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The Tisza in Szeged, Hungary
Map of the Tisza
Native name
Physical characteristics
  location Eastern Carpathians, Ukraine
  elevation2,020 m (6,630 ft)
Mouth Danube
Downstream of Novi Sad, Serbia
45°8′17″N20°16′39″E / 45.13806°N 20.27750°E / 45.13806; 20.27750 [1]
Length966 km (600 mi)
Basin size156,087 km2 (60,266 sq mi) [2] 154,073.1 km2 (59,488.0 sq mi) [3]
  location Novi Slankamen, Serbia (near mouth)
  average820 m3/s (29,000 cu ft/s) 920.111 m3/s (32,493.4 cu ft/s) [4]
  minimum160 m3/s (5,700 cu ft/s)
  maximum4,500 m3/s (160,000 cu ft/s)
  location Szeged, Hungary (173.6 km upstream of mouth - Basin size: 138,857.7 km2 (53,613.3 sq mi) [5]
  average769 m3/s (27,200 cu ft/s) 890.451 m3/s (31,446.0 cu ft/s) [6]
  location Szolnok, Hungary (334.6 km upstream of mouth - Basin size: 72,889.4 km2 (28,142.8 sq mi) [7]
  average546 m3/s (19,300 cu ft/s) 578.922 m3/s (20,444.4 cu ft/s)
  location Tokaj, Hungary (543.079 km upstream of mouth - Basin size: 49,120.9 km2 (18,965.7 sq mi) [8]
  average465 m3/s (16,400 cu ft/s) 468.77 m3/s (16,554 cu ft/s) [9]
  location Vásárosnamény, Hungary (684.45 km upstream of mouth - Basin size: 30,978.9 km2 (11,961.0 sq mi) [10]
  average340.62 m3/s (12,029 cu ft/s) [11]
Basin features
Progression DanubeBlack Sea
  left Someș, Körös, Mureș, Bega
  right Bodrog, Sajó, Eger, Zagyva

The Tisza, Tysa or Tisa, is one of the major rivers of Central and Eastern Europe. Once, it was called "the most Hungarian river" because it flowed entirely within the Kingdom of Hungary. Today, it crosses several national borders.


The Tisza begins near Rakhiv in Ukraine, at the confluence of the White Tisa and Black Tisa, which is at coordinates 48°4′29″N24°14′40″E / 48.07472°N 24.24444°E / 48.07472; 24.24444 (the former springs in the Chornohora mountains; the latter in the Gorgany range). From there, the Tisza flows west, roughly following Ukraine's borders with Romania and Hungary, then shortly as border between Slovakia and Hungary, later into Hungary, and finally into Serbia. It enters Hungary at Tiszabecs. It traverses Hungary from north to south. A few kilometers south of the Hungarian city of Szeged, it enters Serbia. Finally, it joins the Danube near the village of Stari Slankamen in Vojvodina, Serbia.

The Tisza drains an area of about 156,087 km2 (60,266 sq mi) [2] and has a length of 966 km (600 mi) [12] Its mean annual discharge is seasonally 792 m3/s (28,000 cu ft/s) to 1,050 m3/s (37,000 cu ft/s). It contributes about 13% of the Danube's total runoff. [2]

Attila the Hun is said to have been buried under a diverted section of the river Tisza. [13]


The river was known as the Tisia in antiquity; other ancient names for it included Pathissus (Πάθισσος in Ancient Greek and later Tissus (in Latin)), (Pliny, Naturalis historia , 4.25). It may be referred to as the Theiss in older English references, after the German name for the river, Theiß. It is known as the Tibisco in Italian, and in older French references (as for instance in relation to the naval battles on the Danube between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Empire in the 17th and 18th centuries) it is often referred to as the Tibisque.

Modern names for the Tisza in the languages of the countries it flows through include:


The length of the Tisza in Hungary used to be 1,419 km (882 mi). It flowed through the Great Hungarian Plain, which is one of the largest flat areas in central Europe. Since plains can cause a river to flow very slowly, the Tisza used to follow a path with many curves and turns, which led to many large floods in the area.

