Rhine River | WWF

The busiest shipping route in the world

What and where?
The Rhine River begins at the Rheinwaldhorn Glacier in the Swiss Alps and flows north and east approximately 820 metres. This river is arguably the most important waterway in Germany  and is linked by canals to other major rivers in Western Europe. Many German manufacturing and industrial cities are located along the Rhine, and the river is important for shipping and transportation.

Most of Germany's vineyards owe their existence to the Rhine river. It flows past a wide fertile valley past the Baden vineyards.

The mid-Rhine is also known for its German legends. One of the best known is the story of the Lorelei. A nymph is said to have lived in the Lorelei rock high above the Rhine. She is said to have lured fishermen to their destruction with her singing until she was overcome with love and plunged to her own death. A bronze statue of the nymph overlooks the river. Another famous landmark is the 'Drachenfels' castle where Siegfried is reputed to have slain a dragon.

The Rhine has always been an important landmark historically. It formed the Northern edge of the Roman empire and was crossed by Julius Caesar. Since that time it has been considered the basis for regional and international boundaries.

Dotted along the Rhine are many castles dating from the Middle Ages. Most were built as defensive structures, but also confirm the Rhine's history as an important navigable waterway carrying goods and services far inland.