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Home >> Rivers
Main Danube Canal
River Map Summary
The Main Danube Canal (or Rhine Main Danube Canal - RMD) is a shortcut from the North Sea coast down to the Black Sea. Close to Nuremberg, in the vicinity of Hilpoltstein, you will cross the European Continental Water Divide.

A first attempt to construct a canal between both river basins was undertaken by Charlemagne in the 8th century AD. About 500 meters of the Fossa Carolina do still exist close to Weißenburg in Bavaria.

Between 1836 and 1846 King Ludwig I of Bavaria ordered the construction of a modern canal between Bamberg and Kelheim. This canal was constructed and used. But was very narrow and had about 100 locks. It became uneconomic to transport goods via vessels as they were replaced by the railway network. Furthermore the sandstone walls of the locks suffered from permanent erosion. The damage from World War 2 was not repaired and so the Ludwig Canal was abandoned in 1950.

But already much earlier, in 1921, the construction of a modern canal, the Rhine Main Danube Canal had started. It's northern stretch is roughly parallel to the old Ludwig Canal, while the last part down to Kelheim follow the old Canal bed through the Altmühl river valley. Due to the Cold War and the Iron Curtain there was absolutely no exchange of goods or chance for tourists to travel all the way down the Danube. So the priority finishing the construction was rather low until 1992. Due to the Yugoslav Wars (1991 - 1995) and the Kosovo War (1999) the lower Danube Stretch remained unstable (or blocked by destroyed bridges) until the early 2000 years.

The RMD starts at Bamberg, goes along the Franconian Swiss midland area to Nuremberg. South of Nuremberg the canal enters the Franconian Alb before it decents down to Kelheim to the Danube River.

Total of 16 locks. 7 Bamberg to Nurembergs port. 9 from Nuremberg across the continental water divide to Kelheim and the Danube. The Main Danube Canal is the only canal that crosses the mountain range of a midland area. Some of the locks are among the highes locks in Europe, some go as far up as 25 meters (75 ft.).

Cruise it
Every cruise that goes from Amsterdam or Basel down to Vienna / Budapest has to go via the RMD canal. Its southern stretch (Nuremberg to Kelheim) is quite lovely, the nothern part (Bamberg to Nuremberg) rather boring. You will pass a total of 16 locks in which are dead zones for mobile internet of phones due to the massive amount of concrete and steel around you. The cities along the canal are really worth seeing: Nuremberg with its important history from the middle ages to the 20th century; Bamberg and Regensburg both are on the Unesco WHC list due to their medieval city centers.
Additional Facts
Altitude Profile
Geographical Facts
Length 171 km / 107 mil
Length Airline 133 km / 83 mil
GPS Source 49°54'52.27"N, 10°49'45.83"E
Source Elevation 235 m / 771 feet
Mouth Elevation 337 m / 1 106 feet
GPS Mouth 48°54'37.00"N, 11°54'24.29"E
Basin Area 0 km² / 0 mil²
Average Discarge 0 m³/s / 0 ft³/s
Waters IntoMain Danube Canal - Main - Rhine - North Sea
Runs through countries
Cruise Line Cruise Name Days Total
A-RosaChristmas & New Year Celebrations15
Ama WaterwaysBlue Danube Discovery14
Christmas Time Cruise11
Europes Rivers & Castles14
Magnificent Europe16
Magnificent Europe (Christmas Cruise)16
North Sea to the Black Sea27
The Legendary Danube12
Treasures of the Main & Rhine11
Ultimate River Cruise21
Avalon WaterwaysCentral European Experience 201412
Central European Experience 201512
Christmas in the Heart of Germany 20148
Christmas in the Heart of Germany 20158
Christmastime in Germany12
Christmastime in Germany & Austria12
Christmastime on the Danube9
European Splendor13
Grand Christmastime Cruise16
Grand Danube Cruise18
Highlights of Germany13
Jewels of Central Europe: Budapest to Paris19
Jewels of Central Europe: Budapest to Paris 201519
Jewels of Central Europe: Paris to Budapest17
Jewels of Central Europe: Paris to Budapest 201517
Magnificent Europe15
North Sea - Black Sea Cruise24
The Blue Danube Discovery13
The Legendary Danube11
The Upper Rhine to the City of Music12
Emerald WaterwaysChristmas Markets for Europe15
Classic Prague and Danube Delights11
Danube Delight8
Splendours of Europe15
Grand Circle TravelChristmas Markets along the Danube8
Grand European Cruise28
The Great Rivers of Europe16
Lueftner CruisesAcross Europe15
Best of Europe13
Classical Danube Cruise8
Magic of Advent on the Danube7
Prague & Danube10
Three River Cruise8
Scenic ToursGems of the Danube8
Grand Europe24
Jewels of Europe15
TauckAmsterdam to Budapest15
Christmas Markets along the Danube8
Danube Reflections10
Grand European Cruise24
Uniworld Boutique River CruisesClassic Christmas Markets8
Classic Christmas Markets Family Program8
Danube Discovery & Prague10
Delightful Danube & Prague10
European Holiday Markets8
European Jewels15
European Serenade14
Grand Christmas & New Year's Cruise13
Grand Danube & Prague17
Grand European Discovery15
Grand European Explorer19
Grand European Highlights22
Grand European River Voyage27
Paris & the Heart of Europe18
Rhine Discovery & Prague10
Vantage Deluxe World TravelGrand European River Cruise: Rhine Valley to the Black Sea26
Majestic Rivers of Europe: Castles, Cathedrals & Fairytales15
Treasures of the Rhine & Main Rivers15
Viking River CruisesCities of Light12
European Sojourn23
Grand European Tour15
Grand Rivers of Europe22
Heart of Germany7
Romantic Danube8
Vineyards & Vistas8

Upstream KMStation NameYesterday Average
170.00 Riedenburg Up NA
7.31 Bamberg NA