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History map Ruhr2.png
Water code EN : 276
location Germany
River system Rhine
Drain over Rhine  → North Sea
source Ruhrquelle near Winterberg in the Rothaargebirge
51 ° 12 '48 "  N , 8 ° 33' 28"  E
Source height approx.  674  m above sea level NN
muzzle near Duisburg- Ruhrort in the Rhine Coordinates: 51 ° 27 '3 "  N , 6 ° 43' 23"  E 51 ° 27 '3 "  N , 6 ° 43' 23"  E
Mouth height 20.2  m above sea level NN
Height difference approx. 653.8 m
Bottom slope approx. 3 ‰
length 219.3 km
Catchment area 4,485,362 km²
Discharge at the Mülheim
A Eo gauge : 4420 km²
Location: 13.2 km above the mouth
NNQ (06/17/1996)
MNQ 1991–2018
MQ 1991–2018
Mq 1991–2018
MHQ 1991–2018
HHQ (01/01/1994)
7.05 m³ / s
17.2 m³ / s
73.2 m³ / s
16.6 l / (s km²)
645 m³ / s
960 m³ / s
Left tributaries Wenne , Hönne , Lenne , Volme
(for these and others see below )
Right tributaries Möhne , Oelbach
(for these and others see below )
Reservoirs flowed through Reservoir Olsberg , Reservoir Hengsen , Hengsteysee , Harkortsee , Kemnader See , Baldeneysee , Kettwiger See
Big cities Dortmund , Hagen , Bochum , Essen , Mülheim an der Ruhr , Oberhausen , Duisburg
Medium-sized cities Meschede , Arnsberg , Fröndenberg , Menden , Iserlohn , Schwerte , Herdecke , Wetter , Witten , Hattingen
Small towns Winterberg , Olsberg
Communities Bestwig , Ense , Wickede , Holzwickede
Navigable 12.21 km from the Rhine to Mülheim an der Ruhr as a federal waterway ;
Another 29 km to Essen - Rellinghausen as a state waterway

The Ruhr is a 219.3 km long, right and eastern tributary of the Rhine in North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) with a catchment area of ​​4485 km².

The river runs for around 124 km in the area of ​​the regional association Ruhr and is eponymous for the largest agglomeration in Germany. Its name is explained by the fact that industrialization began at the end of the 18th century in the area of ​​the river, where the coal is stored close to the surface of the earth.

An important economic importance of the river today lies in the drinking and process water supply of the Ruhr area , for which the Ruhrverband is responsible, as well as in energy generation . In the 19th century, the Ruhr was at times the busiest waterway in Germany. At present, freight traffic only takes place on the last twelve kilometers of the river between the Mülheim Rhine-Ruhr port and the Rhine. The Ruhr Valley is a recreational area for the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region .

In the lower reaches, the mean flow rate of the Ruhr at the Mülheim gauge is 76 m³ / s. The natural runoff at the mouth, unaffected by water management measures, averages 81.6 m³ / s; According to these values, the Ruhr is the sixth largest tributary of the Rhine after its water flow .




Rondell through which the Ruhr flows near the
source of the Ruhr

The Ruhr rises in hochsauerländischen part of the Rothaargebirge on the northeast slope of the natural park Sauerland Rothaargebirge lying Ruhr head ( 695.7  m above sea level.  NN ). The Ruhr spring there is located about 3 km northeast of Winterberg and 1.5 km northwest of its Elkeringhausen district in a boggy area at an altitude of about 674  m . A little below this, the spring water flows through a small stone ring ( 666.5  m ).

Above the source, the Rhine-Weser watershed runs over the Ruhrkopf : While the Ruhr flows into the Rhine to the west, the water of the short streams that arise on the south-eastern slope of the Ruhrkopf flows through the rivers a little further east on the Reetsberg and mainly eastwards running Orke and then through the Eder and Fulda, ultimately north-east into the Weser .

The kilometering of the Ruhr refers neither to the actual Ruhr source nor to the aforementioned stone rondel, but to the source ( ) of an approximately 200 m long tributary to the Ruhr. It begins around 180 m east-southeast of the roundabout at an altitude of 667  m , with a river length of 219.3 km given. The source of the Ruhr does not have the longest branch of the source: Both the Hillebach , which joins the Ruhr at 6.7 km from the right , which is 7.7 km long, and the Negro , which joins from the left after 16.8 km of the Ruhr , which is 17.7 km long is (with nameless 20.3 km), are more watery and longer.

Course and places on the river

Urbanization in the Ruhr area is concentrated in the region north of the Ruhr.

With the exception of the first twenty kilometers, the Ruhr flows essentially in an east-west direction; it is bounded on both sides by mountain ranges of the Rhenish Slate Mountains.

From the source area in the Rothaargebirge Nature Park, the Ruhr initially flows northwards along the federal highway 480 towards the Arnsberger Wald Nature Park , before which it turns west at Olsberg . After Olsberg, the southern mountains of the last-named nature park join in the north, which extends into the valley of the river. Within the municipal areas of Bestwig and Meschede , the Ruhr water flows south of the Hainberg past the local nature reserve and further west to Arnsberg , the seat of the district government .

Further to the northwest, between Ense and Wickede (Ruhr) , the river reaches the south side of the Haarstrang , bends to the west at Wickede and from now on flows between the Haarstrang and the heights of the Sauerland to the west, past Fröndenberg / Ruhr , Menden (Sauerland ) , Holzwickede , Iserlohn and Schwerte . On the stretch in front of the Haarstrang, the Ruhr has already covered most of the total height difference to be overcome. At Fröndenberg the river is still 123  m above sea level. NN .

The old town of freedom weather over the Harkortsee

The Dortmund area extends in the south on the steep slope of the Ardey to the Ruhr. The southern districts have often developed into preferred residential areas, including Syburg . There, high above the Ruhr, is the building with which Dortmund was first mentioned in history: the Hohensyburg . On the opposite bank, in the urban area of Hagens , the Lenne and Volme flow into the Ruhr. With the Lenne coming from the south, the Ruhr takes in its largest tributary, which almost doubles its mean discharge volume from 30 to 55 cubic meters per second. Shortly afterwards, the Ruhr passes the Hengsteysee, the first large Ruhr reservoir that was built and operated by the Ruhrverband.

