The Old Rhine - Flowing in an Unmade BedSlide show

The stream which visitors to the nature reserve know as the Old Rhine joins the River Rhine at Urdenbach. But its headwaters are in Solingen where, to confuse matters even more, it is called Garather Mühlenbach. The stream changes its name when it reaches the riparian wetlands because from this point on it flows in the Rhine's old bed, the one before the river altered its course in 1347. In the 1950s two ditches and a low dike to control summer flooding were made along the Old Rhine, confining it to a very tidy bed on the north side of the dike. The aim was to protect the adjoining meadows, but one of the side effects was the degradation of the natural habitat.
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In recent decades, streams and rivers all over Europe have been restored to their natural state. The new course of the Old Rhine is an unusual example of stream restoration. Between August 2013 and April 2014, two 20-metre-wide breaches were made in the 1950s dike, one at the Düsseldorf suburb of Hellerhof and the other at Urdenbach. The Old Rhine now flows along the left side of the dike for a stretch of 2.5 kilometres. Wooden footbridges spanning the breaches enable visitors to observe the changes that unfold as the Old Rhine gradually settles into its unmade bed. The aim is for a low-gradient stream to develop which will absorb flood flows during the Rhine's high water periods. Tench, pike, and other fish species will find safe spawning beds here.

The lead partner in the project is the City of Düsseldorf. The Haus Bürgel Eco Centre is supporting the project with scientific expertise and public relations work, while the local water authority has supervised the excavations and construction. Major funding was supplied by the Nordrhein-Westfalen-Stiftung a state foundation supporting conservation, local history, and culture projects and the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
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