Ems (river)

Last updated
Eems (Dutch, Low German), Iems (Westfalian), Oamse (Saterland Frisian), Amisia (Latin)
Ems Wasserfall Hanekenfaehr.jpg
The Ems near Lingen
Ems river system topo.png
River system of the Ems
Country Germany, Netherlands(part of watershed)
Bundesland Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia
Region Emsland
Cities Rheda-Wiedenbrück, Gütersloh, Warendorf, Rheine, Lingen, Meppen, Papenburg, Leer, Emden
Physical characteristics
  location Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock
  coordinates 51°51′21″N8°41′55″E / 51.85583°N 8.69861°E / 51.85583; 8.69861
  elevation134 m (440 ft)
Mouth Dollart Bay/North Sea
53°19′32″N7°14′41″E / 53.32556°N 7.24472°E / 53.32556; 7.24472 Coordinates: 53°19′32″N7°14′41″E / 53.32556°N 7.24472°E / 53.32556; 7.24472
0 m (0 ft)
Length362.4 km (225.2 mi) [1]
Basin size17,934 km2 (6,924 sq mi)
  location Emden
  average80 m3/s (2,800 cu ft/s)
Basin features
  right Leda, Hase

The Ems (German : Ems; Dutch : Eems) is a river in northwestern Germany. It runs through the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony, and discharges into the Dollart Bay which is part of the Wadden Sea. Its total length is 362.4 kilometres (225.2 mi). [1] The state border between the Lower Saxon area of East Friesland (Germany) and the province of Groningen (Netherlands), whose exact course was the subject of a border dispute between Germany and the Netherlands (settled in 2014), runs through the Ems estuary.



The source of the river is in the southern Teutoburg Forest in North Rhine-Westphalia. In Lower Saxony the brook becomes a comparatively large river. Here the swampy region of Emsland is named after the river. In Meppen the Ems is joined by its largest tributary, the Hase River. It then flows northwards, close to the Dutch border, into East Frisia. Near Emden it flows into the Dollart bay (a national park) and then continues as a tidal river towards the Dutch city of Delfzijl.

Between Emden and Delfzijl, the Ems forms the border between the Netherlands and Germany and was subject to a mild dispute: the Dutch believed that the border runs through the geographical centre of the estuary, whereas the Germans claimed it runs through the deepest channel (which is close to the Dutch coast). As the parties are now friendly states with an open border, the argument went no further than an agreement to disagree. The issue was settled amicably in 2014 [2] [3]

It became an active issue in late July, 1914, when the Imperial German government began plans to mine the whole of the estuary that they claimed, in preparation for the launching of the Great War. The Dutch envoy in Berlin, Wilem Alexander Frederik Baron Gevers tactfully announced the boundary was uncertain, and that the dispute was "opgeschort", which could mean either 'suspended' or 'resolved', depending on the context. The Dutch government endorsed the ambiguous declaration, thus relieving itself of an obligation to declare war on Germany for violating its neutrality. After the war, the dispute was resumed. [4]

Past Delfzijl, the Ems discharges into the Wadden Sea, part of the North Sea. The two straits that separate the German island of Borkum from its neighbours Rottumeroog (Netherlands) and Memmert (Germany) continue the name "Ems", as they are called Westere(e)ms and Osterems (West and East Ems).


The Ems only a few hundred yards from its spring in Schloss Holte-Stukenbrock Ems nahe Quelle.jpg
The Ems only a few hundred yards from its spring in Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock

The Ems is accompanied and crossed by different long-distance bicycle routes:

Cities and municipalities

Ems near Telgte Ems Telgte.jpg
Ems near Telgte
Ems in Meppen Meppen hubbruecke.jpg
Ems in Meppen
Ems near Leer Bij Leer, de Eems foto1 2010-05-13 12.34.JPG
Ems near Leer



The Ems was known to several ancient authors: Pliny the Elder in Natural History (4.14), Tacitus in the Annals (Book 1), Pomponius Mela (3.3), Strabo and Ptolemy, Geography (2.10). Ptolemy's name for it was the Amisios potamos, and in Latin Amisius fluvius. The others used the same, or Amisia, or Amasia or Amasios. The identification is certain, as it always is listed between the Rhine and the Weser, and was the only river leading to the Teutoburg Forest.