Herdeckes center is located above a bend in the river, exactly between the Hengstey and Harkort lakes , on the right bank of which is weather . Due to their direct location on the river, Wetter and Witten, a little further down the river, were important centers of the early industrialization of the Ruhr area.

Hattingen's old town in the Ruhr valley
Ruhrbogen on the western slope of the Ardey Mountains ; Witten Ruhr viaduct with Hohenstein hydroelectric power station and Berger monument (right); top left the Ruhr University Bochum

At the Harkortsee, the Ruhr makes a striking arc around a foothill of the Ardey Mountains , and finally continues to flow through the southern Ruhr area. In Bochum , the buildings of the Ruhr University stand on the heights above Lake Kemnader . A bridge that has long been used by the Hilinciweg has been crossing the river near Hattingen for centuries . It wasn't until 2002 that a new bridge towards Bochum was built at almost the same point.

Ruhr after flooding near Essen-Steele
Aerial view of the Ruhr estuary near Duisburg
Ruhr estuary with the sculpture Rheinorange

From Dahlhausen to Essen-Steele the Ruhr turns to the west, then flows back to the southwest around Essen- Überruhr through the Baldeneysee , touches Essen- Werden , which with its monastery was an independent imperial abbey until 1803 and became the city on August 1, 1929 Heard Essen and turns back to the northwest behind Lake Kettwig . Kettwig (since 1975 part of Essen) has a historical half-timbered core. Kettwig's Ruhr Bridge was first mentioned in a document in 1282. The southern districts of Essen are around 30 kilometers long on the Ruhr.

Towpath with bank development in Mülheim an der Ruhr

At the historic ford of the Hellweg in Mülheim an der Ruhr , near Broich Castle , the river reaches the Lower Rhine lowlands and changes its course one last time in the main direction to the west. Mülheim is the only city in the Ruhr area whose city ​​center is crossed by the river. The Rumbach flows as the last notable tributary in the immediate vicinity of Mülheim city center from the right. Oberhausen is only touched by the river on the southern border of the Alstaden district before the Ruhr reaches Duisburg , where it merges into the Duisburg-Ruhrort ports north of the city center .


After the Ruhr water has crossed around 160 bridges, the river empties at 20.2  m above sea level. NN near Duisburg- Ruhrort in the Rhine. The mouth of the Ruhr lies at 780 km on the Rhine and is marked by the Rheinorange landmark . This 25 m high steel slab comes from the Cologne sculptor Lutz Fritsch and was erected in Duisburg-Neuenkamp in 1992.

Subdivision of the Ruhr

The course of the Ruhr is (among other things) subdivided into Upper Ruhr, Middle Ruhr and Lower Ruhr, although, unlike the Rhine, there are divergent subdivisions.

Historical subdivision

Johann Georg Kohl wrote in 1851: “(...) The course of the Ruhr can then be divided into the following natural sections: 1.) The upper Ruhr valleys up to the union at Neheim and up to the mouth of the Möhne ; 2.) the middle Ruhr in a wide valley with several small tributaries to the mouth of the Lenne and to the narrow Thal passage at Herdecke ; 3.) the lower Ruhr from the last narrow point downwards through an always narrow valley and with very insignificant tributaries to the mouth. "

Hermann Adalbert Daniel described it similarly in 1867: "The middle Ruhr flows (...) from Neheim in the broad valley to the narrow passage of Herdecke".

According to Kohl, the mouth of the Möhne, with which the discharge increases by about 44% (see below), leads into the middle Ruhr, the mouth of the Volme as the last major tributary the lower Ruhr. The upper Ruhr would then be 81.9 km, the middle 49.8 km and the lower Ruhr 87.6 km long.

It should be noted that the reservoirs in the southern Ruhr area did not yet exist in the 19th century. These begin with the Hengsteysee immediately below the mouth of the Lenne , which doubles the discharge of the Ruhr, and above the mouth of the Volme.

Natural division

The natural spatial subdivision of the former institute for regional studies divided the valleys of the Ruhr as follows:

  • "Hochruhr" or course in the Rothaar Mountains (18.8 km)
  • "Oberruhr in the narrower sense" or course within the Sauerland depressions (30.4 km)
    • The Ruhr, which was previously flowing in a south-north direction, will soon change its direction to the west. After until immediately before Meschede ending Oberruhrgesenke (335.0), the closing Mescheder chamber (335.5) with the Wennemer Ruhrtal width (335.50) of the immediate west Mescheder center to just below Freienohls on. Shortly before the end of this section, the Wenne flowing in on the left increases the outflow by around 44% (see below); the valley width ends approximately at Ruhr-km 170.1 (union of two Ruhr arms).
  • Oeventroper Ruhrtal (Mittelruhr breakthrough; 21.9 km)
    • The Ruhr forms a winding valley (334.1) through the North Sauerland Oberland ; the north-west direction assumed shortly before leads the valley via Oeventrop to Arnsberg , where, after a long loop that is open to the north, it widens significantly at around Ruhr km 148.2 (crossing the railway).
  • Neheimer Ruhrtal (17.5 km)
    • Within the valley section (337 2 .5), which now runs through Lower Sauerland , but continues to the northwest , near Neheim, in particular the Möhne, coming from the right, increases the discharge of the Ruhr by around 44% (see below). The valley section ends approximately at Ruhr-km 130.7 in a valley under the right-hand inlet of the Bremen brook.
  • Mittelruhrsenke (37.3 km)
    • The Ruhr changes its direction of flow to the southwest; the Fröndenberg-Schwerter Ruhraue (337 2 .30) is bounded directly to the north by the Haarstrang . After passing Fröndenberg and Schwerte, the section ends approximately at Ruhr km 94.4 (confluence of two branches of the Ruhr), only 1.7 km above the mouth of the Lenne.
  • Course in the Hagen valley basin (14.6 km)
    • In the valley basin (337 2 .1) with the mainly west-southwest running Hagener Ruhrtal (337 2 .10) near Hagen , the last major tributaries of the Ruhr flow into the Lenne (doubling the outflow) and the Volme . To the north, in the Ardey Mountains , a part of the Rhenish Slate Mountains again borders the Ruhr valley, in the south the Lower Sauerland merges into the Bergisch-Märkische Hügelland roughly below the mouth of the Volme . The Ruhr is dammed in Hengstey and Harkortsee . The section ends around Ruhr-km 79.8 (Talenge below Wetter , bend from north-northwest to west-northwest), the Ruhr has already changed its main course to the northwest shortly before.
  • Ardeypforte (6.5 km)
    • The Ardeypforte (337 1 .4) between the Ardey and the Bergisch-Märkisches Hügelland represents the third breakthrough valley of the Ruhr after the joint exit of the Ruhr and Neger from the Rothaargebirge and the Mittelruhr breakthrough around Oeventrop. The section ends roughly at Witten on Ruhr km 73.3 (tributary of the Borbach or a right-hand Mühlgraben).
  • Ruhr valley between Witten and Mülheim (59.4 km)
    • The Ruhr valley (337 1 .2) and its northern edge heights again form the northern border of the Rhenish Slate Mountains and meet there with the (natural) Westenhellweg ; the river is dammed in Kemnader See and Baldeneysee . The section ends with the exit from the Rhenish Slate Mountains near Mülheim an der Ruhr , approximately at Ruhr-km 13.9 (confluence of two branches of the Ruhr).
  • Lower Ruhraue (13.9 km)
    • The estuary floodplain of the Ruhr (575.320) is part of the Lower Rhine Plain and ends with the confluence in Duisburg - Ruhrort .

