Main (river)

Last updated
Wurzburg Lowenbrucke.jpg
The Main River in Würzburg
Position of the Main in Germany
Country Germany
Physical characteristics
  location Upper Franconia
  coordinates 50°5′11″N11°23′54″E / 50.08639°N 11.39833°E / 50.08639; 11.39833
49°59′40″N8°17′36″E / 49.99444°N 8.29333°E / 49.99444; 8.29333 Coordinates: 49°59′40″N8°17′36″E / 49.99444°N 8.29333°E / 49.99444; 8.29333
Length524.9 km (326.2 mi) [1]
Basin size27,208 km2 (10,505 sq mi) [1]
  average200 m3/s (7,100 cu ft/s)
Basin features
Progression RhineNorth Sea

The Main (German pronunciation: [ˈmaɪn] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )) is a river in Germany. With a length of 525 kilometres (326 mi) (including its 52 km long source river White Main), it is the longest right tributary of the Rhine. It is also the longest river lying entirely in Germany (if the Weser and the Werra are considered as two separate rivers; together they are longer). The largest cities along the Main are Frankfurt am Main, Offenbach am Main and Würzburg.



The mainspring of the Main River flows through the German states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg (forming the border with Bavaria for some distance) and Hesse. Its basin competes with the Danube for water; as a result, many of its boundaries are identical with those of the European Watershed.

The Main begins near Kulmbach in Franconia at the joining of its two headstreams, the Red Main (Roter Main) and the White Main (Weißer Main). The Red Main originates in the Franconian Jura mountain range, 50 km (31 mi) in length, and runs through Creussen and Bayreuth. The White Main originates in the mountains of the Fichtelgebirge; it is 41 km (25 mi) long. In its upper and middle section, the Main runs through the valleys of the German Highlands. Its lower section crosses the Lower Main Lowlands (Hanau-Seligenstadt Basin and northern Upper Rhine Plain) to Wiesbaden, where it discharges into the Rhine. Major tributaries of the Main are the Regnitz, the Franconian Saale, the Tauber, and the Nidda.

The name "Main" derives from the Latin Moenus or Menus. It is not related to the name of the city Mainz (Latin: Moguntiacum).

The Main is navigable for shipping from its mouth at the Rhine close to Mainz for 396 km (246 mi) to Bamberg. Since 1992, the Main has been connected to the Danube via the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal and the highly regulated Altmühl river. The Main has been canalized with 34 large locks (300 × 12 m or 984 × 39 ft) to allow CEMT class V vessels (110 × 11.45 m or 360.9 × 37.6 ft) to navigate the total length of the river. The 16 locks in the adjacent Rhine-Main-Danube Canal and the Danube itself are of the same dimensions.

Dams and locks

Dams along the Main Verlaufskarte Main.gif
Dams along the Main

There are 34 dams and locks along the 380 km navigable portion of the Main, from the confluence with the Regnitz near Bamberg, to the Rhine. [2]

