Vltava in Prague
The course and drainage basin of the Vltava from its source to its confluence with the Elbe (magenta)
|• location||?erná hora, Bohemian Forest|
|• elevation||1,172 m (3,845 ft)|
|155 m (509 ft)|
|Length||430 km (270 mi)|
|Basin size||28,090 km2 (10,850 sq mi)|
|• average||149.9 m3/s (5,290 cu ft/s)|
|Progression||Elbe-> North Sea|
|• left||Otava, Berounka|
|• right||Lu?nice, Sázava|
The Vltava ( VU(U)L-t?-v?,Czech: ['vl?tava] ; German: Moldau ['m?lda?]) is the longest river within the Czech Republic, running southeast along the Bohemian Forest and then north across Bohemia, through ?eský Krumlov, ?eské Bud?jovice and Prague, and finally merging with the Elbe at M?lník. It is commonly referred to as the "Czech national river".
Both the Czech name Vltava and the German name Moldau are believed to originate from the old Germanic words *wilt ahwa ("wild water"; compare Latin aqua). In the Annales Fuldenses (872 AD) it is called Fuldaha; from 1113 AD it is attested as Wultha. In the Chronica Boemorum (1125 AD) it is attested for the first time in its Bohemian form, Wlitaua.
The Vltava river is 430.3 kilometres (267.4 mi) long and drains an area 28,090 square kilometres (10,850 sq mi) in size, over half of Bohemia and about a third of the Czech Republic's entire territory. As it runs through Prague, the river is crossed by 18 bridges (including the Charles Bridge) and covers 31 kilometres (19 mi) within the city. The water from the river was used for drinking until 1912, when the Vinohrady Water Tower ceased pumping operations. It is, however, the source of drinking water in case of failures of or repairs to the water supply from the ?elivka and Kárané sources. The Podolí water processing plant is on standby for such cases with the long section of the river upstream of the Podolí plant under the stricter, second degree of pollution prevention regulations.
The height difference from source to mouth is about 1,016 metres (3,333 ft) and the largest stream at the source is named ?erný Potok (Black Brook) or Teplá Vltava (Warm Vltava). The Vltava itself originates by a confluence of two streams, the Warm Vltava (Teplá Vltava), which is longer, and the Cold Vltava (Studená Vltava), sourcing in Bavaria. Along its course, Vltava receives many tributaries, the biggest being Otava and Berounka from the left and Lu?nice and Sázava from the right side.
Between the confluence with the Elbe at M?lník and Prague, the river is navigable by vessels of up to 1,000 tonnes (980 long tons; 1,100 short tons) displacement. Most of the river upstream of Prague as far as ?eské Bud?jovice is currently navigable by craft of up to 300 tonnes (300 long tons; 330 short tons) displacement, but such vessels cannot pass the dams at Orlík and Slapy, and are also restricted by a low bridge at Týn nad Vltavou. Work is planned to complete boat lifts, planned for but never completed, at the two dams, and to rebuild the bridge, in order for them to navigate throughout. Much smaller craft, of up to 3.5 tonnes (3.4 long tons; 3.9 short tons) displacement and under 3 metres (9.8 ft) beam and 3 metres (9.8 ft) air draft, can avoid these obstacles.
Nine hydroelectric dams have been built on the Vltava south of Prague to regulate the water flow and generate hydroelectric power, starting in the 1950s. Beginning at the headwaters, these are: Lipno, Lipno II, Hn?vkovice, Ko?ensko, Orlík, Kamýk, Slapy, ?t?chovice and Vrané. The Orlík dam supports the largest reservoir on the Vltava by volume, while the Lipno dam retains the largest reservoir by area. The ?t?chovice Reservoir is built over the site of the St John's Rapids.
The river also features numerous weirs that help mitigate its flow from 1,172 metres (3,845 ft) in elevation at its source near the German border to 155 metres (509 ft) at its mouth in M?lník.
The Vltava basin has flooded multiple times throughout recorded history. Markers have been created along the banks denoting the water line for notable floods in 1784, 1845, 1890, 1940, and the highest of all in 2002.
In August of that year, the basin was heavily affected by the 2002 European floods when the flooded river killed several people and caused massive damage and disruption along its length, including in Prague. It left the oldest bridge in Prague, Charles Bridge, seriously weakened, requiring years of work to repair.
Prague was again flooded in 2013. Many locations within the Vltava and Elbe basins were left under water, including the Prague Zoo, but metal barriers were erected along the banks of the Vltava to help protect the historic city centre.
One of the best-known works of classical music by a Czech composer is Bed?ich Smetana's Vltava, sometimes called The Moldau in English. It is from the Romantic era of classical music and is a musical description of the river's course through Bohemia (listen).
Smetana's symphonic poem also inspired a song of the same name by Bertolt Brecht. An English version of it, by John Willett, features the lyrics Deep down in the Moldau the pebbles are shifting / In Prague three dead emperors moulder away.
The length of its flow to the mouth of the river to the Labe river near M?lnik is 430.2 km. Down to ?eský Krumlov it has a catchment area of 1,339 km2, the whole basin of the Vltava river is 28,090 km2.
Several flood marks along the river show the water levels of the different events in history and try to keep this danger of flooding in mind of the people.