This structure implicitly defines a beginning of the middle ridge with the middle ridge breakthrough and an end of the same with the middle ridge depression. This results in the following:

  • Oberruhr until just behind the Wennem estuary; 49.2 km
  • Middle Ruhr until shortly before the Lenne estuary; 75.7 km
  • Unterruhr 94.4 km

Division into planning rooms

The Arnsberg District Government, Ruhr office, divides the Ruhr catchment area into processing areas:

  • Upper Ruhr to the mouth of the Füchtenbecke near Ruhr-km 132.0 (87.3 km)
  • Middle Ruhr to the mouth of the Elsebach on Ruhr-km 99.3 (32.7 km)
  • Lower Ruhr to the mouth (99.3 km)

It should be noted, however, that these are primarily names for sub-catchment areas to be processed, not for river sections. The three above processing areas each contain the Ruhr sections together with the catchment areas of the smaller and medium-sized tributaries, while the catchment areas of the larger Möhne and Volme tributaries represent separate processing areas, the Lenne even their three (Obere Lenne, Untere Lenne and Bigge).

Further classifications

The terms Ober-, Mittel- and Unterruhr are still used in other such. Sometimes clearly different assignments are used:

  • The Sauerland Mountain Association divides the districts of Mittel- and Unterruhr according to communal boundaries that most closely correspond to those of the natural boundaries. However, Eslohe is also a community that is located in the catchment area of ​​the Mescheder Kammer. See the Structure section there .
  • The author Hans Baum titled his dissertation in 1936 with The Landscapes on the Upper Middle Ruhr between Olsberg and Neheim . For him, the Middle Ruhr began when the river left the Rothaargebirge.
  • Within the Ruhr area, the term is or was also used in the sense of the middle Ruhr area , especially in older books.

Ultimately, there is no single, bindingly recognized definition of upper, middle and lower reaches for the Ruhr, unlike for its receiving water, the Rhine.


Graphic representations

The following graphics are arranged in orographic order from bottom (source) to top (mouth).

The longest tributaries

The 13 longest tributaries of the Ruhr (length over 15 km) are:

Neger (Ruhr) Elpe (Fluss) Valme Henne (Fluss) Wenne Röhr (Fluss) Möhne Hönne Baarbach Lenne (Ruhr) Volme Sprockhöveler Bach Deilbach
The tributaries with the largest catchment area

The 12 tributaries of the Ruhr with the largest catchment area (at least 50 km²) are:

Neger (Ruhr) Valme Henne (Fluss) Wenne Röhr (Fluss) Möhne Hönne Baarbach Lenne (Ruhr) Volme Oelbach Deilbach Einzugsgebiet
The most water-rich tributaries

The following is the MQ balance (mean discharge) of the 7 most water-rich, almost 80% (60.5 of the approximately 77 m³ / s at the Mülheim gauge) contributing Ruhr tributaries (see here for data ):

Henne (Fluss) Wenne Röhr (Fluss) Möhne Hönne Lenne (Ruhr) Volme Abfluss

It can be seen in particular that the Lenne , despite a catchment area only about two thirds as large (1352.2 km² vs. 2088.9 km²), brings about the same amount of water to the union with the Ruhr as it does itself. More than half of its total water flows into the Ruhr in Lenne and Volme within a distance of only 5 km .

In the upper reaches, the negroes also bring a comparable amount and the Hillebach more water than the Ruhr below. There are no level values ​​for either.

Table of the main tributaries

All tributaries of the Ruhr with at least 20 km² catchment area , tributaries from the Rothaargebirge from 15 km² are listed below:

(For a better overview or for sorting downstream, hyphens are inserted in the DGKZ numbers after the 276 - Ruhr .)