No.NameLocationYear builtMain-kmDistance between locks (km)Altitude (m)Height (m)Lock length (m)Lock width (m)
1Viereth Viereth-Trunstadt 1925380.699230.866.00289.8012.00
2Limbach Eltmann 1951367.17613.523224.865.36299.1012.00
3Knetzgau Knetzgau (Haßfurt)1958359.7817.395219.504.24298.8512.00
4Ottendorf Gädheim 1962345.26314.518215.267.59301.6012.00
5Schweinfurt Schweinfurt 1963332.03713.226207.674.67300.6012.00
6Garstadt Bergrheinfeld 1956323.5038.534203.004.69299.7512.00
7Wipfeld Wipfeld 1950316.2897.214198.314.31300.1512.00
8Gerlachshausen mit Volkach Volkach (Schwarzach am Main)1957300.50615.783194.006.30300.0012.00
9Dettelbach Dettelbach 1959295.3985.108187.705.50299.3512.00
10Kitzingen Kitzingen 1956283.97911.419182.203.66299.8012.00
11Marktbreit Marktbreit (Frickenhausen am Main)1955275.6818.298178.543.31296.4012.00
12Goßmannsdorf Ochsenfurt 1952269.0286.653175.233.40296.9012.00
13Randersacker Würzburg (Randersacker)1950258.88510.143171.833.30299.6012.00
14Würzburg Würzburg 1954252.5126.373168.532.75293.1012.00
15Erlabrunn Erlabrunn (Thüngersheim)1935241.20411.308165.784.15299.2012.00
16Himmelstadt Himmelstadt 1939232.2908.914161.634.30299.5012.00
17Harrbach Karlstadt (Gemünden am Main)1939219.46612.824157.334.90299.4512.00
18Steinbach Lohr am Main 1939200.67318.793152.435.14299.1012.00
19Rothenfels Rothenfels (Marktheidenfeld)1937185.88714.786147.295.26298.4512.00
20Lengfurt Triefenstein 1937174.50811.379142.033.99300.0811.98
21Eichel Wertheim 1937160.46714.041138.044.50299.9212.00
22Faulbach Wertheim (Faulbach)1935147.06513.402133.544.51299.8012.10
23Freudenberg Collenberg (Freudenberg)1934133.94813.117129.034.51300.0012.00
24Heubach Großheubach (Miltenberg)1932122.36011.588124.524.00300.0012.00
25Klingenberg Klingenberg am Main 1930113.0509.310120.524.00300.7112.05
26Wallstadt Kleinwallstadt (Großwallstadt)1930101.20311.847116.524.00299.9312.00
27Obernau Niedernberg (Aschaffenburg)193092.9098.294112.524.01299.1812.00
28Kleinostheim Kleinostheim (Stockstadt am Main)1920
29Krotzenburg Hainburg (Großkrotzenburg)1920
(formerly Kesselstadt)
Maintal (Mühlheim am Main)1920
31Offenbach Frankfurt am Main (Offenbach am Main)1901
32Griesheim Frankfurt am Main 193428.6879.82792.024.49344.05
33Eddersheim Hattersheim am Main (Kelsterbach)193415.55113.13687.533.61345.46
34Kostheim Hochheim am Main (Ginsheim-Gustavsburg)1886
(MW Rhine)
Door: 12.00
Chamber: 20.00

Hydroelectric power generation

Most of the dams along the Main also have turbines for power generation.

No.NameHeight (m)Power (MW)TurbinesOperator
1Viereth6.006.20 Francis(3), Kaplan(1) E.ON Wasserkraft
2Limbach5.363.70 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
3Knetzgau4.242.90 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
4Ottendorf7.596.30 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
5Schweinfurt4.673.80 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
6Garstadt4.693.90 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
7Wipfeld4.312.90 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
8Gerlachshausen mit Volkach6.303.90 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
9Dettelbach5.504.20 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
10Kitzingen3.663.00 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
11Marktbreit3.312.10 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
12Goßmannsdorf3.402.00 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
13Randersacker3.302.00 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
14Würzburg2.750.90 Kaplan(3) E.ON Wasserkraft
15Erlabrunn4.152.70 Kaplan(1) E.ON Wasserkraft
16Himmelstadt4.302.50 Kaplan(1) E.ON Wasserkraft
17Harrbach4.903.00 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
18Steinbach5.144.20 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
19Rothenfels5.264.20 Kaplan(2) E.ON Wasserkraft
20Lengfurt3.992.60 E.ON Wasserkraft
21Eichel4.503.10 E.ON Wasserkraft
22Faulbach4.514.10 E.ON Wasserkraft
23Freudenberg4.514.30 E.ON Wasserkraft
24Heubach4.003.40 E.ON Wasserkraft
25Klingenberg4.003.00 E.ON Wasserkraft
26Wallstadt4.003.40 E.ON Wasserkraft
27Obernau4.013.20 E.ON Wasserkraft
28Kleinostheim6.809.70 E.ON Wasserkraft
30Mühlheim3.774.80 E.ON Wasserkraft
31Offenbach3.184.10 E.ON Wasserkraft
32Griesheim4.494.90 Kaplan(3)Wasser- und Schifffahrtsamt Aschaffenburg
33Eddersheim3.613.84 Kaplan(3)Wasser- und Schifffahrtsamt Aschaffenburg
34Kostheim2.364.9Kaplan Pit-Rohrturbinen(2)WKW Staustufe Kostheim/Main GmbH & Co. KG (Gebaut und Betrieben von Stadtwerke Ulm/Neu-Ulm)


The Main and its main tributaries Bassin du Main.png
The Main and its main tributaries

Tributaries from source to mouth:

Ports and municipalities

Around Frankfurt are several large inland ports. Because the river is rather narrow on many of the upper reaches, navigation with larger vessels and push convoys requires great skill.

