Last updated
Schelde Antwerpen.jpg
The Scheldt in Antwerp
Course of the Scheldt
France relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Belgium relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Netherlands relief location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Native name French: l'Escaut (m), Walloon: Escô, Dutch: Schelde
CountryFrance, Belgium, Netherlands
Physical characteristics
  elevation97 m (318 ft)
North Sea
51°25′51″N3°31′44″E / 51.43083°N 3.52889°E / 51.43083; 3.52889 (North Sea-Scheldt) Coordinates: 51°25′51″N3°31′44″E / 51.43083°N 3.52889°E / 51.43083; 3.52889 (North Sea-Scheldt)
Length360 km (220 mi)
Basin size21,863 km2 (8,441 sq mi)
  average120 m3/s (4,200 cu ft/s)
Official nameSchorren van de Beneden Schelde
Designated4 March 1986
Reference no.327 [1]
Official nameWesterschelde & Saeftinghe
Designated9 April 1995
Reference no.748 [2]
Official nameVallées de la Scarpe et de l'Escaut
Designated2 February 2020
Reference no.2405 [3]

The Scheldt ( /ʃɛlt/ , French : Escaut [ɛsko] , Walloon : Escô, Dutch : Schelde [ˈsxɛldə] ) is a 350-kilometre-long (220 mi) [4] river that flows through in northern France, western Belgium, and the southwestern part of the Netherlands, with its mouth at the North Sea. Its name is derived from an adjective corresponding to Old English sceald ("shallow"), Modern English shoal, Low German schol, West Frisian skol, and Swedish (obsolete) skäll ("thin").[ citation needed ]



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. Ghent developed at the confluence of the Lys, one of its main tributaries, and the Scheldt, which then turns east. Near Antwerp, the largest city on its banks, the Scheldt flows west into the Netherlands toward the North Sea.[ citation needed ]

Originally there were two branches from that point: the Oosterschelde (Eastern Scheldt); and the Westerschelde (Western Scheldt). In the 19th century, however, the Dutch built a dyke that cuts the river off from its eastern (northern) branch and connects Zuid-Beveland with the mainland (North Brabant). Today the river continues into the Westerschelde estuary only, passing Terneuzen to reach the North Sea between Breskens in Zeelandic Flanders and Vlissingen (Flushing) on Walcheren.[ citation needed ]

The Scheldt is an important waterway, and has been made navigable from its mouth up to Cambrai. Above Cambrai, the Canal de Saint-Quentin follows its course. The port of Antwerp, the second-largest in Europe, developed on its banks. Several canals (including the Albert Canal) connect the Scheldt with the basins of the Rhine, Meuse, and Seine rivers, and with the industrial areas around Brussels, Liège, Lille, Dunkirk, and Mons.[ citation needed ]

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


The Scheldt at Antwerp, photochrom, ca. 1890-1900. Antwerp across the Scheldt, photochrom.png
The Scheldt at Antwerp, photochrom, ca. 1890-1900.
"View of Antwerp with the frozen Scheldt" (1590) by Lucas van Valckenborch. 1593 Valckenborch Ansicht von Antwerpen mit zugefrorener Schelde anagoria.JPG
"View of Antwerp with the frozen Scheldt" (1590) by Lucas van Valckenborch.
U.S. President Harry S. Truman and Secretary of State James F. Byrnes wave at HMS Hambledon while on board the USS Augusta on the river Scheldt as they head to the Potsdam Conference on 15 July 1945. Truman Byrnes greeting HMS Hambledon 1945.jpg
U.S. President Harry S. Truman and Secretary of State James F. Byrnes wave at HMS Hambledon while on board the USS Augusta on the river Scheldt as they head to the Potsdam Conference on 15 July 1945.

The Scheldt estuary has always had considerable commercial and strategic importance. In Roman times, it was important for the shipping lanes to Roman Britain. Nehalennia was venerated at its mouth. The Franks took control over the region about the year 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 Western and Eastern parts of the Empire, which later became France and the Holy Roman Empire.[ citation needed ]

This status quo remained intact, at least on paper, until 1528, but by then, both the County of Flanders on the western bank and Zeeland and the Duchy of Brabant on the east were part of the Habsburg possessions of the Seventeen Provinces. Antwerp was the most prominent harbour in Western Europe. After this city fell back under Spanish control in 1585, the Dutch Republic took control of Zeelandic Flanders, a strip of land on the left bank, and closed the Scheldt for shipping. That 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.[ citation needed ]

Access to the river was the subject of the brief Kettle War of 1784, and during the French Revolution 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 heading for Belgian ports. Nevertheless, the Dutch government would demand a toll from passing vessels until 16 July 1863.[ citation needed ]