to the complete table

Surname location Length


on the river
(*: source location / location near the source)
Ruhr before Hille not applicable 006.7 0013.7 212.6 Winterberg - Niedersfeld 276-1119
Hillebach right 007.7 0017.3 212.6 Winterberg - Hildfeld Wi - Niedersfeld 276-112
Dysentery before negroes not applicable 016.8 0053.0 202.5 + Olsberg - Wiemeringhausen , - Assinghausen Ol - stone light 276-1139
Negroes Left 017.7 0053.9 202.5 Winterberg - Siedlinghausen , Olsberg - Brunskappel Ol - stone light 276-114
Gierskoppbach right 011.9 0035.2 199.6 Ol - Bruchhausen , - Elleringhausen , - Gierskopp Olsberg 276-116
Elpe Left 018.7 0034.4 192.8 * Winterberg - Altenfeld , Olsberg - Elpe Bestwig - Ostwig 276-118
Valme Left 019.7 0062.7 191.6 Be - Ramsbeck , - Heringhausen Bestwig 276-12
Nierbach Left 010.1 0019.4 186.6 Meschede - Wehrstapel 276-134
hen Left 022.5 0097.0 182.3 Me - Mielinghausen , - Enkhausen Meschede 276-14
Ruhr before Wenne not applicable 045.8 0494.9 173.5 + Olsberg , Bestwig , Meschede (each + OTe) Me - Wennemen 276-159
Wenne Left 031.1 0218.6 173.5 * Schmallenberg , Eslohe - Bremke , - Wenholthausen , Meschede - Berge Me - Wennemen 276-16
Tube Left 028.9 0203.4 141.8 Sundern , Su - Hachen , Arnsberg - Müschede Ar - cough 276-18
Ruhr before Möhne not applicable 081.9 1060.2 137.4 + Meschede- Freienohl , Ar - Oeventrop , - Bruchhausen , Arnsberg , - Hüsten Arnsberg - Neheim 276-199
Möhne right 065.1 0468.6 137.4 * north of Brilons , Rüthen , Warstein - Belecke , - Sichtigvor , - Allagen , - Niederbergheim , Möhnesee - Völlinghausen , - Körbecke , - Günne , Ense - Niederense Arnsberg - Neheim 276-2
Hönne Left 033.4 0262.2 116.6 * Neuenrade , Balve (inc.OTe) Fröndenberg 276-4
Abbabach Left 017.1 0022.0 109.8 * Hemer - Landhausen , Iserlohn - Sümmern Fröndenberg / Ruhr - Dellwig / Iserlohn - Drüpplingsen 276-52
Baarbach Left 017.6 0053.3 106.9 * Iserlohn , - hens 276-54
Ruhr before Lenne not applicable 126.6 2088.9 092.7 + Wickede , Fröndenberg , Schwerte Hagen - Boele 276-599
Lenne Left 129.1 1352.2 092.7 * Winterberg - Lenneplätze , Schmallenberg (+ OTe), Lennestadt (various OTe), Finnentrop (+ OTe), Plettenberg (various OTe), Werdohl (+ OTe), Altena (+ OTe), Nachrodt-Wiblingwerde (Nachrodt + OTe ), Iserlohn - Letmathe , Hagen (northeastern OTe) Hagen - Boele 276-6
Volme Left 050.5 0427.8 087.6 * Meinerzhagen , Kierspe (+ div OTE.), Halver - Oberbrügge , Lüdenscheid - Brugge , Schalksmuehle (div OTE.), HA - Dahl , HA - Eilpe , Hagen HA - Boele 276-8
Oelbach right 013.4 0055.8 067.4 * Dortmund - Bövinghausen , Bochum - Querenburg City limits Witten / Bochum 276-92
Plessbach Left 012.0 0024.1 063.3 * Sprockhövel - Haßlinghausen , Witten - Buchholz-Kämpen 276-932
Sprockhöveler Bach Left 017.8 0033.7 058.9 Sprockhövel Hattingen 276-94
Deilbach Left 020.8 0109.5 037.4 * Wuppertal - Einern , Velbert - Langenberg , - Bonsfeld Food - copper turning 276-96
Rinderbach Left 011.7 0020.3 023.2 * Velbert , Heiligenhaus Food - Kettwig 276-98

Geological evolution

The confluence of the Lenne (right in the picture) into the Ruhr below the Hohensyburg

At the watershed of the Rothaargebirge , where the Ruhr originated, a number of tributaries of the upper and middle Ruhr arise. The source of the nameless, for example, is only around 1.5 km away from the Ruhr spring , and then merges with the Ruhr via the negroes below Siedlinghausen on the edge of the Rothaar Mountains. From the source of the Ruhr to the source of its largest tributary, the Lenne, the distance is only 8 km. The high ridge of the Rothaargebirge has been unfolded further in the history of the earth and is still more resistant to erosion than the other areas of the surrounding low mountain range, through which the Ruhr and its tributaries drain the water to the south.

After leaving the Rothaargebirge near Olsberg , the Ruhr has overcome about half of the difference in altitude up to the Rhine. The Ruhr valley is dominated by up to 400 m higher peaks of the low mountain range. The round arches of the mountains of the Sauerland are the remnants of a mountain range that arose after long erosion, which arose in the Paleozoic and Mesozoic . The valleys have been washed out here since the Tertiary and Quaternary .

Ruhr valley near Stiepel

In its middle course in Lower Sauerland, the Ruhr flows through a Sohltal cut 100 to 200 m into the mountainous region. The middle Ruhr valley shows a multi-tiered terraced landscape that was formed in the course of the changing glaciations during the Pleistocene . During the Drenthe stages of the Saale Ice Age , the glaciation of northern Germany reached as far as the Ruhr in front of the northern edge of the low mountain range. The surface shape of the middle and lower Ruhr valley was shaped by the flowing meltwater and the pushing force of the ice. The melt water from the glacier flowed west through the Ruhr valley. The outflow was temporarily obstructed by a barrier made of ice masses and rubble at today's Essen, so that a huge ice age lake was dammed up, which still filled the valley at today's Schwerte. The east-west course of the Ruhr Valley currently mainly collects the water brought in from the low mountain range in the south.

The last kilometers of the Ruhr and its mouth are in the Lower Rhine lowlands . In the plain, the course of the river, like that of the Rhine, has shifted again and again over time. Most recently, however, humans changed the mouth and determined its final position for the time being.

nature and environment


As a result of industrialization in the 19th century, the Ruhr was heavily polluted by the discharge of waste water from industry, mining, agriculture and households. Shortly before the First World War , the Münster zoologist August Thienemann characterized the river during extremely low water in the summer of 1911 as follows:

" ... a brown-black broth that smells strongly of hydrogen cyanide, contains no trace of oxygen and is absolutely dead "

- August Thienemann, 1912
Expertise keeping the Ruhr pure

In the previous year, Karl Imhoff prepared an expert report for the Emschergenossenschaft entitled Keeping the Ruhr clean . This work by the pioneer in wastewater treatment was the basis for the Ruhr Cleanliness Act passed in 1913 . Another consequence was the establishment of the Ruhr Association , whose business Imhoff ran from 1922 until he was ousted by the Nazi regime in 1934. The task of the Ruhrverband is to this day the water quality management, among other things with the aim to ensure the drinking water production in the area of ​​the Ruhr. These measures put the Ruhr in a relatively good biological condition, long before other rivers in metropolitan areas.