The largest cities along the Main are Frankfurt am Main, Offenbach am Main and Würzburg. The Main also passes the following towns: Burgkunstadt, Lichtenfels, Bad Staffelstein, Eltmann, Haßfurt, Schweinfurt, Volkach, Kitzingen, Marktbreit, Ochsenfurt, Karlstadt, Gemünden, Lohr, Marktheidenfeld, Wertheim, Miltenberg, Obernburg, Erlenbach/Main, Aschaffenburg, Seligenstadt, Hainburg, Hanau, Hattersheim, Flörsheim, and Rüsselsheim.

The river has gained enormous importance as a vital part of European "Corridor VII", the inland waterway link from the North Sea to the Black Sea. [3]

Main line

In a historical and political sense, the Main line is referred to as the northern border of Southern Germany, with its predominantly Catholic population. The river roughly marked the southern border of the North German Federation, established in 1867 under Prussian leadership as the predecessor of the German Empire.

The river course also corresponds with the Speyer line isogloss between Central and Upper German dialects, sometimes mocked as Weißwurstäquator .


The Main-Radweg is a major German bicycle path running along the Main River. It is approximately 600 kilometres long (370 mi) and was the first long-distance bicycle path to be awarded 5 stars by the General German Bicycle Club ADFC in 2008. It starts from either Creußen or Bischofsgrün and ends in Mainz. [4]


Related Research Articles

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Upper Rhine Section of the Rhine in Germany and Switzerland

The Upper Rhine is the section of the Rhine in the Upper Rhine Plain between Basel in Switzerland and Bingen in Germany. The river is marked by Rhine-kilometres 170 to 529.

Offenbach is a Kreis (district) in the south of Hesse, Germany and is part of the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region. Neighbouring districts are Main-Kinzig, Aschaffenburg, Darmstadt-Dieburg, Groß-Gerau and the cities of Darmstadt, Frankfurt and Offenbach.

Altmühl River in Bavaria, Germany

The Altmühl is a river in Bavaria, Germany. It is a left tributary of the river Danube and is approximately 230 kilometres (140 mi) long.

Regnitz River in Germany

The Regnitz is a river in Franconia, Germany. It is a left tributary of the Main and is 63.7 km (39.6 mi) in length.

Rhine–Main–Danube Canal canal in Bavaria, Germany which connects the Main and the Danube rivers across the European Watershed

The Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, in Bavaria, Germany, connects the Main and the Danube rivers across the European Watershed, running from Bamberg via Nuremberg to Kelheim. The canal connects the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea, providing a navigable artery between the Rhine delta, and the Danube Delta in south-eastern Romania and south-western Ukraine. The present canal was completed in 1992 and is 171 kilometres (106 mi) long.

Obertshausen Place in Hesse, Germany

Obertshausen is a town in the Offenbach district in the Regierungsbezirk of Darmstadt in the state of Hesse, Germany. It has around 24,000 inhabitants.

Hainburg, Germany Place in Hesse, Germany

Hainburg is a community of just under 15,800 in the Offenbach district in the Regierungsbezirk of Darmstadt in Hesse, Germany.

The Limes Germanicus is the name given in modern times to a line of frontier (limes) fortifications that bounded the ancient Roman provinces of Germania Inferior, Germania Superior and Raetia, dividing the Roman Empire and the unsubdued Germanic tribes from the years 83 to about 260 AD. The Limes used either a natural boundary such as a river or typically an earth bank and ditch with a wooden palisade and watchtowers at intervals. A system of linked forts was built behind the Limes.

Seligenstadt Place in Hesse, Germany

Seligenstadt is a town in the Offenbach district in the Regierungsbezirk of Darmstadt in Hesse, Germany. Seligenstadt is one of Germany's oldest towns and was already of great importance in Carolingian times.

Southern Germany as a region has no exact boundary but is generally taken to include the areas in which Upper German dialects are spoken. That corresponds roughly to the historical stem duchies of Bavaria and Swabia or, in a modern context, to Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg within the Federal Republic of Germany, to the exclusion of the areas of the modern states of Austria and Switzerland. The Saarland and the southern parts of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate are sometimes included as well and correspond to the historical Franconia.

Creußen Place in Bavaria, Germany

Creußen is a town in the district of Bayreuth in Bavaria, Germany. It is situated on the Red Main river, 13 km southeast of Bayreuth.

Taunus Railway German rail line

The Taunus Railway is a double-track electrified railway line, which connects Frankfurt and Wiesbaden, Germany. It is 41.2 km long and follows the course of the Main on its north side, running quite close to it in some places. Its first stage was opened in September 1839 and is thus the oldest railway line in the German state of Hesse and one of the oldest in Germany. Today it is used by Regional-Express trains between Frankfurt and Wiesbaden and the trains of line S1 of the Rhine-Main S-Bahn between Frankfurt-Höchst and Wiesbaden. Between Frankfurt Hbf and Frankfurt-Höchst, they run on the line of the former Hessian Ludwig Railway.

Mainhausen Place in Hesse, Germany

Mainhausen is a community of over 9,000 in the Offenbach district in the Regierungsbezirk of Darmstadt in Hesse, Germany.

Grand Duchy of Hesse State Railways transport company

The Grand Duchy of Hesse State Railways belonged to the Länderbahnen at the time of the German Empire. In the 19th century, the Grand Duchy of Hesse consisted of three provinces. Between the rivers Rhine, Main and Neckar the province of Starkenburg embraced the Odenwald and the Hessian Ried. It also included the ducal residence of Darmstadt. West of the Rhine, was the province of Rhenish Hesse (Rheinhessen) with the towns of Mainz, Worms and Bingen. The province of Upper Hesse (Oberhessen), which included the Vogelsberg and the Wetterau was not directly linked by land to the others. As a result of its lack of territorial integrity, the state did not initially build its own state railway. Rather it took part in joint state railway projects with its neighbouring states: These were the:

Danube River in Central and Eastern Europe

The Danube is Europe's second longest river, after the Volga. It is located in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Hanau-Seligenstadt Basin is a subbasin of the Upper Rhine Graben southeast of Frankfurt am Main.

S1 (Rhine-Main S-Bahn) line of the Rhine-Main S-Bahn

The S1 service of the S-Bahn Rhein-Main system bearing the KBS number 645.1 is an important railway connection running east–west. It operates between the Hesse state capital Wiesbaden and the southern Offenbach rural district serving the densely populated area along the Main river.

Frankfurt Rhine-Main Place in Germany

The Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region, often simply referred to as Frankfurt Rhine-Main, Frankfurt Rhine-Main area or Rhine-Main area is the second largest metropolitan region in Germany, with a total population exceeding 5.8 million. The metropolitan region is located in the central western part of Germany, and stretches over parts of three federal states: Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Bavaria, as well as the cities of Frankfurt am Main, Wiesbaden, Offenbach, Mainz, Darmstadt and Aschaffenburg.

Main Cycleway

The Main Cycleway is a major German bicycle path running for about 600 km along the River Main in Germany. It starts from either Creußen or Bischofsgrün and ends in Mainz. The General German Bicycle Club (ADFC) rated the trail five stars in 2008, the first path in Germany to receive this award. Approximately 90% of the path is paved and 77% of the route is at least 2.5 metres wide.


  1. 1 2 Complete table of the Bavarian Waterbody Register by the Bavarian State Office for the Environment (xls, 10.3 MB)
  2. "Daten und Fakten" [Facts and figures] (in German). Wasser- und Schifffahrtsdirektion Süd. June 2003. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  3. "NoorderSoft Waterways Database" . Retrieved 2007-10-24.
  4. "Main-Radweg" . Retrieved 23 April 2013.