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Location of river Waal in dark blue.
RegionBetuwe, Rijk van Nijmegen, Land van Maas en Waal, Land van Altena
CitiesNijmegen, Tiel, Zaltbommel, Gorinchem
Physical characteristics
 • locationMillingen aan de Rijn, Gelderland, Netherlands
MouthRiver Boven Merwede
 • location
Gorinchem, Gelderland/South Holland, Netherlands
Length80 km (50 mi)
 • average1,500 m3/s (53,000 cu ft/s)
Basin features
 • rightLinge
The Waal near Nijmegen, 1641

The Waal (Dutch name, pronounced [ʋaːl]) is the main distributary branch of the river Rhine flowing approximately 80 km (50 mi) through the Netherlands. It is the major waterway connecting the port of Rotterdam to Germany. Before it reaches Rotterdam, it joins with the Afgedamde Maas near Woudrichem to form the Boven Merwede. Along its length, Nijmegen, Tiel, Zaltbommel and Gorinchem are towns of importance with direct access to the river.

The river, which is the main channel in the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta system, carries 65% of the total flow of the Rhine.


The name Waal, in Roman times called Vacalis, Vahalis or Valis, later Vahal, is of Germanic origin and is named after the many meanders in the river (West Germanic languages: wôh, lit.'crooked'). It is, in turn, thought to have inspired early Dutch settlers of the Hudson Valley region in New York to name the Wallkill River after it (Waalkil "Waal Creek").

The current river shows little signs of these great bends, since the river has been the subject of numerous normalisation projects carried out in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to improve the river as an economically important shipping route. Some of the cut-off bends are still visible near the main river and are sometimes reconnected to it in times of high water levels.

Bend in South Holland

In the Middle Ages, the name "Waal" continued after the confluence with the Meuse. The delta parts now known as Boven Merwede, Beneden Merwede and the upper section of the Noord were also called Waal. Near Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht, the mainstream continued west until it flowed into Oude Maas near Heerjansdam. This last stretch past Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht, which separated the river islands of IJsselmonde and Zwijndrechtse Waard, still is called Waal,[1] but is more commonly known as Waaltje (Dutch for Little Waal). It has been dammed off at both ends, making the Zwijndrechtse Waard part of IJsselmonde.

River crossings

Railroad bridges

Railroad bridges (with nearest train station on the left and right bank):

Water quality

The Waal has significant adverse water quality due to discharge of raw sewage by France and Germany. A number of pathogens have been monitored to occur in the river waters from such sewage.[2]


  1. ^ ter Laan, K.; et al., eds. (1942). Van Goor's aardrijkskundig woordenboek van Nederland (in Dutch). Den Haag: Van Goor Zonen.
  2. ^ Lodder, W J; de Roda Husman; A M (March 2005). "Presence of Noroviruses and Other Enteric Viruses in Sewage and Surface Waters in The Netherlands". Applied and Environmental Microbiology. American Society for Microbiology. 71 (3): 1453–1461. doi:10.1128/AEM.71.3.1453-1461.2005. OCLC 205246645. PMC 1065170. PMID 15746348. BL Shelfmark 1571.440000.

51°53′30″N 5°31′15″E / 51.891749°N 5.520716°E / 51.891749; 5.520716