Last updated
Bern Untertorbrucke 05.jpg
The Aare at Bern
Aare basin simple.png
Drainage basin of the Aare
Country Switzerland
Cantons Bern, Solothurn, Aargau
Settlements Meiringen (BE), Interlaken (BE), Thun (BE), Münsingen, Muri bei Bern, Bern, Bremgarten bei Bern, Aarberg (BE), Büren a.A. (BE), Solothurn (SO), Aarwangen (BE), Aarburg (BE), Olten (SO), Niedergösgen (SO), Schönenwerd (SO), Aarau (AG), Wildegg (AG), Brugg (AG), Windisch (AG), Döttingen (AG), Klingnau (AG)
Physical characteristics
  location Unteraar Glacier, Bernese Oberland
  coordinates 46°33′48″N8°25′57″E / 46.56341°N 8.43259°E / 46.56341; 8.43259
  elevation1,940 m (6,360 ft)
Rhine below Koblenz, Switzerland
47°36′21″N8°13′24″E / 47.6057°N 8.2234°E / 47.6057; 8.2234 Coordinates: 47°36′21″N8°13′24″E / 47.6057°N 8.2234°E / 47.6057; 8.2234
311 m (1,020 ft)
Length291.5 kilometres (181.1 mi) [1]
Basin size17,779 km2 (6,865 sq mi)
  average559 m3/s (19,700 cu ft/s) (MQ 1935-2013)
  minimum351 m3/s (12,400 cu ft/s) (MNQ 1935-2013),
138 m3/s (4,900 cu ft/s) (NNQ, 1963)
  maximum735 m3/s (26,000 cu ft/s) (MHQ 1935-2013),
2,656 m3/s (93,800 cu ft/s) (HHQ, 2007)
Basin features
Progression RhineNorth Sea
  left Lütschine (Lake Brienz), Kander (Lake Thun), Gürbe, Saane/La Sarine, Zihl/La Thielle (Lakes of Neuchatel and Bienne), La Suze (Lake of Bienne), Dünnern
  right Gadmerwasser, Zulg, Emme, Murg, Wigger, Suhre, Aabach, Reuss, Limmat, Surb
Waterbodies Oberaarsee, Grimselsee, Räterichsbodensee, Lake Brienz, Lake Thun, Wohlensee, Lake Biel, Stausee Niederried, Klingnauer Stausee

The Aare (German: [ˈaːrə] ) or Aar (German: [aːr] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )) is a tributary of the High Rhine and the longest river that both rises and ends entirely within Switzerland. [2] [3]


Its total length from its source to its junction with the Rhine comprises about 295 kilometres (183 mi), [2] [4] during which distance it descends 1,565 m (5,135 ft), draining an area of 17,779 km2 (6,865 sq mi), almost entirely within Switzerland, and accounting for close to half the area of the country, including all of Central Switzerland. [4]

There are more than 40 hydroelectric plants along the course of the Aare. [5]

The river's name dates to at least the La Tène period, and it is attested as Nantaror "Aare valley" in the Berne zinc tablet.

The name was Latinized as Arula/Arola/Araris. [6] [nb 1]


The Unteraargletscher Aletschgebiet aus dem Flugzeug.jpg
The Unteraargletscher
The Aare at Innertkirchen Ausgang Aareschlucht.jpg
The Aare at Innertkirchen
Inside the Aare Gorge Aareschlucht 166 7.jpg
Inside the Aare Gorge

The Aare rises in the great Aargletschers (Aare Glaciers) of the Bernese Alps, in the canton of Bern and west of the Grimsel Pass. [2] The Finsteraargletscher and Lauteraargletscher come together to form the Unteraargletscher (Lower Aar Glacier), which is the main source of water for the Grimselsee (Lake of Grimsel). [3] [5] The Oberaargletscher (Upper Aar Glacier) feeds the Oberaarsee, which also flows into the Grimselsee. [3] The Aare leaves the Grimselsee just to the east to the Grimsel Hospiz, below the Grimsel Pass, and then flows northwest through the Haslital, forming on the way the magnificent Handegg Waterfall, 46 m (151 ft), past Guttannen.

Right after Innertkirchen it is joined by its first major tributary, the Gamderwasser. Less than 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) later the river carves through a limestone ridge in the Aare Gorge (German : Aareschlucht). [2] It is here that the Aare proves itself to be more than just a river, as it attracts thousands of tourists annually to the causeways through the gorge. [3] A little past Meiringen, near Brienz, the river expands into Lake Brienz. Near the west end of the lake it indirectly receives its first important tributary, the Lütschine, by the Lake of Brienz. It then runs across the swampy plain of the Bödeli (Swiss German diminutive for ground) between Interlaken and Unterseen before flowing into Lake Thun. [2]

Near the west end of Lake Thun, the river indirectly receives the waters of the Kander, which has just been joined by the Simme, by the Lake of Thun. Lake Thun marks the head of navigation. [5] On flowing out of the lake it passes through Thun, and then flows through the city of Bern, passing beneath eighteen bridges and around the steeply-flanked peninsula on which the Old City of Berne is located. The river soon changes its northwesterly flow for a due westerly direction, but after receiving the Saane or La Sarine it turns north until it nears Aarberg. There, in one of the major Swiss engineering feats of the 19th century, the Jura water correction, the river, which had previously rendered the countryside north of Bern a swampland through frequent flooding, was diverted by the Aare-Hagneck Canal into the Lac de Bienne. From the upper end of the lake, at Nidau, the river issues through the Nidau-Büren Canal, also called the Aare Canal, [3] and then runs east to Büren. The lake absorbs huge amounts of eroded gravel and snowmelt that the river brings from the Alps, and the former swamps have become fruitful plains: they are known as the "vegetable garden of Switzerland".