Due to population growth and growing industrial production, the pollution of the Ruhr increased again during the economic miracle of the 1950s.

Since 2003, numerous measures for renaturation of the river have been implemented in the urban area of ​​Arnsberg. From 2018 to 2020, the Ruhr is to be renatured on around 5 km from the Möhne estuary to Haus Füchten .

Water quality

Thanks to a dense network of sewage treatment plants that are built and operated by the Ruhr Association, the water quality of the river is again predominantly in water  quality class II. In the area of ​​the source, even the highest quality class I is achieved. Quality class II – III is only determined in a few river sections. In the summer of 2006, increased concentrations of perfluorinated surfactants (PFT) were detected in the water of the Ruhr . They came from contaminated fertilizers that were applied to fields in the river's catchment area. The main pollution was registered via the Möhne . As a result, the water for drinking water had to be filtered with activated carbon . In 2010, the PFT exposure was only a third of the values ​​in 2006. All measured concentrations are below any concentrations that are harmful to health.

In April 2008, the discovery of a harmful chemical in the Ruhr water became known again. The chemical 2,4,8,10-Tetraoxaspiro [5.5] undecane (TOSU) has been detected in the Ruhr since 1996. The issuer is an Arnsberg company that received approval from the Hochsauerlandkreis to discharge it into the sewer system. The Arnsberg district government has ordered the discharge to be reduced until the limit value is observed.


Fish fauna

In the lower and middle Ruhr there are currently 28 different species of fish and round mouths as well as a higher type of cancer, the American crayfish ( Orconectes limosus ). In the upper reaches of the Ruhr, for example, brown trout and Koppe to find, then, with the river, grayling and gudgeon , in the bar area bar and rudd and pike , in the lower reaches, finally, as examples bream , chub , tench and carp . In January 2000, river lampreys ( Lampetra fluviatilis ) were discovered in the Mülheim-Kahlenberg fish ascent , a species that had previously been considered extinct in the Ruhr. When the weather was bad, the burbot ( Lota lota ) was naturalized again a few years ago . The long-distance hikers naturally expected in the river such as salmon , allis shad , sturgeon and sea ​​lamprey are extinct in the Ruhr, which can be explained by the interruption of the hiking trails by weirs. This is to be changed within the framework of the Ruhrauenkonzept in the next few years. The aim is to achieve ecological continuity by building fish ladders at the anthropogenic barriers. A natural reproduction of the salmon could be proven for the first time again in 2008 at the weir Raffelberg near Mülheim. The fact that the salmon have been reproducing there since then is mainly due to the improved water quality.


Mute swan and mallard on the Ruhr near Blankenstein

Numerous nature conservation and FFH areas in the Ruhr Valley offer animals and plants a good basis for life. Breed, among others at the Ruhr and their reservoirs wagtail , kingfisher , gray heron , dipper , mallard , gray goose , Egyptian Goose , Canada Goose , Mute Swan , sand martin , cormorants , grebes , little grebe , moorhen and coot . The black stork comes to eat at the upper reaches of the Ruhr. Various species of ducks , black-headed gulls , goosander and other bird species can be found resting, especially in winter.

History and economy

The Ruhr area got its name from the Ruhr. The industrialization of the region began here, as the Ruhr was developed into a navigable traffic route for Ruhr shipping in the 18th century. The coal seams rose to the surface everywhere near the river and fell deeper and deeper to the north. The first mines were built near the Ruhr and later migrated further north to mine coal at greater depths. The Ruhr area developed further north of the Ruhr in the direction of the Emscher .

Historic fortification line

The monument on the Hohensyburg high above the Ruhr
Broich Castle in Mülheim

The course of the Ruhr and its valley with partly steep slopes represent a natural obstacle. Due to this scenic situation and to secure the river crossings of the trade routes between the Bergisches Land in the south and the Hellweg zone in the north, numerous emerged on the slopes of the Ruhr valley Castles and noble residences. The earliest, still preserved fortification is Broich Castle , which was built at the end of the 9th century as a fortress against the Vikings . Broich is one of the most important medieval fortifications of the late Carolingian era in the Ruhr area. In the 13th century, other castles belonged to the Archdiocese of Cologne , the County of Mark , the Duchy of Berg and the County of Limburg .

Still used or maintained as ruins include the Arnsberg Castle , in Dortmund Hohensyburg in Hagen, the water Werdringen in weather, the castle weather and the castle Volmarstein in Witten, the castle Steinhausen who Burghard stone , the house Witten and Herbede House, Kemnade House in Hattingen , Blankenstein Castle and Isenburg Castle, Altendorf Castle and New Isenburg Castle in Essen and Styrum Castle in Mülheim .

Industrial history

Friedrich Harkort's factory in the ruins of Wetter Castle was an early industrial production facility around 1834
The Ruhr near Mülheim in 1930 - in the background the Friedrich Wilhelms-Hütte

Even before the industrial revolution , mills in particular were maintained in the Ruhr Valley , but also a wide variety of handicrafts and production facilities that required water or hydropower to operate. The Ruhr mills were mentioned in Witten as early as 1321. In Mülheim leather production developed around 1650 , which at its peak in 1920 comprised over 50 companies. In the formerly independent villages of Kettwig and Werden , people have always lived on and with the river. The Deilbachhammer in Kupferdreh is a preserved testimony to pre-industrial iron processing on a tributary of the Ruhr. For decades, Henrichshütte dominated Hattingen's economy in the Ruhr Valley. Now the old blast furnaces are part of the Westphalian Industrial Museum . The route of industrial culture is dedicated to the topic of the industrial history of the Ruhr.

