smelting in the Second World War in the Bitterfeld-Wolfen region , which were carried over the Mulde by floods into the Elbe meadows.

The Elbe International Warning and Alarm Plan, which has been in effect since 1991 , has been improved since 2004 by the Elbe Alarm Model (ALAMO) . This computer-aided model is intended to predict the occurrence, duration and concentration of pollutants for the course of the river from the Czech Republic to the Geesthacht weir near Hamburg.

Even when the water is low, a higher concentration of pollutants is expected in the water because the pollutants are then less diluted. The Federal Institute for Hydrology therefore regularly examines the water of the Elbe and other German rivers during extreme high and low tides and documents the results on the Undine information platform. The results show that even with these extremely high or low water levels, the chemical content of the water in the Elbe is below the limit values ​​of the Drinking Water Ordinance and the bacterial load with Escherichia coli is below the limit values ​​of the EU Bathing Water Directive for excellent bathing water quality. The germ load is only briefly increased during extreme floods (due to overflowing sewage treatment plants) or after heavy rain events (due to the overflow from the mixed water sewer system).

Because of the generally improved water quality of the Elbe, an " International Elbe Bathing Day " (for the first time on July 14, 2002) is again encouraging public swimming in the Elbe. However, this is not without risk due to strong and unpredictable currents, especially in the area of ​​the groyne heads and in the middle of the river. Strong algae growth also leads to increased pH values in summer (between 7.5 and 9.5, i.e. slightly alkaline ), which can cause skin irritation when bathing. For comparison: the maximum permissible pH value in drinking water is 9.5.

Large protected areas

National parks

Krkonose National Park : Elbe, just behind the source

Four areas along the Elbe have the status of a national park : the Riesengebirge National Park (370 km²) in the area of ​​the headwaters, the "Saxon Switzerland" National Park (93 km²) in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, the Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park (138 km²) and the "Schleswig- Holsteinisches Wattenmeer “ (4410 km²; only a small part of it in the area of ​​the Elbe estuary). The "Elbtalaue" national park, designated in Lower Saxony in 1998, had to be dissolved again after a short time for formal legal reasons and because of the lawsuit of an individual farmer, as it did not meet the strict international criteria of a reserve in its core area of ​​humans in the sense of a "development national park" unaffected natural landscape.

Biosphere reserve

As a consequence of its formal unsuitability as a national park, but also initiated in parallel, large parts of the central Elbe were recognized as a biosphere reserve in 1997 . In addition to nature conservation , the focus is also on the management of tourism and agriculture. The transnational UNESCO biosphere reserve "River Landscape Elbe" between Saxony-Anhalt and Schleswig-Holstein comprises a total of 3,428 km² and a river length of over 400 km . In addition, there are several biosphere reserves (BSR) designated according to state nature conservation law within the federal state boundaries, some of which are congruent with the UNESCO reserve, for example the Middle Elbe biosphere reserve around Dessau-Roßlau , the Elbe-Brandenburg river landscape biosphere reserve and the BSR " Lower Saxony Elbe Valley ".

Fauna-Flora-Habitat-Directive of the EU

As part of the European Natura 2000 network of protected areas , the federal states and the federal government reported several areas along the Elbe to the EU Commission in Brussels as FFH areas . This is a strict category of protected areas that is intended to ensure that nature takes precedence over various interests and is committed to the idea of ​​a biotope network . The FFH areas are often congruent with other protected area categories that have already been designated.

Bird sanctuary according to EU directive

On the lower Middle Elbe and Lower Elbe, several areas are designated according to this protection category, which, in parallel to the Habitats Directive, specifically takes bird life into account. Several wetlands of international importance according to the Ramsar Convention are located in the same section .

Nature reserve

The status of a nature reserve - this strict protection category according to state law - has numerous smaller areas along the Elbe, which can, but do not have to be, part of the large protected areas. In the case of designation as an FFH area or core zone of a national park or biosphere reserve, the previous NSG ordinance can also be repealed.

Landscape protection area

Landscape protection areas as a weak protection category under state law are mentioned here for the sake of completeness; in fact, they have little relevance for nature conservation. Landscape protection areas serve more to preserve the landscapes formed by human influences. In urban areas, they protect the remaining areas of the floodplains from overbuilding.

Natural park

A nature park is a predominantly tourist area category. In the course of the Elbe, the Elbhöhen-Wendland Nature Park (1160 km²) in Lower Saxony should be mentioned. That section of the Elbe, which was a border area between the end of the Second World War and German reunification (see also section: " Inner German border "), is now also part of the " Green Belt " - a project that promotes those who have often remained in a natural state, 1400 km long inner-German border strip wants to maintain and expand as closely connected biotope network system as possible.

Settlement History and Political Boundaries


The northern Elbe area has been populated since the Paleolithic around 200,000 years ago - much later than areas in Western Europe. The settlement was interrupted by various glacial periods, the glaciation of which either directly affected the Elbe area or at least influenced it periglacial and made it uninhabitable. In warm periods the Elbe valley with its fertile alluvial clay deposits and the abundance of fish and game offered more favorable living conditions than the surrounding area. The Elbe was bordered by dense riparian forests, which later provided fuel and building material.

After the last ice age around 10,000 years ago, the area was initially (re) populated by hunter and gatherer cultures. Probably not until 4500 BC. BC (upper reaches) to 3000 BC The people who settled on the Elbe began to practice agriculture and domesticate animals (northern Danubian, ceramic peasant cultures of the Neolithic period ). The nutrient-rich loess soils around Magdeburg were preferred because they were the most productive. In the period between 2500 and 1700 BC Central Europe was inhabited by early Indo-Europeans from the Kurgan and Schnurkeramik circle. In the Late Bronze Age migration period between 1250 and 750 BC. The upper and middle Elbe area is characterized by urn field cultures, while the Nordic (early Germanic) bronze culture predominated in the lower part. Exact names of tribes that existed in the period between 6000 BC. BC and around 1000 BC BC on the Elbe are no longer preserved.


The Greek poet Hesiod (* before 700 BC) mentions the legendary amber river Eridanos , in whose imagination knowledge of the Elbe could have been incorporated. The Greek navigator and explorer Pytheas of Massalia arrived around 325 BC. BC probably as far as Heligoland and the mouth of the Elbe. When the Teutons from southern Scandinavia and the south-western Baltic region spread over large parts of Central and Eastern Europe during Roman times, the Lombards and the Semnones settled on the lower reaches of the Elbe , both of which are regarded as sub-tribes of the Suebi . The Germanic tribes on the Elbe are roughly summarized as Elbe Germans .

Between 12 BC BC and AD 16 the Roman Empire tried to bring the Germanic tribes between the Rhine and Elbe (Fluvius Albis) under its control ( Auguste Teutonic Wars ). Roman armies reached or crossed the Elbe. In the year 9 BC In BC Drusus led his legions to the bank of the river for the first time. The campaign is considered to be the climax of the Drusus campaigns (12 BC to 8 BC). In the year 3 BC The consul Domitius Ahenobarbus was able to advance to the right Elbe area. The later Emperor Tiberius defeated the Elbe Germanic Lombards in 5 AD - the last year of the war of the immensum bellum , a great Germanic uprising - and finally faced the summons of the Semnones and Hermundurs , only separated by the Elbe . A Roman fleet had entered the Elbe to support and supply the legions. The apparently perfectly coordinated maneuver is "admirable and without a doubt represents the climax of the Roman Germanic campaigns."

By the year 5 AD at the latest, the Romans began to grasp the Elbe border seriously. The establishment of this border presupposed the elimination or submission of the powerful empire of the Marcomanni king Marbod in Bohemia and on both sides of the Elbe. In the year 6 AD Tiberius led 12 legions into the Bohemian heartland of Marbods. However, the attack had to be stopped because of the beginning Pannonian uprising .

In 9 AD, the devastating Roman defeat of Publius Quinctilius Varus in the battle of the Teutoburg Forest against the tribes led by Arminius ruined all progress made by the Romans. Nevertheless, soon afterwards Augustus boasted in his res gestae (report of deeds) from the years 13/14 AD that he had extended the borders of the empire to the mouth of the Elbe, and thus provides the earliest reliably datable mention of the Elbe. Germanicus , the son of Drusus, tried in vain to force the tribes between the Rhine and Elbe to subjugate the tribes between the Rhine and Elbe in the years 14 to 16 AD with great military effort, high losses and against the express wish of Tiberius, who has meanwhile been crowned emperor ( Germanicus Campaigns ). Before the Battle of Idistaviso in 16 AD (probably east of the Weser ), the general motivated his soldiers with the prospect that "the Elbe was already closer than the Rhine, and beyond that there would be no war (any more)". The offensive got stuck, however. Tiberius recalled Germanicus, but granted him a triumphal procession the following year on the occasion of his victory "over the Cherusci , Chatti and Angrivarians as well as the other tribes that inhabit [the country] as far as the Elbe". The conquest of Germania finally failed in AD 16; However, it was not until 28 AD that the Frisian rebellion ended the influence of the Romans on the North Sea coast and thus at the mouth of the Elbe.