After several small-scale attempts, István Széchenyi organised the "regulation of the Tisza" (Hungarian : a Tisza szabályozása) which started on August 27 1846, and substantially ended in 1880. The new length of the river in Hungary was reduced to 966 km (600 mi) in total, with 589 km (366 mi) of dead channels and 136 km (85 mi) of new riverbed. [14]

Lake Tisza

In the 1970s, the building of the Tisza Dam at Kisköre started with the purpose of helping to control floods as well as storing water for drought seasons. However, the resulting Lake Tisza became one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hungary since it had similar features to Lake Balaton at drastically cheaper prices and was not crowded.

The Tisza is navigable over much of its course. The river opened up for international navigation only recently; before, Hungary distinguished "national rivers" and "international rivers", indicating whether non-Hungarian vessels were allowed or not. After Hungary joined the European Union, this distinction was lifted and vessels were allowed on the Tisza. [15]

Conditions of navigation differ with the circumstances: when the river is in flood, it is often unnavigable, just as it is at times of extreme drought. [16]


The Tisza has a rich and varied wildlife. Over 200 species of birds reside in the bird reserve of Tiszafüred. The flood plains along the river boast large amounts of diverse plant and animal life. In particular, the yearly "flowering" of the Tisza is considered a local natural wonder. The flowering attracts vast numbers of mayflies which is a well known spectacle. [17] [18]

In September 2020, colonies of magnificent bryozoans were discovered in the river. [19]


In early 2000, there was a sequence of serious pollution incidents originating from accidental industrial discharges in Romania. The first, in January 2000, occurred when there was a release of sludge containing cyanide from a Romanian mine and killed 2000 tons of fish. The second, from a mine pond at Baia Borsa, northern Romania, resulted in the release of 20,000 m3 (710,000 cu ft) of sludge containing zinc, lead and copper occurred in early March 2000. A week later, the third spill occurred at the same mining site at Baia Borsa, staining the river black, possibly including heavy metals. [20]

This series of incidents were described at the time as the most serious environmental disaster to hit central Europe since the Chernobyl disaster. Usage of river water for any purpose was temporarily banned and the Hungarian government pressed the Romanians and the European Union to close all installations that could lead to further pollution. [20]

Examination of river sediments indicates that pollution incidents from mines have occurred for over a century. [21]


Drainage basin

The Tisza River is part of the Danube River catchment area. It is the tributary with the largest catchment area (~157,000 km2). It accounts for more than 19% of the Danube river basin. The Tisza water system is shared by five countries: Ukraine (8%), Slovakia (10%), Hungary (29%), Romania (46%) and Serbia (7%).

The Tisza River Basin area and average discharge (period from 1946 to 2006) by country [22]

Country Area by country Discharge by country
(km2) (%) (m3/s) (km3) (%)
Hungary Flag of Hungary.svg 46,213 29.4 47 1.5 5.7
Romania Flag of Romania.svg 72,620 46.2 468 14.8 56.4
Serbia Flag of Serbia.svg 10,374 6.6 4.0 0.1 0.5
Slovakia Flag of Slovakia.svg 15,247 9.7 90 2.8 10.8
Ukraine Flag of Ukraine.svg 12,732 8.1 221 7.0 26.6
Tisza River Basin157,186100.083026.2100.0

The 1800-2500 m high ridge of the Carpathian Mountains create in a semi circle the northern, eastern and southeastern boundary of the Tisza catchment. The western - southwestern reach of the watershed is comparatively low in some places – on its Hungarian and Serbian parts it is almost flat. The area is divided roughly along the centreline by the Carpathians Mountains, east of which lies the 400-600 m high plateau of the Transylvanian Basin, and the plains to the west. The highest summits of the river basin reach 1,948 m in the Low Tatras (Kráľova hoľa), 2061 m in the Chornogora Mountains (Hoverla), 2303 m in the Rodna Mountains (Pietrosul Rodnei) and even higher in the Retezat Mountains of the Southern Carpathians (Peleaga, 2509 m). Areas above elevations higher than 1600 m occupy only 1% of the total; 46% of the territory lies below 200 m. The Tisza River Basin in the Slovak Republic is predominantly hilly area and the highest mountain peak in Kráľova hoľa - in the Low Tatras Mountain Range at 1,948 m. The lowland area lies in the south, forming the northern edge of the Hungarian Lowland. The lowest point in the Slovak Republic is the village of Streda nad Bodrogom in the eastern Slovak lowland (96 m) in the Bodrog River Basin. The Hungarian and Vojvodina (Serbia) part of the Tisza River Basin is a flat area bordered by small ranges of hills and mountains from the north and dominated by the Hungarian lowland. [22]

