Antwerpen Belgium

Old City centre seen from across the river Scheldt.

Antwerp Kathedral logo

Onze Lieve Vrouw kathedral Antwerp, anno 2009

Welcome to the river Scheldt

The Scheldt (Schelde - in Nederlands, Escaut - in French) is the most important river for the city of Antwerp as well as for Flanders, the Dutch speaking part of Belgium.

The headwaters of the Scheldt are just before the small French city of Gouy, in the Aisne department of northern France. The source the river is located at 49° 59' 12,95" North et 3° 15' 59,40" East at the altitude of 97 meters. The total drainage basin of Scheldt river is 20 000 km2 (where 15 328 km2 in Belgium), thus, more than 50% of the Belgian surface.

Schelde Source

The river flows to the north through Cambrai and Valenciennes, and enters Belgium near Tournai. Then it flows to the north east and in Ghent, where it receives the Lys, one of its main tributaries, the Scheldt turns east. After passing Dendermonde it turns again to the north to reach Antwerp. Near Antwerp, the largest city on its banks, the Scheldt turns once more and it flows to the west into the Netherlands towards the North Sea.

Originally there were two branches from that point: the Oosterschelde (Eastern Scheldt) and the Westerschelde (Western Scheldt).

On the left the source of the river Scheldt near the small French city Gouy (97 meters above the sea level).

On the right the Scheldt river after passing Cambrai, France.

In the 19th century the river was cut off from its eastern (actually: northern) branch by a dyke that connects Zuid-Beveland with the mainland (North Brabant).

Today the river continues into the Westerschelde estuary only, passing Terneuzen and reaching the North Sea between Breskens in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen and Vlissingen (English; Flushing) on Walcheren.

The Scheldt is an important waterway, and has been made navigable from its mouth close to Cambrai. The port of Antwerp, the second largest in Europe, lies on its banks.

Cambrai Scheldt
Several canals (including the Albert Canal) connect the Scheldt with the basins of the Rhine, Meuse and Seine, and with the industrial areas around Brussels, Liège, Lille, Dunkirk and Mons.
Valenciens Valenciens Schelde

Above on the left the 19th century picture of the bridge on the river Scheldt in Valenciennes and on the right the Scheldt before entering Valenciennes (23 meters above the sea level).

Tournai Schelde

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

  1. Department Aisne(France): Cities; Gouy
  2. Department Nord (France): Cities; Cambrai, Denain, Valenciennes
  3. Province of Hainaut (Belgium): Cities; Tournai
  4. Province of West Flanders (Belgium): Cities; Avelgem
  5. Province of East Flanders (Belgium): Cities; Oudenaarde, Ghent, Dendermonde, Temse
  6. Province of Antwerp (Belgium): Cities; Antwerp
  7. Province of Zeeland (Netherlands): Cities; Terneuzen, Vlissingen

On the left above, the entrance from the Scheldt to the city of Tournai in Belgium.

Avelgem Scheldt Oudenarde  Scheldt

On the left above the river Scheldt by Avelgem, West Flanders and on the right above the Scheldt by Oudenarde, East Flanders.

Gent Scheldt After Gent

When entering Ghent Scheldt is connected with a number of channels that goes through the centre of Ghent as well as it is connected through a few sluises with the channel connecting Ghent with Terneuze in Netherland and this way, with WesterSchelde.

On the left above Schelde flowing arround the Ghent,

on right above Schelde living Ghent.

On the very right, Sluises of Ghent.

Sluis Ghent
Dendermonde Temse Scheldt

On the left above the Scheldt by Dendermonde and on the right above the Scheldt by Temse.

Antwerpen1Pan Antwerp2Pan
Above, Antwerp Panorama to the north from the Scheldt
Antwerp3Pan Antwerp4Pan Antwerp5Pan
Antwerp Scheldt

Above, Antwerp Panorama to the south from the Scheldt

Left, nice weather on the Scheldt right bank on Sunday.

For a visitor it is sometimes difficult to believe that Scheldt in Antwerp is flowing in both directions. On the photo on the left we can see Scheldt in Antwerp during the high tide. In this case the water is flowing from the sea to the river.

On the other bank we can see the Saint Anna and the Antwerp Yacht Club.



Westerschelde during the low tide.

Doel on the Scheldt Terneuze

On the left above Belgian nuclear power plant on the left bank of the Scheldt, close to the border with The Netherlands.

On the right above WesterScheldt in the neighborhood of Terneuze. This middle size port is serving the Dutch city of Terneuze as well as the Belgian city of Ghent.

On the right, WesterScheldt monding to the North Sea in the vicinity of the Duch city of Vlissingen. On the photo we can sea the vessel delivering pilots on board big ships as an aid to navigate the WesterScheldt to the ports of Vlissingen or Terneuze or to the ports of Antwerp.



In the past

The Scheldt estuary has always had considerable commercial and strategic importance. In the Roman days it was important for the shipping lanes to Britannia. The Franks took control over the region around 260 ad 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 West and the East Empire, later named France and the Holy Roman Germanic Empire.

During the Roman times the Gallo-Romaine’s pirogue were used for navigation of the Scheldt. It was a monolith boat made from the oak tree measuring typically; 5 m x 0,4 m x 0,27 m.

The status quo between the West and the East Empire remained intact - at least on paper - until 1528, although by then both Flanders on the left bank, Zeeland and Brabant on the right bank became part of the Habsburg possessions of the Seventeen Provinces. Antwerp was the most prominent harbor of Western Europe. After this city fell back under Spanish control in 1585 the Dutch Republic took control of Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, a strip of land on the left shore, and closed the Scheldt for shipping. This shifted the trade from Antwerp to the ports of Amsterdam and Middelburg and seriously crippled the Antwerp business - an important and traumatic element in the history of relations between the Netherlands and what was to become Belgium.

Access to the river was the subject of the brief 1784 'Kettle War', and — in the French Revolutionary era shortly afterwards — the river was reopened in 1792. Once Belgium had claimed its independence from the Netherlands after the Brussels revolution in 1830 the treaty of the Scheldt determined that the river should remain accessible to ships headed for Belgian ports.

In World War II the estuary once again became a contested area. Despite allied control of Antwerp, in September 1944 German forces still occupied fortified positions throughout the Scheldt estuary west and north, preventing any allied shipping to 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.

Tributaries of the Scheldt

Scheldt Kaart


  • Honte (Vlissingen)
  • Schijn (Antwerp)
  • Rupel  (Rupelmonde)
  • Nete  (Rumst)
  • Dijle  (Rumst)
  • Demer  (Rotselaar)
  • Durme  (Temse)
  • Dender (Dendermonde)
  • Lys/Leie (Ghent)
  • Zwalm  (Zwalm)
  • Rone  (Kluisbergen)
  • Scarpe  (Mortagne-du-Nord)
  • Haine  (Condé-sur-l'Escaut)
  • Rhonelle (Valenciennes)
  • Écaillon  (Thiant)
  • Selle  (Denain)
  • Sensée  (Bouchain)