Great Migration

At the beginning of the Marcomannic Wars , the Lombards invaded the Roman Empire in AD 166 and occupied the area on the central Danube . From around 200 onwards, the Saxons (for the difference to the current meaning of the name see below) pushed forward from the north and northwest into the areas between the Elbe and Weser. The area of ​​their eastern branch, the Ostfalen, extended east of the Harz to the Elbe. The term Nordalbingier is also used for the Saxons north of the Lower Elbe. The Marcomanni advanced to the upper Elbe and there defeated the Celtic Boier , from which the German name for the Czech Elbe lands is derived. Probably a mixed people developed from it. It is still unclear how large it was in the development of the Bavarian wars in today's Bavaria at the end of the 5th century AD.

The advancing Slavs settled in the area of ​​today's Magdeburg only as far as the Elbe, north of it almost to Ilmenau and Aller. The landscape names Wendland = Slawenland and Altmark = old borderland and place names on -in, -itz and -ow remind of this. Further south, the Slavic settlement area extended roughly as far as the Saale. All of Bohemia became Slavic and even parts of the Main region and today's Upper Palatinate. The Slavs on the Middle Elbe called themselves Polaben after Labi, the Slavic name of the Elbe. In German, the Czechs used to be called Bohemians, all other Western Slavs except the Poles as Wenden or Winden. How far is the first major West Slavic state, the empire of the Moravians was enough in the catchment area of the Elbe, is debatable.

middle Ages

The Albrechtsburg in Meißen (Saxony)

Around 900 a first state emerged under the Přemyslids in Bohemia . After joining the Holy Roman Empire , he retained nominal independence; the Przemyslids and their successors were kings of Bohemia, while the emperors were also the German kings. North of the Ore Mountains, the East Franconian Empire laid the foundation for the German settlement in the east with the establishment and expansion of border marks . This is how Meißen Castle was built in 929 and the Margraviate of Meißen was expanded up to the Neisse until the 11th century . Mecklenburg joined the Holy Roman Empire under a Slavic ruling house and over time became German through assimilation of the local Obotrites to the German immigrants.

In the further course of the Middle Ages, many territories split up. At the time of Charles IV in 1378, the Elbe flowed through or touched the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Burgraviate of Dohna , the Margraviate of Meißen, the Electorate of Saxony-Wittenberg, the Principality of Anhalt, the Archdiocese of Magdeburg, the Electorate of Brandenburg, the Duchy of Brunswick, the Duchy of Mecklenburg -Schwerin, the Duchy of Saxony-Lauenburg, the County of Holstein, the Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Dithmarschen and the Archdiocese of Bremen.

After the Ascanians died out in Saxony-Wittenberg, the land and electoral dignity were transferred to the Margraves of Meissen. Only since then has the term " Saxony " been used for the area and residents of what is now the Free State of Saxony.

Modern times

In the phase of absolutism (1740) are the main countries bordering the to were the Habsburg Empire belonging Kingdom of Bohemia , the electorates of Saxony, Brandenburg and Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) , Hamburg and the Kingdom of Denmark under standing Holstein . At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the northern half of the previous Electoral Saxony and with it the city of Wittenberg fell to the Kingdom of Prussia . Only the Upper Elbe around Dresden remained part of the Kingdom of Saxony. After the annexation of Hanover by Prussia (1866), the lower reaches, apart from Hamburg and its exclave Cuxhaven, were also Prussian. From 1871 only Austria-Hungary and the German Empire shared the Elbe region. At the end of the First World War , the Danube Monarchy disintegrated and Bohemia became the core area of Czechoslovakia .

In the Peace Treaty of Versailles , the Elbe, along with the Danube , Memel and Oder, was declared an international river . With the signing of the Munich Agreement on September 30, 1938, Czechoslovakia had to cede the German-speaking Sudetenland to the German Reich. Until the German annexation of the remaining Czech territories and the formation of the Reich Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia on March 15, 1939, the Elbe near Leitmeritz in places formed the new state border.

Autumnal Middle Elbe between Lower Saxony (right) and Brandenburg. Among other things, because the river in this section was the inner-German border , a relatively natural, unspoilt bank has been preserved up to the present day.

After the Second World War , Germany was divided into the zones of occupation of the four allied victorious powers. The Elbe now flowed through Czechoslovakia , then through the Soviet occupation zone (from 1949 German Democratic Republic ). In June 1945 the Americans left the East Elbe office of Neuhaus, which belongs to the province of Hanover, to the Soviets . The area now became part of the newly founded state of Mecklenburg . Thus the Elbe between Schnackenburg and Boizenburg / Lauenburg became the border river between the British and Soviet occupation zones. From 1949 until 1990 this piece marked the border between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic (see also section: " Inner German border "). The lower reaches belonged entirely to the Federal Republic of Germany.

In the course of the removal of the Iron Curtain and the reunification of Germany, the Elbe now flows through or touches the Czech Republic and the German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg. The Neuhaus office initially belonged to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, but was then ceded to Lower Saxony in a 1993 State Treaty.

Economic and historical importance

The former fishing village of Wachwitz in Dresden

The fish abundance of the Elbe was the basis of commercial fishing all along the course until the 20th century. With the advancement of industrialization, however, the water quality continued to decline and the fish population fell sharply. Any remaining fish became inedible, so that, with the exception of the Elbe estuary, commercial fishing was stopped almost everywhere . Some examples of the old fishing villages along the Elbe have survived to the present day, even if there is no longer any fishing. In Dresden the old village centers are chained up as part of the south-eastern urban area.

The Elbe has also been of central importance as a transport route for centuries. Similar to the Rhine, the Elbe allowed the Hanse to penetrate far to almost the low mountain range. In addition to Hamburg, Magdeburg was an important city on the Elbe for the Hanseatic League. The Elbe was therefore part of a continental trading system from the 12th century that stretched from Bruges to Königsberg . Bomätscher was the name of the workers along the Elbe who pulled ships up the river during this time ( towed ).

In the early modern period, the course of the river retained its importance as a trade route despite the decline of the Hanseatic League. The Elbe remained unrivaled as a transport route, particularly until a continuous railway network was completed in Central Europe. With the invention of the steam engine and the emergence of steamships at the end of the 18th century , it was much easier and faster to travel upriver. The steam power to drive ships was used economically almost 20 years before the introduction of the steam locomotive . For decades, freight was transported by chain towing on the Elbe , which only ended with the Second World War. In contrast, the paddle steamer principle has been retained on the Upper Elbe to this day, which also allows ships with very shallow drafts.

Important transport goods were cloth and fabric from Silesia , which were shipped in particular as textiles via Hamburg to America, but also wood from the low mountain ranges, which was needed for shipbuilding at the coastal shipyards . Ores and silver were also exported from Bohemia and Saxony ; Colonial goods flowed in the opposite direction .

Later, with the progressive networking of the railway systems (see the history of the railway in Germany ), the importance of shipping declined. For bulk cargo such as coal and wood, and later also for other goods, especially from the chemical industry, the importance as a transport route remained until around 1990. Since then, the transport of goods on the Elbe has declined continuously.

Inner German border

With the Yalta Declaration , the Allies decided as early as February 1945 to divide the German Reich into four zones of occupation. On April 25, 1945 the fronts of the Soviet and American troops met in Strehla near Riesa on the Elbe; this meeting was symbolically filmed on the Elbe the following day in Torgau, which today is often mistakenly regarded as the first meeting of the Allies.

After the Americans withdrew from Central Germany , the Elbe border was limited to the section between the German river kilometers 473 (near Lütkenwisch, east of Schnackenburg ) and 566 (between Boizenburg and Lauenburg ); here the British occupation zone on the west bank of the Elbe bordered the Soviet occupation zone on the east bank.

The exact course of the border in this 93.7 km long section was disputed between the Federal Republic and the GDR; one could not agree whether the border was in the middle of the Elbe (GDR view) or on the east bank or on the line connecting the groynes of the east bank. Inland shipping was able to use the Cumlosen (GDR) and Schnackenburg (FRG) control points for transit traffic to West Berlin and also for traffic between the GDR and the Federal Republic. No passenger shipping was permitted, only the transport of goods. During the division of Germany, officials from the West and East also worked together. So were current champion of East and West in use, and the icebreaker worked together on the Elbe in heavy ice conditions.

