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Title: Schelde  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Central Europe, 1585, Ferry, Antwerp (province), Rupelmonde, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, Beveren, Vlissingen, Arnulf of Metz, Menapii
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Origin France

North Sea
51°25′51″N 3°31′44″E / 51.43083°N 3.52889°E / 51.43083; 3.52889 (North Sea-Scheldt)Coordinates: 51°25′51″N 3°31′44″E / 51.43083°N 3.52889°E / 51.43083; 3.52889 (North Sea-Scheldt)

Basin countries France, Belgium, Netherlands
Length 350 km (217 mi)
Source elevation 95 m (312 ft)
Avg. discharge 120 m³/s (4,238 ft³/s)
Basin area 21,860 km² (8,440 mi²)

The Scheldt (Dutch Schelde [ˈsxɛldə], French Escaut) is a 350 km[1] long river in northern France, western Belgium and the southwestern part of the Netherlands. Its name is derived from an adjective corresponding to Old English sceald "shallow", Modern English shoal, Low German schol, Frisian skol, and Swedish skäll "thin".


The headwaters of the Scheldt are in Gouy, in the Aisne department of northern France. It flows north through Cambrai and Valenciennes, and enters Belgium near Tournai. In Ghent, where it receives the Lys, one of its main tributaries, the Scheldt turns east. Near Antwerp, the largest city on its banks, the Scheldt flows west into the Netherlands towards the North Sea.

Originally there were two branches from that point: the Oosterschelde (Eastern Scheldt) and the Westerschelde (Western Scheldt) but in the 19th century the river was cut off from its eastern (actually: northern) branch by a dyke that connects Zuid-Beveland with the mainland (North Brabant). Today the river therefore continues into the Westerschelde estuary only, passing Terneuzen to reach the North Sea between Breskens in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen and Vlissingen (Flushing) on Walcheren.

The Scheldt is an important waterway, and has been made navigable from its mouth up to Cambrai. The port of Antwerp, the second largest in Europe, lies on its banks. Several canals (including the Albert Canal) connect the Scheldt with the basins of the Rhine, Meuse and Seine, and with the industrial areas around Brussels, Liège, Lille, Dunkirk and Mons.

The Scheldt flows through the following departments of France, provinces of Belgium, provinces of the Netherlands and towns:


The Scheldt estuary has always had considerable commercial and strategic importance. In Roman days it was important for the shipping lanes to Britannia. The Franks took control over the region c. 260 and at first interfered with the Roman supply routes as pirates. Later they became allies of the Romans. With the various divisions of the Frankish Empire in the 9th century, the Scheldt eventually became the border between the West and the East Empire, which later became France and the Holy Roman Empire.

This status quo remained intact—at least on paper—until 1528, although by then both Flanders on the western bank and Zeeland and Brabant on the east were part of the Habsburg possessions of the Seventeen Provinces. Antwerp was the most prominent harbor of Western Europe. After this city fell back under Spanish control in 1585 the Dutch Republic took control of Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, a strip of land on the left shore, and closed the Scheldt for shipping. This shifted the trade to the ports of Amsterdam and Middelburg and seriously crippled Antwerp—an important and traumatic element in the history of relations between the Netherlands and what was to become Belgium.

Access to the river was the subject of the brief 1784 Kettle War, and—in the French Revolutionary era shortly afterwards—the river was reopened in 1792. Once Belgium had claimed its independence from the Netherlands in 1830 the treaty of the Scheldt determined that the river should remain accessible to ships headed for Belgian ports, nevertheless, the Dutch government would demand a toll until july 16th 1863.

In World War II the estuary once again became a contested area. Despite allied control of Antwerp, in September 1944 German forces still occupied fortified positions throughout the Scheldt estuary west and north, preventing any allied shipping to the port. In the Battle of the Scheldt, the Canadian First Army successfully cleared the area, allowing supply convoys direct access to the port of Antwerp by November 1944.

Tributaries and sub-tributaries

In Culture

Louis Pulinckx's painting "View on the Schuldt", 1875

See also



  • The Scheldt (Escaut) at the Sandre database

External links

  • Water basin of the Scheldt
  • ScheldeMonitor; Research studies and monitoring activities
  • Deltaworks; Flood protection works in Scheldt Delta
  • International Scheldt Commission
  • Scaldit - Interreg IV B NWE project for a safer and cleaner Scheldt River Basin District (FR - BE (Walloon Region - Brussels Cap. Region - Flemish Region) - NL)
  • Bibliography on Water Resources and International Law Peace Palace Library
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