The transfer of the river name of the Ruhr to the name of the urban landscape of the Ruhr area , which today lies mainly north of the river, was linked to the historical development of the industrialization phase, in particular to the north migration of mining. Coal mining was initially easy, especially in the Ruhr Valley, because this is where the coal seams come to light. In tunnel mining, it was also possible to advance underground mining without complex steep shafts. Mülheim , Witten and Wetter an der Ruhr were centers of this early industrialization on the Ruhr. Accordingly, in the 19th century, the Ruhr area was initially understood to mean the industrialized area of ​​the middle and lower Ruhr.

Mining reached the Emscher region in the second half of the 19th century . The technology was so advanced that the deeper coal-bearing layers could be reached under mighty overburden. As early as the early 20th century, the term Ruhr area was occasionally used for the entire industrial region north of the Ruhr, which was still in a phase of rapid growth. Since around 1930 the Ruhr area has been perceived as the metropolitan area that was created and shaped by the mining industry as we know it today.

At the moment, it goes without saying that the entire region of the mining area between the Ruhr and Lippe is defined as the Ruhr area. The name is closely linked to the boundaries of the Ruhr Regional Association , whose predecessor organizations, the Ruhr Coal District Association since 1920 and, from 1979, the Ruhr Area Municipal Association, each had the name of the river in their own way, initially as an area of ​​coal mining on the Ruhr, then as an urban area Area on the Ruhr. Today the river name emerges as an independent synonym for the network of cities and districts in the region.

During the Second World War , during Operation Chastise in May 1943, five British military aircraft attacked Lake Möhnesee with the aim of destroying its dam and creating a tidal wave . This was achieved with the help of special roll bombs ; The tidal wave caused devastating damage on its way through the Möhne and Ruhr valleys to Essen, which is around 100 km away , and killed over a thousand people (1300 to 2400, depending on the source).

Transport route Ruhrtal

The Ruhr as a waterway

Entry into the former Holteyer harbor near Essen-Überruhr

As early as 1033, King Conrad II gave the Benedictine Abbey of Werden the shelf for shipping on the Ruhr from its mouth to Werden. An old Ruhr estuary, which met an arm of the old Rhine near Duisburg's old town in front of the stacking gate , was probably used as a port in the Middle Ages. The Ruhr gained importance for the transport of coal in the 18th century . In 1770, the Prussian government under King Friedrich II therefore initiated a study on a possible expansion of the Ruhr, which was implemented between 1774 and 1780. 16 locks , groynes and the towpath , which is often used as a cycle and footpath today, date from this time.

Replica of a historical Ruhraak in the Museum Zeche Nachtigall

Previously, the Ruhr was naturally navigable only between the mouth of the Ruhr near Ruhrort and Mülheim an der Ruhr. Duisburg, Ruhrort and Mülheim ships have been sailing the lower reaches of the river since the 14th century. Only the mines in the Mülheim area were able to benefit from this inexpensive transport route. The first coal defeat in the Ruhr area occurred in Mülheim , connected by sliding paths to the small mines. From around 1750 the Ruhr was used here specifically as a transport route for the sale of coal to the rest of the Rhineland. The Werden collieries had to move their coal via Kohlfurth to Solingen and Cronenberg .

The former towing station in Mülheim

After the expansion of the Ruhr, i.e. between 1780 and 1801, ships went up the Ruhr to Fröndenberg-Langschede . Grain from the surrounding area and salt from the Königsborn saltworks were loaded into the small Langscheder harbor . The now significantly simplified coal transport to the Rhineland in turn led to higher demand. The Aaken used for Ruhr shipping were characterized by their shallow draft, with a payload of up to 175 tons. From the middle of the 19th century, however, the transport shifted to the railroad , so that the Ruhr was economically uninteresting for freight traffic and stopped above Mülheim.

At the mouth in Duisburg- Ruhrort , the Duisburg-Ruhrorter harbors became the largest inland port in Europe.

From the mouth of the river, the river is now 12.21 km up to Mülheim an der Ruhr to become the federal inland waterway ( waterway class Vb and Va). Thus, the Ruhr is navigable for the " Great Rhine Ship " up to above the north bridge in Mülheim . The Rhein-Ruhr-Hafen, which opened in 1927, is located in the Speldorf district of Mülheim . In Duisburg, the Ruhr is connected to the Rhine-Herne Canal above the barrage .

Passenger ship Friedrich Harkort on the Ruhr near Herdecke

From Mülheim further upstream to Essen- Rellinghausen (km 41.40), the Ruhr can be used as a state waterway for vehicles with a maximum draft of 1.7 m, a maximum length of 38 m and a maximum width of 5.2 m. Further upriver, on the Kemnader See , on the Ruhr itself between the Kemnader See and Witten- Bommern , on the Harkortsee and the Ruhr in Herdecke and on the Hengsteysee, passenger ships for local recreation operate .

Railway traffic in the valley

The low gradient in the middle and lower Ruhr valley favored railway construction . The first track section along the river was put into operation in 1847 with the Prinz Wilhelm Railway between Überruhr , Kupferdreh and Steele . In the course of the following decades, the railway line to the Ruhr Valley Railway was completed. The line played an important role in the transport of coal during the industrialization phase of the Ruhr area.

At the beginning, the Lower Ruhr Valley Railway ran up the river from Mülheim-Styrum to Kettwig in the south-west of Essen until 1978 . The route is now used between the Kettwig-Stausee stop and Essen-Werden in the local traffic of the Rhein-Ruhr transport association on the S6 S-Bahn . The oldest section of the Ruhr Valley Railway is still in operation, now with the S9 on its way between Haltern and Wuppertal. Today the S3 S-Bahn runs from Steele to Hattingen . On the middle section of the line there is now a steam locomotive-operated museum train service operated by the Railway Museum from Dahlhausen via Hattingen to Hagen. The trains of the Ruhr-Sieg-Express and the Ruhr-Lenne-Bahn use part of the Ruhrtalbahn from Wetter to Hagen-Vorhalle on their way to the Lenne . On the upper Ruhr Valley Railway , which runs from Hagen to Olsberg in the Ruhr Valley, the Sauerland Express runs from Hagen in the direction of Warburg and the Dortmund-Sauerland Express to Winterberg.