Important hydrographic stations along the Tisza River (full list) [23] [24] [25]

Station River





Basin size


Average discharge


Lower Tisza
Near mouth070154,073.1920.11
Titel 8.770153,965920.28
Novi Bečej 6670144,007.8893.72
Bečej 7371143,994.6892.81
Bačko Petrovo Selo 8772143,585891,29
Mol 10372142,373.4889.98
Ada 10472142,373.4889.98
Senta 123.573140,849.9886.98
Adorjan 13773140,746886.73
Novi Kneževac 144.573139,717.5885.36
Kanjiža 148.373139,376.8886.5
Srpski Krstur 156.873138,857.7888.69
Szeged 17274138,857.7890.45
Middle Tisza
Maros 17675108,436.1703.43
Algyő 19276107,941703.85
Mindszent 217.777105,881.5703.33
Körös 24478102,643.7698.78
Csongrád 246.27875,520.5583.04
Tiszaug 267.57975,517583.58
Tiszakécske 2747975,056.1583.42
Martfű 306.98074,462.2582.64
Vezseny 3148073,895.9581.43
Tiszavárkony 3228073,895.9581.33
Szolnok 334.68172,889.4578.92
Zagyva 3368167,325562.04
Szajol 3448166,713.4560.39
Nagykörű 363.78266,581.2559.85
Tiszabő 3668266,464.6559.58
Kőtelek 373.88266,315.7559.42
Tiszaroff 379.38366,315.7559.42
Tiszabura 395.68365,840.4558.14
Kisköre 403.58365,624.9557.58
Tiszafüred 430.58863,967.2553.34
Tiszabábolna 4428863,346551.54
Tiszadorogma 446.28863,346551.14
Tiszacsege 453.98963,164.8550.87
Ároktő 454.98963,164.8550.87
Tiszakeszi 464.38963,164.8550.66
Tiszapalkonya 484.79062,557.7549.31
Tiszaújváros 4869062,557.7549.11
Polgár 487.39062,557.7549.11
Sajó 4929049,688.1470.49
Tiszadob 500.29149,600.6470.25
Tiszadada 508.49149,600.6470.06
Tiszalök 518.29349,443469.85
Tokaj 543.19449,167.1468.86
Bodrog 5449434,856.5353.75
Timár 549.49534,810.3353.66
Szabolcs 5559534,810.3352.7
Balsa 557.79634,810.3353.31
Tiszabercel 5699734,713.3352.7
Cigánd 5929832,964.1346.06
Dombrád 593.19832,964.1346.06
Tiszakanyár 597.39832,964.1346.06
Záhony 627.810031,304.7340.39
Chop 63010031,304.7340.39
Vásárosnamény 68210330,978.9340.62
Upper Tisza
Szamos 68610411,870.1202.13
Jánd 69010511,870.1201.96
Kisar Tivadar 70410711,689.7201.51
Tiszabecs 744.31149,950185.86
Vylok 7461159,588.3180.91
Vynohradiv 7671379,366180.91
Khust 7831577,877.8153.54
Bushtyno 8021886,802130.66
Tiachiv 8142106,657.9126.81
Teresva 8202255,205.7101.04
Siçhetu Marmației 8372653,45175.73
Dilove 8853461,294.426.65
Rakhiv 8974371,256.322.13


Average, minimum and maximum discharge of the Tisza River at Tiszabecs (Upper Tisza), Szolnok (Middle Tisza) and Senta (Lower Tisza). [26] [23] [24]

Year Discharge (m3/s)
Senta Szolnok Tiszabecs


The rivers of Tisza and Bodrog at Tokaj, from above River Tisza & Bodrog Tokaj.jpg
The rivers of Tisza and Bodrog at Tokaj, from above
The Tisza joins the Danube. 038 Titel, Knicanin, Tisa, Danube - Serbia.jpg
The Tisza joins the Danube.

The following rivers are tributaries to the river Tisza:

Cities and towns

The Tisza (Tisa) flows through the following countries and cities (ordered from the source to mouth):

See also

Related Research Articles

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