Initially, the Elbe border remained a so-called green border and was less closely guarded by the Red Army . Later, border troops from the GDR on land and on water took over the increasingly tight locking of the border. As early as 1952, a “ 5 km exclusion zone ” was set up inland along the dyke line. This was linked to a ban on entry for non-resident GDR citizens. Forced resettlements were made to intimidate the residents of the restricted area . In 1961, the GDR began building the Berlin Wall and fortifying the inner-German border. The Elbe dike was secured on the river side with a metal mesh fence; This was followed by a strip of mines with watchtowers and another metal mesh fence with a death strip, a column path and a barrier ditch. Single farms and villages were forcibly relocated and later razed .

The village of Rüterberg, located in a bend in the Elbe on an inland dune , was situated between the two fences and was thus cut off from the GDR side. The residents were only allowed to pass through the barrier to the rest of the GDR at certain times and were not allowed to receive visitors without permission. On the day before the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 8, 1989, the village republic of Rüterberg was proclaimed as a protest against these conditions. After the German reunification , the Interior Minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania allowed the village to use the name "Rüterberg, Village Republic 1967–1989".

Between 1961 and 1989 dozens of GDR citizens died trying to escape across the Elbe section of the inner-German border. On the initiative of Pastor Gottfried Winter, the community of Lanz (Prignitz) erected a memorial in 1999 for people who were killed trying to escape across the Elbe .

Cultural spaces and landscapes

The landscape on the Elbe is much less populated than the banks of comparable rivers in Europe. Nevertheless, cultural spaces, landscapes and objects of high international value have formed there. Cultural areas can be divided according to more densely populated areas, but also according to landscapes and agricultural areas. Important such cultural landscape units are Bohemia, the Upper Elbe Valley around Dresden, the area around Magdeburg, Dessau and Wittenberg and the Hanseatic area of ​​Hamburg. According to the criteria of agricultural use, for example, a wine-growing area in the Upper Elbe Valley , the fertile loess landscape of the Magdeburg Börde in the wider area of ​​Magdeburg and along the left Lower Elbe the old country as an important fruit-growing area.

In cities on the Elbe there are a total of three UNESCO World Heritage sites within Germany . Some have a close relationship with the Elbe, especially when it comes to cultural landscapes . In the case of individual objects that are recognized as World Heritage, a close connection to the Elbe is not obvious.

In the city of Wittenberg , Martin Luther initiated the Reformation of the Christian Church on October 31, 1517 . Luther's places of activity in Wittenberg and Eisleben were added to the list of world cultural heritage in 1996. In addition to the discovery of America by the Europeans, the Reformation is regarded as the epochal initial of the modern era .

In addition to these individual objects, cultural landscapes on the banks of the Elbe are also under protection. The Dessau-Wörlitz Garden Realm is a landscaped park based on the English model and covers an area of ​​142 km². Parts of the park also belong to the Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve and mark a transition from cultural to natural landscape. Numerous castles and villas are embedded in the formed meadow landscape. The Bauhaus sites in Dessau were also declared a World Heritage Site in 1996. The Bauhaus style originated in 1919 and is significant for classical modernism . In 1925 the Bauhaus moved from Weimar , where the places where it worked, to Dessau and later to Berlin. A close connection to the Elbe river cannot therefore be established.

This means that the three World Heritage sites are located on the Elbe in a short section between Wittenberge and Dessau. Together with the historically significant city of Magdeburg, which was used in the Middle Ages as one of the few imperial palaces in the eastern part of the empires, this area forms a cultural and historical core on the Elbe.

In 2004, the Dresden Elbe Valley cultural landscape was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. In contrast to the Dessau-Wörlitz Garden Realm, the 20 km long area is very much concentrated on the Elbe and runs through almost the entire city of Dresden. The centuries-long involvement of the river and the Elbe slope in the construction of the cityscape was honored. In addition to castles, parks, preserved village centers and the Elbe meadows , it includes the architecturally valuable city center, but also industrial-historical sites and technical monuments. The river landscape of the Elbe was very important for the recording, as the “historical” city ​​center alone - largely as a reconstruction after total war destruction and no longer existing in the original - would not have fulfilled sufficient criteria. Because of the landscape fragmentation of the Elbe meadows by the Waldschlößchenbrücke built in 2007-2013 , the World Heritage title was revoked again in June 2009 (see also section "Elbe crossings" ).

Other important sites include the Speicherstadt in Hamburg and the Königstein Fortress . The Speicherstadt in Hamburg, founded in 1883, was built entirely on piles. In the times of general cargo transport, the storage houses were used for the storage and refinement of goods and for the transfer of goods to customers by rail or road vehicles. Königstein Fortress, which was built in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains on the rock plateau of the same name , is the largest mountain fortress in Europe and rises 240 meters above the Elbe.

High tide, low tide, storm surges, ice drift

Winter floods in Dresden at the end of March 2005
Low water below the Augustus Bridge in Dresden (July 1904)
Low water in Dresden (level at 1 m, June 2005)
Historic low point in Magdeburg: 0.45 m on Sept. 19, 2018
Elbe flood in 2006, the city center of Hitzacker completely flooded

Seasonal floods are a natural part of the Elbe. Heavy precipitation events in the upper Elbe catchment area regularly generate flood waves. In addition to the winter floods that can also be observed on other rivers, a special feature of the Elbe is the occurrence of floods in late spring (April / May), favored by the snowmelt in the Giant Mountains. These are a prerequisite for the emergence of naturally valuable flood biotopes, especially on the lower middle reaches .

In August 2002, particularly long and extremely heavy summer rainfall in the upper reaches of the Elbe, the Vltava and other left tributaries such as the Mulde caused a so-called flood of the century , the Elbe flood of 2002 . The upper reaches and the upper middle reaches are generally more prone to the catastrophic effects of floods because of their proximity to lower mountain ranges with higher rainfall, the small cross-section of notched valleys and the higher flow velocity. Above all, the breakthrough valleys in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and in the Bohemian Central Mountains naturally have few alternative areas; In these areas, the river quickly reaches very high water levels and flow velocities during flooding. In the lower middle reaches the Elbe gets comparatively more uninhabited area. However, the lack of retention space due to dense floodplains is also very noticeable there. Although there are often no buildings there, the dikes are set so closely that the river has lost over 80% of its original floodplain. A practical reason for this may be that e.g. B. a meadow takes up to five years to fully recover from a flood.

The lower reaches are very well protected from floods caused by precipitation; However, the funnel shape , which is open to the northwest, makes the Elbe susceptible to storm surges (given the prevailing west and north-west winds) . After the great flood in 1962 the protection was dike increases and barrages improved to the extent that no comparable major damage in the area of the Port of Hamburg entered more.

During winter floods, ice floes (" ice drift ", historically also called "Bohemian cakes" in the Upper Saxon-German history) wedge themselves on bridge piers. Before the flood in March 1845 , the worst up to the Elbe flood in 2002, the Elbe was completely frozen.

However, this is not unusual per se in winter cold spells . E.g. the cold wave in Europe in 2012 , 1986/87 or 1929.

The 2002 flood was the first late summer flood to surpass the strongest winter floods in the past. The strong floods of 1784 , 1799 and 1845 all occurred after rapid snow melt. In the catchment area of ​​the Elbe there are five mountain ranges, the Giant Mountains, the Bavarian Forest , the Bohemian Forest , the Fichtel Mountains and the Ore Mountains, whose altitudes reach over 1000 m. This results in the high risk after melting snow. In contrast, the mountains mentioned, with the exception of the Ore Mountains, are hardly known as reservoir rain areas in westerly weather conditions . Heavy damming rain falls on these mountains, especially in the so-called Vb weather situation , in which the wet air masses that are drawn in come from the Mediterranean region and meet those mountain ranges that extend in an east-west direction.

The last moderate flood was in March 2006 . It was created due to moderate snowmelt with slightly increased amounts of snow, especially in the Ore Mountains . With these normal and almost annual floods, the alternative areas in Dresden and Magdeburg, for example, are sufficient, so that only a few inhabited areas are affected. In Dresden, some streets close to the banks have to be blocked from two meters above normal level. A system of Elbe meadows, old arms and flood channels acts there as flood protection, especially against the Elbe .

At the beginning of April 2006 - again caused by rapid and excessive snowmelt - an extraordinarily strong flood event developed, which in the lower central reaches below Wittenberge even exceeded the water levels of the 2002 flood . The main reason for this was that this time there were significantly fewer dike breaches and floods further upstream, so that the extremely large water masses reached the lower course without any significant capping of the discharge peak and hardly delayed. Also, the polders of the Havel , which this time, in contrast to the summer of 2002, were flooding, were not flooded in a controlled manner, which in August 2002 had provided relief further down the Elbe. The old towns of Hitzacker and Lauenburg were particularly hard hit . The renewed extreme flood reignited discussions about flood protection across national borders instead of the currently - apparently - still uncoordinated, local technical measures, some of which cancel each other out or reduce their efficiency.

The last severe Elbe flood was in 2013, see Floods in Central Europe 2013 .