From here the Aare flows northeast for a long distance, past the ambassador town Solothurn [2] (below which the Grosse Emme flows in on the right), Aarburg (where it is joined by the Wigger), Olten, Aarau, [2] near which is the junction with the Suhre, and Wildegg, where the Seetal Aabach falls in on the right. A short distance further, below Brugg it receives first the Reuss, its major tributary, and shortly afterwards the Limmat, its second strongest tributary. It now turns to north, and soon becomes itself a tributary of the Rhine, which it even surpasses in volume when the two rivers unite downstream from Koblenz (Switzerland), opposite Waldshut in Germany. The Rhine, in turn, empties into the North Sea after crossing into the Netherlands.


At the "Wasserschloss", where the rivers Aare, Reuss and Limmat flow together Aare - Limmat (Limmatspitz) IMG 6765.jpg
At the "Wasserschloss", where the rivers Aare, Reuss and Limmat flow together
Aare in Bern Bern 2.jpg
Aare in Bern
The convergence of the Aare and the Rhine at Koblenz London2007zurich img 5743.jpg
The convergence of the Aare and the Rhine at Koblenz



  1. The river Obringa , mentioned by Ptolemy (2.7.9) as a tributary of the Rhine, has been identified with either the Mosel or the Aare. [7]


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Lake Thun is an Alpine lake in the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland named after the city of Thun, on its northern shore.

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Lake Brienz is a lake just north of the Alps, in the canton of Berne in Switzerland. It has a length of about 14 kilometres (8.7 mi), a width of 2.8 kilometres (1.7 mi) and a maximum depth of 260 metres (850 ft). Its area is 29.8 square kilometres (11.5 sq mi), and the surface is 564 metres (1,850 ft) above the sea-level. It is fed, among others, by the upper reaches of the Aare at its eastern end, the Giessbach at its southern shore from steep, forested and rocky hills of the high Faulhorn and Schwarzhoren more than 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) above the lake, and by the Lütschine, flowing from the valleys of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, at its south-western corner. It flows out into a further stretch of the Aare at its western end. The culminating point of the lake's drainage basin is the Finsteraarhorn at 4,274 metres above sea level.

Reuss (river)

The Reuss is a river in Switzerland. With a length of 164 kilometres (102 mi) and a drainage basin of 3,426 square kilometres (1,323 sq mi), it is the fourth largest river in Switzerland. The upper Reuss forms the main valley of the canton of Uri. The course of the lower Reuss runs from Lake Lucerne to the confluence with the Aare at Brugg and Windisch.


Bödeli is the tongue of land between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland. Lake Thun and Lake Brienz were not yet separate after the last ice age. The rivers Lütschine from the south and the Lombach from the north brought enough debris to cause a partitioning over the millennia. Now Lake Brienz has a water level about 2 metres (6.6 ft) higher than Lake Thun and the river Aare flows from one lake to the other through the Bödeli.

Grimsel Pass

The Grimsel Pass is a mountain pass in Switzerland, crossing the Bernese Alps at an elevation of 2,164 metres (7,100 ft). The pass connects the Haslital, the upper valley of the river Aare, with the upper valley of the Rhône. In so doing, and as the Aare is a tributary of the Rhine, the pass crosses the continental divide between the North Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

Bernese Oberland

The Bernese Oberland is the higher part of the canton of Bern, Switzerland, in the southern end of the canton, and one of the canton's five administrative regions.

Swiss Plateau

The Swiss Plateau or Central Plateau is one of the three major landscapes in Switzerland, lying between the Jura Mountains and the Swiss Alps. It covers about 30% of the Swiss surface area, and is partly flat but mostly hilly. The average height is between 400 metres (1,300 ft) and 700 metres (2,300 ft) AMSL. It is by far the most densely populated region of Switzerland, the center of economy and important transportation.

Kander (Switzerland)

The Kander is a river in Switzerland. It is 44 kilometres (27 mi) long and has a watershed of 1,126 square kilometres (435 sq mi). Originally a tributary of the Aare, with a confluence downstream of the city of Thun, since 1714 it flows into Lake Thun upstream of the city.


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The Unteraargletscher, literally "Lower Aare-Glacier", is the larger of the two sources of the Aare river in the Bernese Alps. It emerges from the association of the Finsteraargletscher and the Lauteraargletscher and flows for about 6 km (3.7 mi) to the east down to the Grimselsee near the Grimsel Pass. In total the glacier was 12.95 km (8.05 mi) long and 29.48 km2 (11.38 sq mi) in area in 1973. Its lower end is almost 400 metres lower than that of the neighbouring Oberaargletscher.

Jura water correction 19th century water rerouting project in Switzerland

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Regulating Dam Port, Seeland, Switzerland

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Lake Thun railway line

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