In Herdecke , a 313 m long viaduct built in 1879 spans the Ruhr valley. The former Rheinische Eisenbahn operated on the route between Dortmund and Düsseldorf . This bridge structure is still used today by the Volmetalbahn on the route between Hagen and Herdecke.

Another imposing railway bridge spans the Ruhr valley in Witten. The viaduct built in 1916 for the Witten – Schwelm railway line is still used today by freight trains between Witten and Hagen.

Road traffic on the Ruhr

While the Ruhr Valley Railway mostly has its route on the left bank of the Ruhr, the opposite side is often used for important transport connections. After the source, the water of the Ruhr initially flows northwards along the B 480 , later the A 46 and A 445 between Bestwig and Wickede run largely along the river. It's the B 226 between Wetter and Witten . At Lake Kemnader , between Bochum and Witten, the A 43 runs right on the edge of the lake, near Essen- Heisingen it is the B 227 . Over 100 bridges cross the Ruhr. In earlier times, fords were also used, such as the Cologne ford near Hattingen . The A 52 runs over the largest Ruhr valley bridge at Mintard over the Ruhr valley. The B 51 is the modern variant of the historical connection over the Ruhr Bridge between Hattingen and Bochum.

See: List of Ruhr bridges

energy supplier

The Koepchenwerk on the Ruhrhang

The Ruhr has been used as an energy supplier since the beginning of electrification. There are numerous private and municipal hydropower plants along the river , mostly run-of-river power plants such as in Wiemeringhausen, Olsberg, Nuttlar, Alfert, Velmede, Eversberg, Heinrichsthal, Stockhausen, Freienohl, Wildshausen, Arnsberg, Fröndenberg, Schwerte-Westhofen, Wetter and Witten . In Herdecke, the large Koepchenwerk pumped storage power plant is in relative proximity to the Hengstey run-of-river power plant . The total expansion capacity of the hydropower plants on the Ruhr is around 85,000  kW . The Ruhr water is also used as cooling water for coal -fired steam power plants.

Water management

Ruhr flood near Blankenstein

The Ruhr is a winding river, which in its upper reaches in the mountainous Hochsauerland is initially more recognizable as a brook, through the tributaries of its tributaries eventually becomes the fifth largest tributary of the Rhine. The ratio of high to low water would be unregulated at 1: 500, which is explained by the almost exclusive location of the Ruhr catchment area in the Rhenish Slate Mountains . Its soils can only absorb very little water. The Ruhrverband is responsible for water management in the Ruhr . Its dams on the tributaries of the Ruhr in the Sauerland serve to regulate runoff and, to a lesser extent, to obtain drinking water . The five Ruhr reservoirs between Dortmund and Essen built by the Ruhr Association are primarily part of the extensive system for improving the quality of the Ruhr water.

The level of the Ruhr is determined at 23 measuring points by the Ruhrverband and the State Office for Nature, Environment and Consumer Protection in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Due to the geomorphological landscape mentioned above, the Ruhr catchment area is mainly south of it, and the watershed to the Emscher river system runs a short distance north of the Ruhr valley. Including the tributaries, the Ruhr catchment area is almost entirely in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (4,481 of 4,485 km²) and a small part in Rhineland-Palatinate . As a partial catchment area, the entire Ruhr river system belongs to the Rhine catchment area.

Drinking water production

Drinking water well in the Ruhr valley near Essen

Around 2.2 million people live in the direct catchment area of the Ruhr and draw their drinking and industrial water from it. The water is filtered in the gravel and sand of the river bed and used to recharge the groundwater . In addition to this process, there are also wells for obtaining bank filtrate and groundwater without enrichment. A total of 20 waterworks pump the water supply systems. The extraction, promotion, treatment and provision of drinking water in the Ruhr is carried out by companies such as Rheinisch-Westfälische Wasserwerkgesellschaft , Gelsenwasser AG , Wasserwerke Westfalen GmbH, Wassergewinnung Essen GmbH and Wasserbeschlassung Mittlere Ruhr GmbH. 15 public water supply companies in the Ruhr are organized in the working group of waterworks in the Ruhr.

A total of around 510 million cubic meters of drinking water are pumped each year. From the Ruhr river basin, water is also transferred to the neighboring river systems of Emscher and Lippe via pipelines , so that the Ruhr supplies around 5.2 million people with water. The Ruhrverband is in charge .

Already in the area around Fröndenberg the Ruhr is used extensively for the water supply. From there, water is taken in order to supply larger parts of the eastern Ruhr area with water.

freetime and recreation

The Ruhr valley in Mülheim
Ruhrwiesen near Mülheim-Menden on a tributary of the Ruhr
Towpath in Mülheim
The Hardenstein puts cyclists and pedestrians across the river (between Herbede and Heven near Witten )
Second August flood in 2007, view from the Dahlhausen floating bridge to the Hattinger side

“The Ruhr area. Anyone who wants to get to know a wonderful region will find great satisfaction here; because everything that can adorn a serene landscape can be found here united in a district of a few hours: a lovely valley, wreathed by serene mountains, knight's castles and ruins, fertile corridors and fragrant meadows and, at the same time, flourishing industry and trade. "

- JF Wilhelmi, 1828

The Ruhr valley has an important function as a recreational area, especially for the Ruhr area. The banks of the Ruhr are largely spared from industry and development and are characterized by meadows. Biking and footpaths run along the banks of the old towpaths in many places. Excursion boats operate in sections on the Ruhr. In this context, the Ruhr reservoirs Hengsteysee , Harkortsee , Kemnader See , Baldeneysee and Kettwiger See , as well as the city of Mülheim an der Ruhr, whose water station is the starting point for the White Fleet , a series of excursion boats, should be mentioned. On the Kemnader See, passenger ships operate between the Kemnader Weir and the Lakebrücke on the Ruhr above the lake in Witten-Herbede.

Water and other sports are practiced on the river and the reservoirs. Numerous canoe and rowing clubs are based on the banks. There is sailing on the lakes and rowing boats, paddle boats and pedal boats can be rented. There are also places on the shore for beach volleyball or as a starting point for windsurfing. The flat paths around the reservoirs are a popular destination for inline skaters in the Ruhr area , especially in summer . However, the Ruhr is not a bathing water, as purified wastewater continues to be discharged via the tributaries and some sewage treatment plants. Nevertheless, many people bathe in the Ruhr.