The Amisius flowed from the Teutoburg Forest, home of the Cherusci, with the Bructeri and others bordering the river. These tribes were among the initial Franks. The Romans were quite interested in adding them to the empire, and to that end built a fort, Amisia, at the mouth of the Ems. As the river was navigable to their ships, they hoped to use it to access the tribes at its upper end.

Surrounding the river for most of its length, however, were swamps, bogs and marshes. The Romans found they had no place to stand, could not pick the most favourable ground, because there was none, and could not in general follow the strategies and tactics developed by the Roman army. They were stopped at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, 9 AD, and were checked again 6 years later. The Ems became a road leading nowhere for them, nor were they ever able to bridge the swamps satisfactorily with causeways.

The Dollart Bay near Emden did not exist until 1277, [5] when a catastrophic storm surge flooded 43 parishes and killed an estimated 80,000 people. [6] Most of the land lost in that flood has been reclaimed in a series of initiatives from the 16th to the early 20th centuries. The river in 1277 curved north by Emden, covering the area of the current Emden harbor complex.

Construction of canals in more modern times connected the Ems to other waterways, opening it as a highway of industrial transportation.

Related Research Articles

Leer is a district (Landkreis) in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is bounded by the city of Emden, the districts of Aurich, Wittmund, Friesland, Ammerland, Cloppenburg and Emsland, and by the Netherlands.

Landkreis Emsland is a district in Lower Saxony, Germany named after the river Ems. It is bounded by the districts of Leer, Cloppenburg and Osnabrück, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the district of Bentheim in Lower Saxony, and the Netherlands.

Teutoburg Forest low mountain range in Germany

The Teutoburg Forest is a range of low, forested hills in the German states of Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia. In 9 CE, this region was the site of a major Roman defeat, the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Until the 19th century, the official name of the hill ridge was Osning.

Lingen, Germany Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Lingen is a town in Lower Saxony, Germany. In 2008, its population was 52,353, and in addition there were about 5,000 people who registered the city as their secondary residence. Lingen, specifically "Lingen (Ems)" is located on the river Ems in the southern part of the Emsland district, which borders North Rhine-Westphalia in the south and the Netherlands in the west. Lingen was first mentioned in the Middle Ages.

Meppen Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Meppen is a town in and the seat of the Emsland district of Lower Saxony, Germany, at the confluence of the Ems, Hase, and Nordradde rivers and the Dortmund-Ems canal (DEK). The name stems from the word Mappe, meaning "delta".

Hase River in Germany

The Hase is a 169.7-kilometre (105.4 mi) long river of Lower Saxony, Germany. It is a right tributary of the Ems, but part of its flow goes to the Else, that is part of the Weser basin. Its source is in the Teutoburg Forest, south-east of Osnabrück, on the north slope of the 307-metre (1,007 ft) high Hankenüll hill.

Dollart bay in the Wadden Sea between Netherlands and Germany

The Dollart or Dollard is a bay in the Wadden Sea between the northern Netherlands and Germany, on the west side of the estuary of the Ems river. Most of it dries at low tide. Many water birds feed there.

Greven Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Greven is a medium-sized town in the district of Steinfurt, in Germany's most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia and close to the city of Münster.

Bever (Ems) River in Germany

The Bever is an approximately 40 km long river in western Germany, right tributary of the river Ems. It has its springs in the Teutoburg Forest. It runs through the northern part of North Rhine-Westphalia and flows into the Ems near Telgte (Westbevern). Another town on the Bever is Ostbevern.

Else (Werre) River in Germany

The Else is a left tributary of the river Werre in the northeast of North Rhine-Westphalia and in southern Lower Saxony. The Else is a distributary of the river Hase and begins at a river bifurcation near Melle.

EUREGIO is a cross-border region between the Netherlands and Germany and the first Euroregion. It was founded in 1958 as a German Eingetragener Verein, and has been converted in 2016 into a Public Body based on the 1991 Anholt treaty. Participating communities are in Niedersachsen and Nordrhein-Westfalen (Münsterland) in Germany and parts of the Dutch provinces Gelderland, Overijssel and Drenthe. Participating cities in the region are Münster, Osnabrück, Enschede, and Hengelo.

Oldambt (municipality) Municipality in Groningen, Netherlands

Oldambt is a municipality with a population of 38,129 in the province of Groningen in the Netherlands. It was established in 2010 by merging the municipalities of Reiderland, Scheemda, and Winschoten. It contains the city of Winschoten and these villages:

The Ankum Heights, also called the Fürstenau Hills, are a ridge of hills up to 140 m high in the western part of the state of Lower Saxony on the North German Plain.

Osnabrück Land

Osnabrück Land is a region in southwest Lower Saxony in Germany, which extends into the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Its centre is the city of Osnabrück. The region is dominated by the Teutoburg Forest and the River Hase. Originally a variant of Low German was spoken here which belonged to the East-Westphalian dialect. The region is generally identified with the district and city of Osnabrück, which largely corresponds to the Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück in the Holy Roman Empire. The Osnabrück Land Regional Association looks after cultural issues for the region.

Ems Dollart Region INTERREG-IV organisation on the Dutch/German border

The Ems Dollart Region (EDR), established in 1977, is a cross-border organisation located in the northern Dutch-German border area. The region is named after the Ems River and the Dollart estuary. Its aim is to establish and improve contacts and levels of interaction between people, companies and organisations within the border region. The organization is based in the Dutch village of Bad Nieuweschans. Here, the office has developed into a Dutch-German center, where cross-border functions and other activities take place. The office also serves as an administration base and launching point for many cross-border projects.

The Hanoverian Western Railway was a line from the Löhne to Emden, built by the Royal Hanoverian State Railways in the mid-19th century in the west of the Kingdom of Hanover in the modern German states of Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia.

Löhne–Rheine railway railway line

The Löhne–Rheine railway is a two-track, continuously electrified railway main line from Löhne in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia via Osnabrück in Lower Saxony to Rheine in North Rhine-Westphalia. It runs parallel to the Wiehen Hills to the north and to the Teutoburg Forest to the south. The line opened in 1855 and 1856 and was one of the oldest railways in Germany.

Emsland Railway railway line

The Emsland line (German: is a railway from Rheine via Salzbergen, Lingen, Meppen, Lathen, Papenburg and Leer to Emden, continuing to Norden and Norddeich-Mole in East Frisia in the German state of Lower Saxony. The line is named after the Ems river, which it follows for almost its entire length. The line opened in 1854 and 1856 and is one of the oldest railways in Germany.

Germany–Netherlands border Disconnects the territories of Germany and the Netherlands

The Germany–Netherlands border is 570 km (350 mi) long, and separates Germany and the Netherlands.


  1. 1 2 Hydrographic Directory of the NRW State Office for Nature, the Environment and Consumer Protection (Gewässerverzeichnis des Landesamtes für Natur, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz NRW 2010) (xls; 4.67 MB)
  2. (www.dw.com), Deutsche Welle. "Germany and the Netherlands end centuries-old border dispute - DW - 24.10.2014". DW.COM.
  3. "Germany, Netherlands end Ems River border dispute - World Bulletin". worldbulletin.net.
  4. Collected Diplomatic Documents Relating to the Outbreak of the European War pp. 326-332, 379, 381-382. pub. His Majesty's Stationery Office -London 1915
  5. Goffart, Walter (2003). Historical Atlases: The First Three Hundred Years, 1570-1870. University of Chicago Press. p. 126. Retrieved 2018-09-16.
  6. Suess, Edward (1906). The Face of the Earth. Clarendon Press. p.  417 . Retrieved 2018-09-16. dollart ems flood 1277.