The Question of the Scheldt, a study providing "a history of the international legal arrangements governing the Western Scheldt", was prepared for the use of British negotiators at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. [5]

In the Second World War, the Scheldt estuary once again became a contested area. Despite Allied control of Antwerp, German forces still occupied fortified positions in September 1944 throughout the Scheldt estuary west and north, preventing any Allied shipping from reaching 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. [6]

Tributaries and sub-tributaries

The Scheldt in Antwerp at sunset. River Scheldt in Antwerp at sunset.jpg
The Scheldt in Antwerp at sunset.
The navigable river Escaut/Scheldt from Cambrai to the North Sea (from European Waterways Map and Directory, 5th edition). Escaut Location.jpg
The navigable river Escaut/Scheldt from Cambrai to the North Sea (from European Waterways Map and Directory, 5th edition).

Canalisation from Cambrai down to Valenciennes was completed in 1788. Napoleon saw the benefits of linking Paris to Belgium and accelerated completion of the Canal de Saint-Quentin to the south. The locks were deepened and doubled, as coal became the essential commodity of the industrial revolution. Upgrading downstream from Bouchain was started in the 1960s in both France and Flanders, but the waterway is still not fully compliant with European standards. All the locks on the high-capacity section are being doubled by European Class Vb size locks, 185 by 12 m (607 by 39 ft), as part of the overall European Seine-Scheldt waterway project. [7] The Pont des Trous, a listed fortified bridge in Tournai that has already been substantially modified, will again be raised to provide the necessary dimensions, including an air draught of 7.10 m (23 ft 4 in).[ citation needed ]

The 13 km section between Cambrai (connection with Canal de Saint-Quentin) and Hordain (connection with Canal de la Sensée) is only navigable for small ships (péniche) and has 5 locks. [8]

In culture

Traditions says that Saint Amalberga of Temse crossed the river in Temse on the back of a big Sturgeon.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Zeeland Province of the Netherlands

Zeeland is the westernmost and least populous province of the Netherlands. The province, located in the south-west of the country, borders North Brabant to the east and South Holland to the north, consists of a number of islands and peninsulas and a strip bordering the Flemish provinces of East and West Flanders. Its capital is Middelburg with a population of 48,544 as of November 2019, the largest municipality in Zeeland is Terneuzen Zeeland has two seaports; in Vlissingen and Terneuzen. Its area is 2,934 square kilometres (1,130 sq mi), of which 1,151 square kilometres (440 sq mi) is water, and it has a population of 383,689 as of November 2019.

Antwerp Province Province of Belgium

Antwerp Province is the northernmost province both of the Flemish Region, also called Flanders, and of Belgium. It borders on North Brabant province of the Netherlands and the Belgian provinces of Limburg, Flemish Brabant and East Flanders. Its capital is Antwerp which comprises the Port of Antwerp, which is the second largest seaport in Europe. It has an area of 2,876 km2 (1,110 sq mi) and with over 1.85 million inhabitants as of January 2019, it is the country's most populous province. The province consists of 3 arrondissements: Antwerp, Mechelen and Turnhout. The eastern part of the province comprises the main part of the Campine region.

Delta Works series of construction projects in the southwest Netherlands to protect a large area of land around the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta from the sea

The Delta Works is a series of construction projects in the southwest of the Netherlands to protect a large area of land around the Rhine-Meuse-Schelde delta from the sea. The works consist of dams, sluices, locks, dykes, levees, and storm surge barriers located in the provinces of South Holland and Zeeland.

Western Scheldt Estuary of the Scheldt river

The Western Scheldt in the province of Zeeland in the southwestern Netherlands, is the estuary of the Scheldt river. This river once had several estuaries, but the others are now disconnected from the Scheldt, leaving the Westerschelde as its only direct route to the sea. The Western Scheldt is an important shipping route to the Port of Antwerp, Belgium. Unlike the Eastern Scheldt estuary, it could not be closed off from the sea by a dam as part of the Delta Works. Instead, the dykes around it have been heightened and reinforced.

Zuid-Beveland Peninsula in Zeeland, Netherlands

Zuid-Beveland is part of the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands north of the Western Scheldt and south of the Eastern Scheldt.

Scheldt–Rhine Canal

The Scheldt–Rhine Canal (Schelde-Rijnkanaal) in Belgium and the Netherlands connects Antwerp with the Volkerak, and thereby the Scheldt with the Rhine.

Vlissingen Municipality in Zeeland, Netherlands

Vlissingen is a municipality and a city in the southwestern Netherlands on the former island of Walcheren. With its strategic location between the Scheldt river and the North Sea, Vlissingen has been an important harbour for centuries. It was granted city rights in 1315. In the 17th century Vlissingen was a main harbour for ships of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). It is also known as the birthplace of Admiral Michiel de Ruyter.