Summer low water levels are also characteristic of the Elbe. In contrast to the Rhine , which is additionally fed by glacier meltwater in summer and has a large natural compensation basin with Lake Constance , the Elbe carries much more different amounts of water over the course of the year. During such times, several so-called hunger stones become visible. The Magdeburg cathedral rock, formerly called Hungerfelsen, appears when the water level is less than 1.3 m. The Hungerstein in Schönebeck becomes visible at 1.25 m water level. In Děčín , a large basalt stone is called Hungerstein, as its appearance heralded a time of need for shipper families and farmers on the Elbe. There is another hunger stone in Dresden-Cotta (located a little below the DB stop).

In 1904, according to contemporary reports, the Elbe almost completely dried up. Due to a prolonged drought, a water level of - at that time - "231 centimeters below zero" was measured in Dresden in August, the lowest level since 1811. Since the Elbe had not yet been dredged and deepened to the extent that it was dredged and the flow velocity was significantly lower than today (2015), the last remaining trickle could be waded through in many places in Dresden.

Although this corresponds to a current level in Dresden of 69 cm, this value can no longer be compared with today: This level was reached again on June 30, 2015, was 50 cm on August 11, 2015 for a few days below and reached in the In the summers of 1947 and 1952 even 21 cm. On January 9, 1954, the historically lowest water level was measured at 5 cm. The Elbe reached a new low on September 29, 2018 at 50 cm.

Too low a water level in the river means restrictions or even the complete cessation of shipping, which in the Dresden area is usually below 70 cm at the Dresden gauge.

River expansion, dyke construction

In today's German part of the Elbe, dikes were built as early as the 12th century. Over time, the dikes have been perfected and moved closer to the river. Today the Elbe lacks large areas of its original floodplain, up to 20 kilometers wide, so that flood damage due to the lack of space for the river is ultimately man-made. The flood plains have been reduced from an originally estimated 6,172 km² to 838 km² today.

The planned expansion of the Elbe began after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. In the Elbe Shipping Act of 1821, the riverside states committed themselves to freedom of navigation and to regulating the river for navigation through current construction measures , such as bank revetments , groynes , parallel works , thresholds and straightening by cutting off river bends by means of piercing - from 1866 in what is now the German area under the direction of the Elbe River Administration established in Magdeburg. At the end of the 19th century, the Elbe had a stable river bed, which contributed to the boom in shipping and the safer removal of ice and floods.

The necessary hinterland connection of the seaport of Hamburg and the impending approach of the Mittelland Canal at the beginning of the 1930s led to an overall plan for "low water regulation" until shortly before Hamburg, supplemented by Saale dams for water enrichment. The aim was a minimum loading depth of 1.30 m for 700 t ships. Due to the Second World War, these measures remained unfinished and were only partially continued by the GDR.

The difficulties of drawing the border on the Schnackenburg – Lauenburg border line, first with the Allies, later with the GDR, with the latter especially since the Wall was built in 1961, as well as the poor state of maintenance of the Elbe between Magdeburg and Lauenburg were reasons for the construction of the Elbe Lateral Canal in 1969– 1976.

In the Czech Republic, the Elbe is nowadays controlled by 24 barrages - and another planned one at Děčín  . The aim is to keep the Elbe as navigable as possible, in addition to generating electricity from hydropower. In addition, the weir systems are also intended to serve as flood protection by enabling targeted discharge control in connection with the management of dams on the Vltava and other tributaries in the Czech Republic. From a biological point of view, however, such structures are to be assessed negatively (see also section: “ Fish population ”).

Investigations after the reunification of Germany in 1990 showed that to maintain and improve shipping, which the Czech Republic is particularly interested in, an expansion of barrages would not be conceivable for economic reasons, but current-regulating measures. This means restoring and supplementing the existing, partially dilapidated regulatory structures with the aim of ensuring sufficient fairway depth even at low tide and stabilizing the river bed.

Geesthacht weir: the adjustable weir lock can be easily recognized through maintenance work

With the exception of the barrage at Geesthacht southeast of Hamburg, which was built in 1960 to protect against the influence of tides and which also regulates the water levels in the Hamburg harbor, and the Cracauer waterfall , a permanent low-water weir in the Old Elbe near Magdeburg, there are none in the course of the German river today further transverse structures of this type to regulate the flow. In the Magdeburg area, part of the water can also be diverted past the city via the Elbe flood canal during severe flooding . Compared to the Upper Rhine or Middle Weser, the Elbe is not congested in the German upper and middle reaches. Rather, attempts are being made to accelerate the Elbe with over 6000 groynes everywhere along the banks. As a result, the river should wash out its bed itself and deposit less sediment , so that the water depths in the fairway can be preserved. A side effect, however, is that the river bed sinks deeper and deeper into the ground and thereby lowers the groundwater level, which leads to a gradual drying out of the floodplain landscape. The sole sleepers that counteracted this had been severely neglected by the GDR.

In the interests of shipping, the Elbe was also shortened by several kilometers in the 19th and 20th centuries by cutting off curvatures and straightening the course. In 1933/34 the short litter near Vockerode was straightened and shortened by approx. 1.5 km. Only a short section between the German river kilometers 506 to 520 (Dömitz – Hitzacker) has so far been completely spared due to the Second World War and the division of Germany. Another human measure to “tame” the river is to fortify the banks with revetments ( rock fillings or packings). This should also prevent erosion and shifting of the river bed, but it increases the flow velocity. In addition, valuable river bank habitats for animals and plants are lost or cannot be created again because of the lack of flow dynamics. The intensive use of the lower reaches as a waterway requires, at least in this section, more measures to protect the bank.

For a further expansion of the Elbe, one must bear in mind that the section between Magdeburg and Lauenburg hardly plays a role for freight shipping because traffic is routed via the Mittelland Canal and the Elbe Lateral Canal . On the other hand, nature conservationists argue, even an expansion would not guarantee navigability, since low water phases could occur more and more frequently in the future as a result of the forecast climate change and the lack of supply lines for pumped-out groundwater from open- cast lignite mines in the catchment area; therefore further expansion of the Middle Elbe is very questionable, both economically and ecologically. Nevertheless, efforts are still being made, particularly by the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration , to expand the Elbe and make it navigable for so-called European ships. In this context, the planned Saale Canal near Barby is also of importance, which should improve the navigability of the Saale to Halle. However, environmental groups fear that the Saale Canal could provide arguments for further expansion of the Elbe.

The upper reaches of the Elbe are bounded by mountains - here near Rathen

In the upper reaches, the Elbe is bounded by low mountain ranges, which is why it is not diked anywhere in these sections on a larger scale. Longer dykes in Germany begin in the western Gohlis district of Dresden . Before that, the Elbe will be "diked" in a certain way by the embankment of the Elbe Valley Railway . In the middle and lower reaches of the man laid already in the Middle Ages to the first dikes to wrest the river settlement areas and later agricultural land.

The dikes of the lower reaches serve less to protect against flooding against the Elbe from its upper catchment area than to protect against storm surges and strong onshore weather conditions from the North Sea, which can be felt far up the Elbe, earlier up to above Lauenburg and since 1960 up to the Geesthacht barrage . Accordingly, these sea dikes are larger. The natural tidal range in the Lower Elbe ("Tide-Elbe") has increased significantly by cutting off and dikeing old arms of the Elbe and marshes as well as barriers on tributaries - in St. Pauli by around 1.5 m since 1870 to around 3 , 6 m. This anthropogenic change in the flow conditions is held responsible for the silting up of the fairway and the port of Hamburg, which is increasingly hindering modern large shipping. Efforts are therefore being made to reduce the so-called tidal pumping effect again ( deepening of the Elbe ) through back dikes, opening of lateral barriers and the targeted creation of artificial sandbanks and underwater islands .

Cities and regions

Elbe near Děčín
Elbe beach in Hamburg- Övelgönne

The largest cities on the Elbe in the Czech Republic are Hradec Králové (Königgrätz) , Pardubice (Pardubitz) , Ústí nad Labem (Aussig or Aussig on the Elbe) , all of which have almost 100,000 inhabitants. The most important German cities on the Elbe in downstream order are Dresden , Magdeburg and Hamburg . Important medium-sized and small towns along the Elbe are Děčín (Tetschen) , Pirna , Meißen , Riesa , Torgau , Lutherstadt Wittenberg , Dessau-Roßlau , Wittenberge , Wedel , Stade , Brunsbüttel and Cuxhaven .

Compression areas have formed around Dresden , Magdeburg and Hamburg . A - smaller - agglomeration has also been observed in the North Bohemian Basin around Ústí nad Labem. The districts of Ústí nad Labem , Teplice and Litoměřice belong to the German-Czech Euroregion Elbe / Labe , which cooperate across borders with the neighboring Saxon districts of Saxon Switzerland-Eastern Ore Mountains , Meißen and the state capital Dresden .

Since 1987 there has been a city ​​partnership between Dresden and Hamburg . A cooperation between Pirna and Děčín has even existed since 1975.

Compared to other rivers in Germany, such as the Rhine or the Main, the Elbe landscape is sparsely populated in parts. In contrast, the banks of some tributaries and their catchment areas, such as the banks of the Vltava ( Prague ), the Saale ( Halle ) and its tributary Weisse Elster ( Leipzig ) and the Havel and its tributary Spree ( Berlin ) , are much more densely populated . The lack of urban space over long stretches of the central reaches of the Elbe favored the preservation of natural river landscapes.

The Elbe Valley as a traffic route

The importance of the Elbe Valley as a transport route varies greatly from region to region. Where the river breaks through mountains, it determines the lines of the traffic routes. Railway lines in particular follow the valley because they rely on slight gradients. One example of this is the passage through the Elbe Sandstone Mountains as an important long-distance railway line . The middle and lower reaches, which meander through flatter regions, did not play a major role in the construction of parallel railway lines and highways. Railway tracks were laid out in such a way that they reach many cities and do not primarily follow the river valley. For example, there is no long-distance railway line between Dresden and Magdeburg along the Elbe. Rather, the Dresden – Magdeburg route connects cities such as Leipzig and Halle (Saale). Between Děčín and the mouth of the Vltava there are railway lines in the Czech Republic on both sides of the Elbe, similar to those on the Middle Rhine .

The Elbe Cycle Route , which follows the Elbe between Mělník and Cuxhaven , was introduced and expanded as an international tourist project . Its total length on the Elbe - the route begins 50 kilometers south of the Elbe in Prague - is around 930 kilometers.


Federal waterway

Canal crosses the Elbe on the
Magdeburg Canal Bridge

The Elbe (El) became Reichswasserstraße in 1921 with its entire share in Germany. In 1949 the portion in the Federal Republic of Germany was initially, from 1990 also the portion in the former GDR federal waterway . The importance of the Elbe as a waterway has been declining continuously since the 1990s. While around 5 million tons were still transported on the middle Elbe in 1998, it was only 0.8 million tons in 2011, 0.42 million tons in 2014, 0.3 million tons in 2016 and 0.19 million tons in 2018.

The inland Czech Republic, which is connected to the world port of Hamburg via the Elbe , is still pressing for Germany to expand the Elbe so that it can be navigated for longer periods of the year (see also the section on river development, dyke construction ). This is often justified with an obligation stemming from the Versailles Treaty and the Elbe Shipping Act from 1922 to guarantee a connection between the Czech Republic and Hamburg, where the Czech Republic has leased a port area that is no longer used with the Vltava port . According to an expert opinion by the Scientific Services of the German Bundestag , these obligations are no longer valid.

One of the most difficult passages for shipping is the river arch in front of Dresden's old town because of the high flow speed and the arched bridges lying close behind one another . That is why many Czech cargo ships are towed here for safety . Another difficult section is between the mouth of the Havel and Hitzacker (Elbe) , the so-called “ Böse Ort ” - a narrow 90 ° bend near Schnackenburg . At the Magdeburg cathedral rock, the width of the fairway is only 35 m instead of the 50 m otherwise required. For commercial shipping the encounter is not allowed at this point, the traffic control is effected by the water-Neubauamt Magdeburg controlled from Wahrschau , located upstream to the left side at the star bridge and downstream on the Magdeburg Werder at the entrance to inch same is located. Weakly motorized cargo ships are supported by tugs in the area of ​​the cathedral rock due to the high flow speed when driving upstream.

The Magdeburg waterway junction, which was opened to traffic in 2003, enables the Elbe to be crossed in an east-west direction via the canal bridge, thus opening a direct connection between the Mittelland and Elbe-Havel canals without the river - this was previously due to the low and unsafe conditions Elbe water level is a bottleneck. A considerable increase in freight transport was forecast, but this was not achieved; apart from the traffic in the Mittelland Canal, they have even declined sharply. This crossing connects the Elbe with the Oder , the Weser and, via the Rhine and Main, also with the Danube .

Plans from the time between the two world wars to connect Hamburg with Bremen and the Mittelland Canal in the Osnabrück area via a canal called the " Hansa Canal", which was to branch off the Elbe at Stade, were abandoned in the 1950s.

(For the lower course see also the section Elbe estuary and the main articles Elbe deepening and Lower Elbe .)

There are five waterways and shipping offices on the Elbe . These are in Dresden (responsible for the German river kilometers 0 to 290), Magdeburg (km 290–502), Lauenburg (km 502–607), Hamburg (km 633 left bank and 639 right bank to 689) and Cuxhaven (km 689 -727). The Hamburg Port Authority is responsible on behalf of the federal government for the route between the offices of Lauenburg and Hamburg (Hamburg port area) .

The Elbe belongs to waterway class  Va with restrictions from km 0.00 (German-Czech border) to km 454.80 ( Wittenberge ) , from there to km 607.50 (Oortkaten, beginning of the Hamburg port area) to class VIb; The inland waterways regulations apply to both sections . From km 638.98 (Tinsdal, end of the Hamburg port area) to km 727.73 (North Sea) it belongs to class Va, here the shipping route regulations apply . The Hamburg Port Traffic and Shipping Act applies in the Hamburg port area.

Legally, the Elbe federal waterway, in the area of ​​responsibility of the Hamburg Waterways and Shipping Office, still includes the estuaries of the left Elbe branches as federal waterways:

  • Bützflether Süderelbe (BSE) up to 2.5 km above the confluence with the Elbe at km 659.74,
  • Ruthenstrom (RuS) up to 2.3 km above the confluence with the Elbe at km 670.03,
  • Wischhafener Süderelbe (WSE) up to 3.0 km above the confluence with the Elbe at km 676.12.

BSE and RuS are not classified, WSE belongs to waterway class I. The maritime navigation regulations apply to all three sections.


Until 1946 the Elbe was only navigable as far as Poděbrady , then as far as Kolín . From 1974 onwards, the expansion to a fairway depth of 2.8 m as far as Chvaletice began , in order to supply the power station there with coal from Lovosice in northern Bohemia . The line was completed on May 19, 1977, so that at times up to four million tons of coal could be transported per year. In 1996 commercial shipping was discontinued and coal transports were shifted to the railroad. The navigability to Pardubice , 102 km uphill from the mouth of the Vltava and 211 km uphill from the German border, is blocked by environmental groups. The Vltava, for its part, is navigable from its mouth up to 20 km uphill from Prague .

The Czech Republic intends to improve navigability in its own lower reaches of the Elbe by building the Děčín barrage near the German border . The project, which has been favored since the 1990s, is met with violent opposition not only from environmentalists, but also from the CDU / FDP government in neighboring Saxony .

Important ports

The port of Hamburg is about 110 km upstream from the estuary (visible landmark: the Kugelbake near Cuxhaven). It is the second largest seaport in Europe after Rotterdam and offers berths for 320 seagoing vessels, 38 of which are intended for large container ships . Hamburg oncoming ships pass in Wedel the ship welcoming station Welcome Point , a local specialty and private initiative of the Ferry Station Schulau of 1952. Expiring vessels also be adopted in accordance with the desire for happy return.

Panoramic view of the Elbe and the port of Hamburg from the tower of Michels from

There are several smaller seaports between Hamburg and the North Sea, one for general cargo, for example in Brunsbüttel (on the right) and Cuxhaven (on the left). The ports on the Elbe above - that is, upstream - of Hamburg are not only used for inland navigation , but are also connected “trimodally”, i.e. This means that they are also served by the railroad and the truck. The Magdeburg port was expanded with a low water lock so that its water depth is always sufficient for inland waterways regardless of the Elbe water level . This ensures that it can be reached by ships entering from the Mittelland Canal or the Elbe-Havel Canal when the Elbe is low water.

Other inland ports are in Aken , Riesa, Dresden ( Alberthafen ), Děčín , Ústí nad Labem (once the largest inland port in Europe) and Lovosice . While harbor basins were excavated for the German inland ports in the 17th century, the ports of Děčín, Ústí nad Labem and Lovosice are located directly on the banks of the Elbe due to the narrow valley. The importance of these ports continued to decline. In 2018, for example, in the sum of all ports in the Saxon port network, only 152,000 tonnes were handled via inland waterway vessels, that is only 5.7% of the handling volume of the ports. Most of the goods handled there are between road and rail.

In front of the Dresden Terrassenufer - in addition to other piers for cabin passenger ships - is the central landing stage of the Saxon Steamship Company . After the landing stages in Hamburg, it is the second largest landing stage for liner shipping on the Elbe.

Elbe crossings

Important bridges and tunnels

Geesthacht barrage with B 404

The first well-known bridge in the German course of the Elbe is the Loschwitzer Bridge in Dresden , also known as the “Blue Wonder”. The cantilever bridge was finished in 1893 and is now a technical monument. The “Blue Wonder” is the fifth bridge over the Elbe below the Czech border. It follows in the urban area of ​​Dresden (after Waldschlößchenbrücke , Albertbrücke and Carolabrücke ) as the ninth Elbe bridge, the oldest still existing river bridge over the Elbe: the Augustus Bridge , the medieval remains of which are still present today but are not open to the public.

In the lower middle reaches the Elbe bridge Dömitz of the B 191 is remarkable. This is a 970 m long bridge between Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which was first opened in 1936. Having become impassable during World War II, it remained a symbol of the division of Germany for a long time. On the western side, the bridge could be walked on as far as the river bank and bicycles could be used, making it a popular excursion destination. Monitored by the Federal Border Guard , you could have a direct view of the opposite east bank, blocked off with barbed wire and lattice fences, and the old course of the road; on the eastern side, however, the bank was not accessible.

The current bridge with a span of 178 m was rebuilt at the beginning of the 1990s as part of the project reunification of traffic routes . It is the only road bridge in the 115 km long section between Wittenberge and Lauenburg - otherwise only car and passenger ferries run there. Two kilometers upstream are the ruins of the Dömitz railway bridge, built in 1870, of the former Wittenberge – Buchholz branch , the tracks of which are still located in Dömitz and Dannenberg . It was also destroyed towards the end of World War II. At Lauenburg a common road and rail bridge (single track) crosses the Elbe.

With the establishment of the barrage Geesthacht 1960, efficient road compound was at the same time across the river in the course of B 404 created (see main article barrage Geesthacht ) . Here ends the middle reaches of the river Elbe, which starts under- or lower Elbe .

For road and rail traffic, the last structural river crossings are before the mouth in Hamburg. These are the Hamburg Elbe bridges and the old and new Elbe tunnels . The new Elbe tunnel, through which the A 7 motorway runs , will remain a bottleneck in the northern German and northern European road network even after the expansion to four tubes. As part of the westward extension of the A 20 / A 22 , another Elbe tunnel is planned near Drochtersen .

Elbe ferries

The cross-border ferry from Schöna to Herrnskretschen ( Hřensko )

Upper Elbe

Almost all ferry connections along the Upper Elbe are organized by the Verkehrsverbund Oberelbe and operated, for example, in Dresden by the Dresdner Verkehrsbetriebe (DVB). The ferry density is particularly high in Saxon Switzerland, where the S-Bahn stations on the left bank are connected to the communities on the right bank at many ferry points. There are three ferry stations in Dresden . The castle ferry at Pillnitz is also designed as a car ferry. Down the river from Dresden there are longer sections of the Upper Elbe without a fixed river crossing. Only two ferries operate on the 25 kilometers of the river between Meißen and Riesa.

Middle Elbe

The distance between the bridge locations, some of which have several bridges, is sometimes quite large on the Middle Elbe. Therefore, the numerous ferries are important both for regional traffic (as a whole) and for national bicycle traffic. Many ferries, at least across the upper Middle Elbe, are yaw-rope ferries , which are held by a long cable and placed at an angle in the stream, being moved from one bank to the other by the force of the water. On the one hand, this is extremely environmentally friendly, but on the other hand, it leads to significantly longer failures during floods than motor ferries. The ferry at Sandau and the one at Havelberg now operate either as a yaw ferry or as a motor ferry, depending on the water level and time of year.

There are currently (2009) the following Elbe ferries that can be used by motor vehicle: Belgern / Tauschwitz, Dommitzsch / Prettin, Pretzsch / Mauken, Wartenburg / Elster, Coswig (Anhalt) / Wörlitz , Aken / Steutz, Breitenhagen / Tochheim, Barby / Walternienburg, Schartau / Rogätz, Grieben / Ferchland, Sandau / Büttnershof, Havelberg / Räbel, Schnackenburg / Lütkenwisch , Pevestorf / Lenzen , Neu Darchau / Darchau , Bleckede / Neuwendischthun .

Lower Elbe

The Zollenspieker - Hoopte car ferry between Hamburg's Vierlanden and the Lower Saxony bank near Winsen (Luhe) , the seat of the Harburg district, is primarily of tourist importance and runs every 10 minutes from March to November (up to 50 tons in weight). In the Hamburg city area, the HADAG shipping lines (in the Hamburg Transport Association HVV) can be used as a ferry, especially as a connection from the St. Pauli Landungsbrücken , Altona and Teufelsbrück to Finkenwerder and to two musical venues directly on the south bank of the Norderelbe and the Connection Blankenese - Cranz an der Este . The passenger ferry (LSF) runs all year round from Schulau in Holstein on the western edge of Hamburg's urban area to Lühe ( Altes Land ) in Lower Saxony . The currently discontinued Elbe-City-Jet connection Hamburg – Lühe – Staderersand ( Stade ) with catamaran high-speed ferries was important for commuters .

The most important ferry across the Lower Elbe is the Elbe ferry Glückstadt – Wischhafen , which is operated by four ferries. With a travel time of around 25 minutes, it can reduce its cycle to 20 minutes. Last but not least, it is attractive for cyclists who are spared the long waiting times for cars.

The history of the Brunsbüttel – Cuxhaven ferry connection goes back to the 18th century. It last existed until the operator went bankrupt in November 2017. In autumn 2018, the newly founded company Elbeferry GmbH planned to resume ferry operations in spring 2019 with the Fanafjord ferry from Norway . In order to obtain the guarantees from the two states concerned, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, required for financing, an economically viable concept would be required.


Water supply

In the Dresden water works Hosterwitz and Tolkewitz and in Nutzwasserwerk Saloppe is bank filtrate used. In Hosterwitz, the groundwater is also extended with river water if necessary . In 2008, 27% of Dresden's drinking water came from bank filtrate and 14% from enriched groundwater.

Raw water is obtained from the Elbe near Torgau to supply drinking water to an entire region. The local waterworks are part of the Elbaue-Ostharz long-distance water supply .


The water power of the Elbe used to be used to drive ship mills , recently only in Bohemia. But due to the river regulation and the construction of barrages since the beginning of the 20th century, the flow speed decreased so that all ship mills were removed, e.g. B. the one in Wegstädtl and finally the one in Pistian above Porta Bohemica on January 27, 1911.

There are only hydropower plants in the Czech Republic, none have been established along the German course of the Elbe.

On the Elbe there are two pumped storage plants to dampen the peak load of the power supply, each with an output of 120  MW : on the Elbe slope near Geesthacht the Geesthacht pumped storage power plant and upstream in Dresden the Niederwartha pumped storage plant .

Cooling water for power plants

There were four nuclear power plants on the Lower Elbe that needed the river water for their cooling circuit. The strong fluctuations in the water level and the low water susceptibility of the Elbe are unfavorable for nuclear reactors , as this does not guarantee a constant supply of cooling water. In the meantime, only the Brokdorf nuclear power plant is still in operation, the Brunsbüttel , Stade and Krümmel nuclear power plants have been shut down.

The Moorburg coal-fired power station is also cooled by water from the Elbe if not enough district heating is used. The Vockerode power plant was completely cooled with Elbe water, but has since been shut down and partially dismantled (chimneys blown, underground bunkers demolished, power generation systems expanded).


In terms of tourism, the Elbe is important as bathing water , for pleasure craft and passenger ships, and for cyclists via the Elbe Cycle Path .

As a result of the discontinuation of industrial plants and the construction of sewage treatment plants after 1990, the water of the Elbe is clean again and has bathing water quality with visibility depths of more than one meter. The water quality depends on the tributaries; in addition, in cities with mixed water sewer systems, coliforms get into the water after heavy rainfall. Bathing is permitted in all places on the Elbe with the exception of the city of Magdeburg . In Hamburg there is a warning about the waves of the cargo ships sailing there. When the water is low in summer , sandy beaches emerge between the groynes and on inner curves .

The use of waterways on the Elbe is declining and the number of pleasure craft is increasing. There are now more sport boats and passenger ships than freight ships. For example, 1,823 freight ships with 0.421 tonnes of cargo, 1,610 passenger ships, 3,089 pleasure boats and 544 other vehicles (e.g. police, THW) were counted on the Magdeburg city route in 2014. In 2016, the number of freight ships continued to decline; the amount transported fell to 0.3 million tons. In contrast, the use of passenger shipping is increasing . According to estimates by the Blaues Band association , between 350,000 and 400,000 tourists were transported on the Elbe in 2016.

The Elbe Cycle Path leads over 1220 kilometers from the source of the Elbe in Špindlerův Mlýn (Spindleruv Mlyn) in the Czech Republic to the mouth of the Elbe near Cuxhaven . It is used by both cyclists and pedestrians and has repeatedly been voted Germany's most popular long-distance cycle route by members of the ADFC . In Saxony-Anhalt, the Elbe Cycle Path was used by 430,000 tourists in 2015, who spent an average of EUR 73.29 per day on 6 days of stay.

Reception in art

Dresden from the right bank of the Elbe below the Augustus Bridge (Bernardo Bellotto)
Dresden from the right bank of the Elbe below the Augustus Bridge
Bernardo Bellotto , 1748
Oil on canvas
133 × 237 cm
Old Masters Picture Gallery

Unlike the Rhine and Danube , the Elbe has never had a significant or prominent reception in art, literature or folk art. The Moldau composed by Bedřich Smetana z. B. is expressly dedicated to only one tributary of the Elbe and also has a different direction in his cycle Mein Vaterland . The same applies to its tributary Saale , even more so to the Havel and its tributary Spree (especially this one in Berlin art). What is also unclear is the specific relationship between the Strauss waltz An der Elbe and the river.

In terms of literature, there is little to report about the Elbe; the focus here is on the cities, such as Dresden , Magdeburg and Hamburg .

There are also few pictorial-artistic representations of the Elbe itself (i.e. with a direct reference to it). Even one of the landscapes she directly influenced, the Ostragehege in Dresden (cf. the painting Das Große Gehege by Caspar David Friedrich ), is not associated with the river that shapes it. Very well known is the Canaletto view called oil paintings of Canaletto painter named Bernardo Bellotto , which he has painted in Dresden 1748th

The Elbe and life on the Elbe have been the subject of several films:

See also


  • Rafaela von Bredow : Attack on the Shire. In: Der Spiegel . Year 2005, Issue 50, ISSN  0038-7452 (representation of existing expansion plans).
  • Hans-Eckhard Dannenberg, Norbert Fischer , Franklin Kopitzsch (eds.): Land on the river. Contributions to the regional history of the Lower Elbe. Landscape Association of the Former Duchies of Bremen and Verden, Stade 2006, ISBN 3-931879-20-8 .
  • Ernst Paul Dörfler : Miracle of the Elbe - biography of a river. 5th edition, Verlag Janos Stekovics, Halle an der Saale 2013, ISBN 978-3-932863-40-0 .
  • Martin Eckoldt (Ed.): Rivers and canals. The history of the German waterways. DSV-Verlag, Hamburg 1998, ISBN 978-3-88412-243-3 .
  • Markward Herbert Fischer, Nadine Janetschke, Martin Kaden, Jan-Michael Lange: On the Elbe from Bad Schandau to Diesbar-Seusslitz (= miniatures on the geology of Saxony. Georouten . Issue 1). Dresden 2012, DNB 1138363987 .
  • Paul Th. Hoffmann: The Elbe. Current of German destiny and German culture. Broschek & Co., Hamburg 1939.
  • Helmut Jäger , Gerhard Mildenberger , P. Wolfgang Schmidt , Dieter TimpeElbe. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (RGA). 2nd Edition. Volume 7, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1989, ISBN 3-11-011445-3 , pp. 94-107.
  • Klaus-Peter Johne: The Romans on the Elbe. The Elbe river basin in the geographical view of the world and in the political consciousness of Greco-Roman antiquity. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2006, ISBN 978-3-05-003445-4 .
  • Karl Jüngel: The Elbe. Story about a river. Tykve, Böblingen 1993, ISBN 3-925434-61-5 .
  • Karl Jüngel: The Elbe. A historical journey through pictures. Convent-Verlag, Hamburg 2001, ISBN 3-934613-24-1 .
  • Hella Kemper: Elbe swimmer. The return of a bathing culture. Murmann, Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-938017-54-6 .
  • Hansjörg Küster: The Elbe: Landscape and History. C. H. Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-406-56209-9 .
  • International Commission for the Protection of the Elbe (IKSE): The Elbe and its catchment area - a geographic, hydrological and water management overview. Magdeburg 2005 ( digitized version ).
  • Andreas Martin, Norbert Fischer (ed.): The Elbe. About the change of a river from the Congress of Vienna (1815) to the present (= writings on Saxon history and folklore. Volume 58). Leipziger Universitätsverlag, Leipzig 2018, ISBN 978-3-96023-205-6 .
  • Werner Pälchen, Harald Walter (Hrsg.): Geology of Saxony. Part 1. Geological structure and history of development. 2nd, corrected edition, E. Schweizerbart'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3-510-65270-9 .
  • Uwe Rada : The Elbe: Europe's history in the river . Siedler, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-88680-995-0 .
  • Život Řeky: The Elbe. A résumé. Labe. Nicolai, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-87584-395-9 .
  • Thorsten Unger (Ed.): Natural and cultural area Elbe. Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle (Saale) 2014, ISBN 978-3-95462-231-3 .
  • Jörn Vanhöfen : The Elbe. Photo book. Kiepenheuer, Leipzig 2000, ISBN 3-378-01047-9 .
  • Bernd Wurlitzer: Giant Mountains. Marco Polo travel guide. Mairs Geogr. Verlag, Ostfildern / Innsbruck 1997, ISBN 3-89525-449-5 .

Web links

Commons : Elbe  - collection of images
Wiktionary: Elbe  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Complete list of rivers in the Elbe catchment area - FGG Elbe (PDF; 802 KB)

Individual evidence

  1. Lengths (in km) of the main shipping routes (main routes and certain secondary routes) of the federal inland waterways - with a distinction according to sections, based on the WSV. (PDF; 138 kB) Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration , accessed on May 30, 2019 .
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k l Elbe water profile. (PDF) In: dresden.de. Umweltamt Dresden, September 22, 2010, accessed on October 18, 2016 .
  3. German Hydrological Yearbook Elbe Region, Part I 2014. (PDF) State Office for Flood Protection and Water Management Saxony-Anhalt, p. 98 , accessed on November 3, 2018 (on: lhw.sachsen-anhalt.de, location in the yearbook not with “above of the mouth ", but with" below the limit "(to the CR), therefore the position of the level (513.63 km odM) from the position of the mouth (727.73 km above sea level) minus the position of the level (214.1 km above sea level) ) calculated).
  4. ^ German Hydrological Yearbook Elbe Region, Part III 2014. (PDF) ISSN 0949-3654. Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Hamburg Port Authority, p. 129 , accessed on October 4, 2017 (German, at: dgj.de, location in the yearbook not with "above the estuary", but with "below the border" (to CR) indicated, therefore the position of the gauge (191.33 km above sea level) calculated from the position of the mouth (727.73 km above sea level) minus the position of the level (536.4 km above sea level)).
  5. a b Working group of water suppliers in the catchment area of ​​the Elbe
  6. The catchment area of ​​the Elbe , fgg-elbe.de (Elbe river basin community)
  7. Oliver H. Herde: In the footsteps of Pytheas von Massalia (Master's thesis), in the place-name register
  8. Vladimir Orel (2003). A Handbook of Germanic Etymology . Brill, suffering. P. 13.
  9. Julius Pokorny : Indo-European Etymological Dictionary under albho-
  10. Hans Krahe : Our oldest river names , p. 52 f., 101
    Wolfgang Laur : Water names in Schleswig-Holstein. An overview , in: Contributions to Name Research , NF, Vol. 16 (1981), p. 118
  11. ↑ Foldable boat wiki: kilometer table km 121 - 121A
  12. Paddling on the ELBE km 107–220 (Riesa - Lu. Wittenberg). The Elbe kilometer 121. In: Paddelsport.de. Retrieved May 30, 2019 .
  13. Paddling on the ELBE km 220–262 (Lu. Wittenberg - Dessau). Vockerode - km 245. In: Paddelsport.de. Retrieved May 30, 2019 .
  14. ^ Hansjörg Küster : The Elbe. Landscape and history. Munich 2007, p. 36 f.
  15. Horst Geisler: Scientific data on the Brandenburg Neolithic. In: Werner Budesheim, Horst Keiling (ed.): On the younger Stone Age in Northern Germany. Insights into the life of the first farmers. Neumünster 1996, pp. 85-88.
  16. Holger Weilbeer: Sediment transport and sediment management in the Elbe estuary. In: The Coast , issue 86. 2018, p. 443 ( online ).
    Andreas Schöl, Werner Blohm, Annette Becker & Helmut Fischer: Investigations on the decline of high algal biomass in the limnic section of the tidal Elbe . Extended summaries of the 2008 annual conference (Konstanz). Hardegsen 2009, p. 1 ( [1] [PDF]). Maja Fickert, Thomas Strotmann:
    Hydrodynamic development of the tidal Elbe . Extended summaries of the 2008 annual conference (Konstanz). In: "Hamburg Port Authority - HPA" (Ed.): "Coastline Reports 9" . 2007, ISBN 978-3-9811839-1-7 , ISSN 0928-2734 , pp.

      60 ( [2] [PDF]).
  17. Holger Weilbeer: Sediment transport and sediment management in the Elbe estuary. In: The Coast , issue 86. 2018, p. 445 ( online ).
    Andreas Schöl, Werner Blohm, Annette Becker & Helmut Fischer: Investigations on the decline of high algal biomass in the limnic section of the tidal Elbe . Extended summaries of the 2008 annual conference (Konstanz). Hardegsen 2009, p. 2 ( [3] [PDF]).
  18. J. Kappenberg & H.-U. Fanger: Sediment transport in the tidal Elbe, the German Bight and in the North Sea . Ed .: "GKSS-Forschungszentrum Geesthacht GmbH". 2007, ISSN  0344-9629 , p. 21 ( [4] [PDF]).
  19. a b c Boehlich, Marcus J .: Tide dynamics of the Elbe . In: Bulletin of the Federal Institute for Hydraulic Engineering (86) . 2003, p. 55 ( [5] [PDF]).
  20. a b c Directory E, serial no. 9 der Chronik ( Memento from July 22, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration
  21. Announcement for Seafarers 93/07 ( Memento of September 18, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  22. a b elwis.de ( Memento from May 4, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  23. ^ Martin Stock, Hans-Heiner Bergmann, Herbert Zucchi: Watt. Habitat between land and sea. Heide 2007, p. 20 f.
  24. Ice flood 1784 ( Memento from July 18, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) on undine.bfag.de
  25. Ice flood 1799 ( Memento from July 18, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) on undine.bfag.de
  26. Josef Emanuel Hibsch : Explanations of the geological overview map of the Bohemian Central Mountains and the immediately adjacent areas . Tetschen 1926, pp. 26, 41-42
  27. Pälchen, Walter, 2008, pp 321, 472 ff.
  28. ^ Fischer, Kaden, Lange, Richardt, 2012, pp. 6–7.
  29. About Ohře. Retrieved October 21, 2014 .
  30. Locke's cowhide. Retrieved October 21, 2014 .
  31. ↑ Running waters in the Elbe catchment area (PDF; 499 kB)
  32. Defined according to geomorphological, pedological-geological and biogeographical criteria according to the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation , 1994
  33. ^ Elbe Habitat Foundation: Opportunity for the hemlock water fennel. Retrieved December 12, 2019 .
  34. Vattenfall: Europe's largest fish ladder near Geesthacht ( Memento from July 23, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) - website
  35. Horst Stolzenburg: Fish pass in Geesthacht sets standards . In: Fisch und Fang: fischundfang.de, May 11, 2011
  36. Thomas Gaumert: The fish monitoring on the Elbe river with special information on the Geesthacht weir - findings from 30 years of monitoring . Lecture at the symposium "Nature and Culture in the Elbe Valley" of the Lower Saxony Elbe Valley Biosphere Reserve Administration on November 13, 2010 in Hitzacker
  37. ^ René Schwartz: International pollutant / sediment management in the Elbe catchment area . Lecture at the symposium "Nature and Culture in the Elbe Valley" of the Lower Saxony Elbe Valley Biosphere Reserve Administration on November 13, 2010 in Hitzacker
  38. ^ G. Umlauf, G. Bidoglio, EH Christoph, J. Kampheus, F. Krüger, D. Landmann, AJ Schulz, R. Schwartz, K. Severin, B. Stachel, D. Stehr (2005); Acta Hydrochim. Hydrobiol. 33 (5), pp. 543-554
  39. Measurement program for extreme events in the Elbe region. Information platform Undine of the Federal Institute for Hydrology
  40. ↑ Bathing water quality of the Elbe . Blog entry with measured values ​​from the low water measurement program 2018
  41. Klaus-Peter Johne: The Romans on the Elbe. The Elbe river basin in the geographical view of the world and in the political consciousness of Greco-Roman antiquity. Berlin 2006, p. 141.
  42. cf. Klaus-Peter Johne: The Romans on the Elbe. The Elbe river basin in the geographical view of the world and in the political consciousness of Greco-Roman antiquity. Berlin 2006, p. 152.
  43. Klaus-Peter Johne: The Romans on the Elbe. The Elbe river basin in the geographical view of the world and in the political consciousness of Greco-Roman antiquity. Berlin 2006, pp. 150–152. General to the Roman Suebi problem in the time around and after the immensum bellum Dieter Timpe: Roman geostrategy in Germania during the occupation period. In: Johann-Sebastian Kühlborn a. a. (Ed.): Rome on the way to Germania. Geostrategy, roads of advance and logistics. International colloquium in Delbrück-Anreppen from November 4th to 6th, 2004 . Mainz 2008, pp. 199-236.
  44. This statement of Augustus in Res gestae divi Augusti 26 is strictly speaking correct, because the Chauken settled directly at the mouth of the Elbe, who did not fall away from the Romans in 9 AD.
  45. Tacitus: Annales 2,14,4 , translation by Hans-Werner Goetz, Karl-Wilhelm Welwei: Old Germania. Excerpts from ancient sources about the Germanic peoples and their relationship to the Roman Empire. Part 2. Darmstadt 1995, p. 105.
  46. Tacitus: Annales 2,41,2 , translation by Hans-Werner Goetz, Karl-Wilhelm Welwei: Old Germania. Excerpts from ancient sources about the Germanic peoples and their relationship to the Roman Empire Part 2. Darmstadt 1995, p. 117.
  47. Peace Treaty of Versailles , June 28, 1919. Part XII, Chapter III, Article 331
  48. Kathrin Otto: Measuring the Elbe ( Memento from April 9, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) on ndr.de.
  49. a b ndr.de: "When the Elbe was frozen, the risk of escape was greater." ( Memento from April 9, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  50. The new traveling exhibition: "28 Years Separated". (PDF, 937 kB) Representatives of the state of Brandenburg to deal with the consequences of the communist dictatorship, August 4, 2011, accessed on October 21, 2016 (report on the exhibition opening).
  51. Kunibert Wachten , Chair and Institute for Urban Development and Regional Planning at RWTH Aachen University: Expertise on the visual effects of the 'Waldschlösschenbrücke traffic train' on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Elbe Valley Dresden ' , April 2006
  52. Press release of the German UNESCO Commission from June 25, 2009
  53. How farmers suffer from the floods
  54. Ulrich Hübner: The new construction of the Augustus Bridge . In: Dresdner Geschichtsverein (Ed.): Dresdner Elbbrücken in eight centuries , Dresdner Hefte No. 94, ISBN 978-3-910055-90-2 , pp. 35–43, here especially p. 42.
  55. a b Lars Kühl: When the Elbe dried up . In: Sächsische Zeitung from July 4, 2015, online . Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  56. Magdeburger Volksstimme from September 20, 2018
  57. Elbe water level continues to sink - small brooks in Saxony dry . In Sächsische Zeitung of August 11, 2015, online . Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  58. Federal Environment Agency 2011: Floods - understand, recognize, act
  59. Deutsche Umwelthilfe e. V .: Report on a current study on the expected increase in low water phases
  60. BMV, BMU: Overall Elbe Concept. Strategic concept for the development of the German Inner Elbe and its floodplains. from January 17, 2017, pdf, 3 MB
  61. ^ A b c Dominik Bath: Dispute over the Elbe as an economic factor. In: Volksstimme, May 5, 2017, accessed on May 9, 2017
  62. Traffic Report 2018. (pdf; 19.4 MB) Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration, January 2020, accessed on August 4, 2020 .
  63. On the provisions of the Versailles Treaty and the final act of the Congress of Vienna with regard to the Elbe waterway. (pdf; 86 kB) Scientific Services of the German Bundestag, August 21, 2007, accessed on August 4, 2020 .
  64. Vladimír Žák: History přepravy uhlí po Labi. 2011, archived from the original on December 3, 2013 ; Retrieved December 1, 2013 (Czech).
  65. Za 15 miliard vzniknou na Labi i malé přístavy, dočkají se i Pardubice. August 28, 2012, accessed December 1, 2013 (Czech).
  66. Final end for Elbe ferry . In: Norddeutsche Rundschau of November 27, 2017, accessed on October 18, 2019
  67. New call for Elbe ferry planned between Brunsbüttel and Cuxhaven . In: Lübecker Nachrichten of November 25, 2018, accessed on October 18, 2018
  68. Wolfhart Fabarius: New attempt for Elbe ferry · Connection between Brunsbüttel and Cuxhaven only with an economically viable concept . In: Daily port report of November 27, 2018, p. 2
  69. Dresden-Hosterwitz waterworks (PDF; 366 KB). (PDF) (No longer available online.) In: drewag.de. January 2008, archived from the original on March 4, 2016 ; accessed on June 8, 2017 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.drewag.de
  70. drinking water. In: dresden.de. Archived from the original on April 19, 2015 ; Retrieved October 9, 2014 .
  71. Traffic report 2014 of the WSD Ost ( Memento from September 16, 2016 in the Internet Archive ); pdf; 1.96 MB
  72. The ADFC bicycle travel analysis 2017
  73. The boat of the happy people
This version was added to the list of excellent articles on July 1st, 2005 .