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Werser (Low German)
The Weser near Bad Oeynhausen
Watershed of the Weser
Weser is located in Germany
European context: mouth within Germany.
Etymology*waisōn, Proto-Germanic, meaning "flow" or "ooze"
Physical characteristics
 • locationConfluence of the Fulda and Werra Rivers in Hann. Münden
 • coordinates51°25′17″N 9°38′53″E / 51.42139°N 9.64806°E / 51.42139; 9.64806
 • elevation116 m (381 ft)
MouthWadden Sea of the North Sea
 • location
Between Bremerhaven and Nordenham
 • coordinates
53°32′8″N 8°33′56″E / 53.53556°N 8.56556°E / 53.53556; 8.56556
 • elevation
0 m (0 ft)
Length452 km (281 mi) [744 km (462 mi) if combined with the Werra]
Basin size46,306 km2 (17,879 sq mi)
 • average327 m3/s (11,500 cu ft/s)
Basin features
River systemWeser basin
 • leftDiemel, Emmer, Werre, Große Aue, Hunte
 • rightAller, Lesum

The Weser (pronounced [ˈveːzɐ] ) is a river of Lower Saxony in north-west Germany. It begins at Hannoversch Münden through the confluence of the Werra and Fulda. It passes through the Hanseatic city of Bremen. Its mouth is 50 km (31 mi) further north against the ports of Bremerhaven and Nordenham. The latter is on the Butjadingen Peninsula. It then merges into the North Sea via two highly saline, estuarine mouths.

It connects to the canal network running east–west across the North German Plain.

The river, when combined with the Werra (a dialectal form of Weser),[citation needed] is 744 km (462 mi) long and thus, the longest river entirely situated within Germany (the Main, however, is the longest if the Weser and Werra are not combined). The Weser itself is 452 km (281 mi) long. The Werra rises in Thuringia, the German state south of the main projection (tongue) of Lower Saxony.


"Weser" and "Werra" are the same words in different dialects. The difference reflects the old linguistic border between Central and Low German, passing through Hannoversch Münden.

The name likely derives from the Old Germanic *waisōn "flow, ooze".[1] It is cognate with the Wear in England and Vistula (Polish Wisła, German Weichsel) in Poland, all of which are derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *weys- "to flow", which also gives rise to Old English/Old Frisian wāse "mud, ooze", Old Norse veisa "slime, stagnant pool", Dutch waas "haze; soggy land" (see Waasland), Old Saxon waso "wet ground, mire", Old High German wasal "rain" and French vase "mud, sludge".


The Weser starts at the confluence of the Fulda and the Werra. It then runs down to the Porta Westfalica between two high hill ranges, the Wiehengebirge, west and the Weserbergland in the east.

Between Minden and the North Sea, humans have largely canalised the river up to a limit of 1,200-ton ships. Eight hydroelectric dams stand at the ends of adjacent weirstreams that make up the river. The navigation is linked west to the Dortmund–Ems Canal via the Coastal Canal. It is linked east at Bremerhaven to the Elbe.

A large reservoir, the Edersee, on the Eder, the main tributary of the Fulda, is used to allow enough water depth for shipping year-round. The dam, built in 1914, was bombed and severely damaged by British aircraft in May 1943, causing great destruction and about 70 deaths downstream. It was rebuilt within four months. The reservoir is a major summer resort area. Turbines driven by its sluices provide electricity.

Alte Weser Lighthouse

The Weser enters the North Sea in the southernmost part of the German Bight. In the sea it splits into two arms – the riverbed at the end of the last ice age. These sea arms are called Alte Weser (old Weser) and Neue Weser (new Weser). They are the waterways for ships heading for the ports of Bremerhaven, Nordenham, and Bremen. The Alte Weser Lighthouse marks the northernmost point of the Weser. This replaced the Roter Sand Lighthouse in 1964.


The largest tributary of the Weser is the Aller, which joins south of Bremen. Tributaries of the Weser and the Werra (from source to mouth) are:

Modes of the list:

Weser and its tributaries in blue, other rivers in grey


II: km 45.3, left: Eder, 176.1 km, 3,361 km2, headwater of the strongest waterway of Weser system
III: km 17.1, left: Schwalm, 97.1 km, 1.299 km2
↑ III: km 49.4–70.5: Edersee reservoir
II: 120.1, right: Haune, 66.5 km, 500 km2

Notable towns

Main towns along the Weser are (from the head of the river to its mouth): Hann. Münden, Beverungen, Höxter, Holzminden, Bodenwerder, Hamelin, Hessisch Oldendorf, Rinteln, Vlotho, Bad Oeynhausen, Porta Westfalica, Minden, Petershagen, Nienburg, Achim, Bremen, Brake, Nordenham, Bremerhaven.

Popular culture

The river features in the legend and folk tale the Pied Piper of Hamelin.


  1. ^ Orel, Vladimir (2003). A Handbook of Germanic Etymology. Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV. p. 441. ISBN 9789004128750.