Along the Ruhr, the more than 240 kilometers long Ruhr Höhenweg of the Sauerland Mountain Association leads hikers from the source to the mouth .

The Ruhr was a local recreation area from an early age and the heights above the river were residential areas for the affluent population. For example, Alfred Krupp had his Villa Hügel built in 1873 on the heights above the Ruhr in the south of Essen.

Since April 2006, the well-signposted Ruhr Valley Cycle Path has led over 220 kilometers from the source to the mouth. The signposted path mainly leads along the valley floor near the river. The ferry is from spring to autumn in Witten in the ruins Hardenstein Hardenstein cyclists on call across the river.

The Ruhr near Hünningen

See also

The Ruhr near Kettwig

Individual evidence

  1. a b c German basic map 1: 5000
  2. a b c d e f g h i j Topographical Information Management, Cologne District Government, Department GEObasis NRW ( information )
  3. a b German Hydrological Yearbook Ruhr / Mülheim 2018 (PDF, 15 kB)
  4. Ruhrverband: Ruhrwasser Volume 2010 ( Memento of the original from September 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.talsperrenleitzentrale-ruhr.de 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. (PDF; 1.4 MB) , Tab. 2, p. 13
  5. ↑ Information board at the roundabout below the Ruhr spring
  6. Hillebach estuary at Ruhr kilometer 212.6 = 6.7 km below the Ruhr spring
  7. Neger estuary at Ruhr kilometer 202.5 = 16.8 below the Ruhr source
  8. ^ Johann Georg Kohl : The Rhine. Volume 2. 1851, p. 230
  9. ^ Hermann Adalbert Daniel : Handbook of Geography. Volume 3, 1867, p. 370
  10. Various authors: Geographische Landesaufnahme: The natural spatial units in single sheets 1: 200,000 . Federal Institute for Regional Studies, Bad Godesberg 1952–1994. → Online maps
    • Sheet 108/109: Düsseldorf / Erkelenz (Karlheinz Paffen, Adolf Schüttler, Heinrich Müller-Miny 1963; 55 p.) → online map (PDF; 7.3 MB)
    • Sheet 110: Arnsberg (Martin Bürgener 1969; 80 p.) → online map (PDF; 5.7 MB)
    • Sheet 110: Arolsen (Martin Bürgener 1963; 94 p.) → online map (PDF; 4.2 MB)
  11. The term "Hochruhr", analogous to the Upper Rhine , has not been used in the literature so far, but is known as an unofficial section name among hydrologists.
  12. This natural area is simply called Ruhrtal on the Düsseldorf sheet
  13. Implementation timetables for the Ruhr , Arnsberg district government
  14. ^ Website of the Mittelruhr region = Middle Sauerland of the Sauerland Mountain Association
  15. The landscapes on the upper Mittelruhr between Olsberg and Neheim , Google Books
  16. ↑ List of literature (PDF; 800 kB), which shows Baum's book as a dissertation; the year 1926 there is clearly wrong, as is shown by copies of the book cover available on the Internet.
  17. Use of the term Mittelruhr in a book by A. W. Boyse from 1840
  18. Topographical Information Management, Cologne District Government, Department GEObasis NRW ( Notes ) - Water stationing and base map 1: 5,000 can be activated
  19. August Thienemann: The pollution of the Ruhr in the summer of 1911 . In: Journal of Fisheries and their auxiliary sciences . No. 16 , 1912, pp. 55-86 .
  20. ^ Karl Imhoff: Keeping the Ruhr pure . Edited on behalf of the District President von Bake in Arnsberg. C. W. Haarfeld, Essen 1910.
  21. ^ Draft and justification for a law on the Association for keeping the Ruhr clean . C. W. Haarfeld, Essen 1912 ( uni-duesseldorf.de ).
  22. A river goes wild - and into a new world , from September 29, 2016, accessed on December 28, 2016, at waz.de
  23. A river goes wild - renaturation of the Ruhr in Arnsberg , accessed on December 28, 2016, on ruhr.nrw.de
  24. Discovered even more chemistry in the Ruhr , on welt.de.
  25. Fish passes. (No longer available online.) In: brd.nrw.de. Archived from the original on August 7, 2014 ; Retrieved May 24, 2010 . 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.brd.nrw.de
  26. ^ Günter Krause: Duisburg as a trading and port location in the Middle Ages and the early modern period. ( Memento of May 26, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 231 kB) March 26, 2007.
  27. The Minister for Building and Transport of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia: Ordinance on the navigability of waters September 7, 2009.
  28. JF Wilhelmi: Panorama of Düsseldorf and its surroundings: with special consideration of the history, topography, statistics, industry and trade of the Düsseldorf administrative district . Carpenter in Komm., Düsseldorf 1828 ( uni-duesseldorf.de ).


  • Hochsauerlandkreis - Lower Landscape Authority (Hrsg.): Landscape plan Winterberg. Meschede 2008.
  • Nature Conservation Center Märkischer Kreis e. V. (Hrsg.): The Ruhr - Eleven river biological excursions. Martina-Galunder, Wiehl 1998, ISBN 3-931251-35-7 .
  • Gustav Adolf Wüstenfeld : The Ruhr shipping from 1780 to 1890. GA Wüstenfeld, Wetter (Ruhr) 1978, ISBN 3-922014-02-X .
  • Christoph Schmitz: The Ruhr bridges. From the source to the mouth between then and now. Ardey, Münster 2004, ISBN 3-87023-311-7 .
  • Harald Polenz : Of counts, bishops and cowardly murders. Klartext, Essen 2004, ISBN 3-89861-260-0 .
  • Karl Imhoff : Keeping the Ruhr pure. C. W. Haarfeld, Essen 1912.
  • Peter Bankmann: Castles, locks and oases - the Ruhr valley through the ages . Klartext, Essen 2017, ISBN 978-3-8375-1783-5 .

Web links

Commons : Ruhr  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Ruhr  - travel guide
Wiktionary: Ruhr  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations