Oder River

Oder River

The Oder River is one of the largest rivers in Central Europe. It is an important waterway and a source of water supply for many cities and regions. The river is of great importance for transportation, agriculture, industry and recreation in the surrounding areas.


The Oder River carries its waters through the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany. From its second largest tributary Nysa Łużycka (Neisse) to the Polish town of Gryfino, it serves as the border between Poland and Germany. The second longest river in Poland, the Oder is second only to the Vistula.

The source of the Oder River is in the Sudeten Mountains. Descending from the mountains, the Oder River flows through the Central European Plain, in a wide (from 2-3 km to 10-20 km) terraced valley, laid out by ancient glaciers.

After passing the mouth of the Lusatian Nisa River, the Oder widens considerably (up to 250 m), becomes full-flowing, and forms many islands. Its banks are high ramparts, protecting floodplain arable land from flooding during floods. At a distance of 84 km from the mouth, the Odra divides into two branches (the western one is navigable) and flows into the Bay of Szczecin of the Baltic Sea. The Bay of Szczecin is also called a lagoon. Here, in the Odra estuary, there is another section of the border between Poland and Germany.

The entire course of the river is flooded in spring, in summer and fall – low water with flash floods, in winter – high water content, and in the harshest winters the river freezes. More than once the river has experienced severe floods with catastrophic consequences for settlements and agricultural lands.


Each nation living on the banks of this large European river gave it its own name: German Oder, Czech and Polish Odra, Lusatian Vodra, Kashubian Vedra. In the documents of medieval Europe – Latin names of the Oder and Viadrus. All these names are based on the Proto-Indo-European word “adro” (water stream).


The history of the river is at the same time the history of the whole of Europe. For the ancient Romans, the Oder was part of the Amber Route, which carried amber from the Baltic to the Mediterranean.

Long before the Western Slavs settled on its banks, the Oder was an important trade route for the Germanic tribes living along the Elbe and Vistula rivers.

During the Middle Ages, the importance of the river only increased. From the 13th century onwards, the first dams were built on it to protect cultivated fields. In 1605 the Finow Canal connected the Oder and the Hafel. The construction of canals continued and the Oder became an important link in the chain of waterways that connected rivers throughout Europe. The largest project on the Oder was the construction of the Oder-Spree Canal, which was almost 100 kilometers long, in 1887-1891.

After World War I, navigation on the Oder and the borders of the states were defined by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

During the Second World War of 1939-1945, the Oder became strategically important and the base of the Oder. The Oder became a strategically important and thoroughly fortified defensive frontier for the German army. During the 1945 Vistula-Oder operation, Soviet troops forced the Oder and captured bridgeheads on the west bank in the middle reaches of the river. It was from these bridgeheads that the offensive began during the Berlin Operation of 1945, which ended with the defeat of Germany in World War II.

But even before that, in 1943, during the Tehran Conference, the anti-Hitler coalition defined the contours of the countries of post-war Europe, and the Polish-German border was drawn along the Oder. Subsequently, the inviolability of this border was confirmed by the Polish-German Treaty of 1990.

In the Middle Ages, many towns on the Oder were members of the Hanseatic League and simultaneously served as a trading town, fortress and center of feudal possessions.

The transformation of the Oder into the most important European waterway was accompanied by the construction of cities on its banks.

The Oder is navigable almost throughout its entire length, starting at the confluence of the Czech river Opava. Water reservoirs have been built in the upper reaches of the river. Navigation is carried out at a distance of 765 km from the mouth, the duration of navigation is 220-230 days a year.

The first large city on the Oder is the Czech Ostrava, located at the confluence of the Ostravice, Odra and Opava rivers. It was through Ostrava in the Middle Ages that the historic Amber Road passed. For a long time the city was the center of coal mining and metallurgy of the Czech Republic. Nowadays it is one of the tourist centers of Moravia. People come here to see St. Wenceslas Cathedral, built in the 13th century, the Silesian-Ostrava Fortress and the New Town Hall with the highest tower in the Czech Republic.

Downstream, locks have been built on many sections of the river, as well as canals that connect the Oder with the Elbe, Hafel, Spree, Vistula and Kłodnica rivers. The most significant number of hydraulic structures was built in the area of Polish Wroclaw – the largest city on the Oder, the center of the Lower Silesian Voivodship.

Wroclaw is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland, located on 12 islands. Flowing through the territory of the city, the Odra forms many branches and canals, over which there are more than a hundred bridges and bridges. The oldest part of the city is Tumski Island, where on the central square – one of the largest in Europe – stands the town hall, which is a masterpiece of Gothic Silesian architecture. The main attraction of Wroclaw is the Market Square, which began to be built in the XIII century. Here you can find the Gothic town hall of the XIII century, which is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Europe.

Downstream on the Oder is the German town of Eisenhüttenstadt – where the canal connects the Oder with the German river Spree. Literally translated, the name of the city means “City of Iron Works”: here have long been located steel mills and up to our time it is one of the industrial centers of Germany.

The small city of Frankfurt am Oder in East Germany borders Poland by river, on the other bank is Polish Słubeck. Frankfurt am Oder is an old Hanseatic port city; in the 19th century in Prussia it was of great commercial importance, being halfway between Poznan and Berlin. The old buildings were badly damaged in World War II and the town was rebuilt in a more modern style.

The Polish city of Szczecin, the most important seaport in the country, stands near the mouth of the Oder, not far from its confluence with the Baltic Sea.

Flora and fauna

Despite the intensive use of the river, its waters are home to quite a lot of fish: pike, catfish, eel, pikeperch, pikeperch, carp and trout. To protect the nature of this densely populated area of Europe, nature reserves and national parks have been established along the entire course of the river, the most famous of which is the Lower Oder Valley National Park in the north-east of the German state of Brandenburg and the Odra Broadleaved Forests Conservation Area in Poland.

General Information

  • It flows through the territory of the Republic of Poland (Silesian, Opolskie, Lower Silesian, Lubuskie and West Pomeranian voivodships), the Federal Republic of Germany (Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) and the Czech Republic (Moravian-Silesian Region).
  • The second longest river in Poland.
  • Feeding type: mixed (snow and rain).
  • Source: Sudetes Mountains, Czech Republic (Moravian Region), elevation 634 m.
  • Mouth: Szczecin Bay of the Baltic Sea.
  • Languages: Polish, German, Czech.
  • Currency unit: euro, Czech krona, Polish zloty.
  • Major tributaries: Warta, Bubr, Nysa Luzycka (Neisse), Ina, Opava, etc.
  • The largest port cities: Germany – Frankfurt-on-Oder, Schwedt, Eisenhüttenstadt; Poland – Opole, Szczecin, Wrocław, Racibórz; Czech Republic – Ostrava.
  • Length: 854 km (742 km in Poland, 112 km in the Czech Republic, 187 km – state border between Poland and Germany).
  • Width: 30-250 m.
  • Water flow rate: 67 m3/s (Racibórz, upstream), 574 m3/s (estuary).
  • Source elevation: 634 m.
  • Water gradient: 0.35 m/km.
  • Ice break-up: end of December – beginning of February (unstable).

Climate and weather

  • Maritime, moderately continental in the upper reaches.
  • Average temperature in January: 0°C.
  • Average temperature in July: +19°C.
  • Average annual precipitation: 500-1000 mm.
  • Relative humidity: 70-80%.


  • Industry: port industry.
  • Water supply (water for drinking and industrial purposes).
  • Agriculture: in the river valley – crop production (cereals) and cattle breeding (meat and dairy).
  • Services: transportation (river navigation); tourism.


  • Szczecin Bay.
  • Canals: Finov canal (Oder-Hafel), Oder-Spree canal.
  • Ostrava (Czech Republic): St. Wenceslas Cathedral (XIII c.), Silesian-Ostrava Fortress, New Town Hall, Masaryk central square, Old Town Hall (Ostrava Museum), Plague Pillar, Ostravar brewery and Brewery Museum, Poruba district, Puppet Theater building, Gallery of Fine Arts, Landek Mining Museum and Mine National Cultural Monument.
  • City of Wroclaw: Tumski Island, Market Square (XIII century), Gothic Town Hall (XIII century), houses Jasja and Malgosi (baroque houses of XVI century), Racławicka Panorama (battle of Polish insurgents in the late XVIII century), Aula Leopoldina (assembly hall of Wroclaw University XVIII century), St. Elżbieta Church (XVIII century), historical museum “Palace of the King”.
  • The city of Frankfurt am Oder: Cathedral (XIII century.), the main square Remerberg and wooden buildings (XIV-XV centuries.), Gothic City Hall (XVII century.), the Museum of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the Promenade of Eleven Museums, Palmegarten – palm park.
  • City of Szczecin: City Hall, Gothic building of the house of bankers Loitzew, Boulevard of Wala the Brave, National Museum, Castle of Pomeranian Princes, Cathedral of St. Jakub (XII c.), Church of St. Peter and Paul (the oldest Christian church on the territory of Pomerania, XII c.).
  • National Park “Lower Oder Valley” (Germany).
  • Nature Protection Area “Odra Broadleaved Forests” (Poland).
  • Volynsky National Park (Poland).

Fun Facts

  • In 1506, the Viadrina University was established in Frankfurt on the Oder, which means “on the Oder” in Latin. It was then moved to Breslau (Wrocław) and in 1991 it was re-established in Frankfurt am Oder as the European Viadrina University. Its buildings are located on both banks of the border river – German and Polish.
  • The town of Eisenhüttenstadt was built in 1950 in the German Democratic Republic. In 1953 it was named Stalinstadt and was considered the first socialist town on German soil. In 1961 it was renamed Eisenhüttenstadt. It has been a sister city of the West German city of Saarlois since 1986. It is the first sister city of the GDR and the FRG after the unification of the two Germanies.
  • Usedom is an island in the Baltic Sea opposite the mouth of the Oder River. During World War II, the island was the site of the Usedom concentration camp, where Faou-1 and Faou-2 rockets were produced for firing at Great Britain.
  • Empress Catherine II (née Sophia Augusta Frederica von Anhalt-Zerbst) was born on April 21 (May 2), 1729 in Stettin, now Szczecin, Poland.
  • In 1368 Frankfurt am Oder was a member of the Hanseatic League, but in the mid-15th century it broke off its relations with the Hanseatic League. Military biography of the city – a series of sieges and assaults: in 1429 and 1432 the city was besieged by the Hussites, during the 30-year war (1618-1648) was taken by storm by the troops of Gustav-Adolph. The Swedish garrison held here for 16 months (1631-1632); then the city was occupied by Wallenstein (1633). Wallenstein’s detachment was expelled by the Elector of Brandenburg in 1634, after which Frankfurt-on-Oder was for 3 years (1640-1643) in the hands of the Swedes. In the Seven Years’ War the city was captured by Russian troops under the command of Saltykov (1759). In 1806-1808. Frankfurt-on-Oder was occupied by the French. In 1812-1813 there was a French garrison here.
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