Siege of Antwerp (1914) engagement between the German and the Belgian armies during World War I

The Siege of Antwerp was an engagement between the German and the Belgian, British and French armies around the fortified city of Antwerp during World War I. German troops besieged a garrison of Belgian fortress troops, the Belgian field army and the British Royal Naval Division in the Antwerp area, after the German invasion of Belgium in August 1914. The city, which was ringed by forts known as the National Redoubt, was besieged to the south and east by German forces. The Belgian forces in Antwerp conducted three sorties in late September and early October, which interrupted German plans to send troops to France, where reinforcements were needed to counter the French armies and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

Lys (river) river in France and Belgium, and a left tributary of the Scheldt

The Lys or Leie is a river in France and Belgium, and a left-bank tributary of the Scheldt. Its source is in Pas-de-Calais, France, and it flows into the river Scheldt in Ghent, Belgium. Its total length is 202 kilometres (126 mi).

Dyle (river) river in central Belgium

The Dyle is a river in central Belgium, left tributary of the Rupel. It is 86 kilometres (53 mi) long. It flows through the Belgian provinces of Walloon Brabant, Flemish Brabant and Antwerp. Its source is in Houtain-le-Val, near Nivelles in Walloon Brabant.

Escaut (department) former French department (1795-1814)

Escaut was a department of the French First Republic and French First Empire in present-day Belgium and Netherlands. It was named after the river Scheldt, which is called the Escaut in French. It was created on 1 October 1795, when the Austrian Netherlands and the Prince-Bishopric of Liège were officially annexed by the French Republic. Before annexation by France, its territory was part of the County of Flanders and the Dutch Republic (Staats-Vlaanderen).

Bouches-de-lEscaut former French department (1810-1814)

Bouches-de-l'Escaut was a department of the First French Empire in the present-day Netherlands. It was formed in 1810, when the Kingdom of Holland was annexed by France. Its territory corresponded with the present-day Dutch province of Zeeland, minus Zeelandic Flanders, which was part of the department of Escaut. Its capital was Middelburg.

Scheldeprijs recurring sporting event

The Scheldeprijs is a cycling race in Belgium and the Netherlands which starts in Terneuzen, crosses the Scheldt River, and finishes in Schoten. Until 2018 it was held entirely in Belgium. The event, ranked as a 1.HC race on the UCI Europe Tour, features mostly sprinters on its roll of honour, as it is held on all-flat roads over roughly 200 kilometres.

Condé-sur-lEscaut Commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Condé-sur-l'Escaut is a commune of the Nord department in northern France.

Seine–Nord Europe Canal canal

The Seine–Nord Europe Canal is a projected high-capacity canal in France that would link the Oise River at Compiègne with the Canal Dunkerque-Escaut, east of Arleux. The objective is to expand trade flows in a fuel-efficient and ecologically friendly manner between the Seine basin and Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, while reducing saturation on the A1 motorway in France and reducing the CO2 emissions in the transport sector within this corridor.

Jozef Schils was a Belgian cyclist.

Temse Bridge (East Flanders) bridge in Belgium

The Temse Bridge crosses the Scheldt at Temse, a small town approximately 25 km southwest of Antwerp. Between 1955 and 2009 the 365 m (1,197.5 ft) bridge was the longest in Belgium. The old bridge lost that distinction to the New Schelde Bridge which runs parallel to it, and has a length of 374 m (1,227.0 ft).

The pagus of Brabant ) was a geographical region in the early Middle Ages, in what is now Belgium. It was the first region known as Brabant, and included the modern capital of Belgium, Brussels.


  1. "Schorren van de Beneden Schelde". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  2. "Westerschelde & Saeftinghe". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  3. "Vallées de la Scarpe et de l'Escaut". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  4. "VNSC Communicatie : vraagbaak voor alles op, rond en in de Schelde" (in Dutch). Retrieved 2014-06-03.
  5. Prothero, G W (1920). Question of the Scheldt. Peace handbooks. London: H.M. Stationery Office. Retrieved 2014-06-03.
  6. Zuehlke, Mark (2009). Terrible Victory: First Canadian Army and the Scheldt Estuary Campaign: September 13 - November 6, 1944. Douglas & McIntyre. p. 460. ISBN   1771620307.
  7. Edwards-May, David (2010). Inland Waterways of France. St Ives, Cambs., UK: Imray. p. 84. ISBN   978-1-846230-14-1.
  8. Fluviacarte, Escaut (à petit gabarit)