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The Danube played a vital role in the settlement and political development of central and southeastern Europe. That is banks, lined through castles and also fortresses, formed the border between an excellent empires, and also its waters offered as a an important commercial highway in between nations. The river’s majesty has actually long been celebrated in music. The famed waltz An der schönen, blauen Donau (1867; The Blue Danube), by Johann Strauss the Younger, became the price of imperial Vienna. In the 21st century the flow has continued its role as vital trade artery. It has been harnessed for hydroelectric power, an especially along the top courses, and the cities along its banks—including the national capitals of Vienna (Austria), Budapest (Hungary), and also Belgrade (Serbia)—have depended upon it because that their financial growth.


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Physical features

Physiography

The Danube’s substantial drainage of part 315,000 square mile (817,000 square km) has a variety of natural problems that influence the origins and the energy of that watercourses. Lock favour the development of a branching, dense, deepwater river network that contains some 300 tributaries, more than 30 the which are navigable. The river container expands unevenly along its length. That covers about 18,000 square miles (47,000 square km) in ~ the Inn confluence, 81,000 square miles (210,000 square km) after ~ joining through the Drava, and 228,000 square mile (590,000 square km) below the confluences that its many affluent tributaries, the Sava and the Tisza. In the lower course the basin’s rate of growth decreases. Much more than half of the entire Danube container is drained through its right-bank tributaries, which collection their waters native the Alps and other hill areas and contribute as much as two-thirds the the total river runoff or outfall.


The confluence of the Sava (foreground) and Danube rivers indigenous the Kalemegdan fortress, Belgrade, Serbia.

Three sections space discernible in the river’s basin. The upper course stretches from its source to the gorge referred to as the Hungarian Gates, in the Austrian Alps and also the western Carpathian Mountains. The center course runs from the Hungarian entrances Gorge to the Iron door in the southerly Romanian Carpathians. The reduced course operation from the Iron door to the deltalike estuary in ~ the black color Sea.


The upper Danube springs together two little streams—the Breg and also Brigach—from the east slopes the the Black forest mountains that Germany, which partly consist the limestone. Native Donaueschingen, wherein the headstreams unite, the Danube flows northeastward in a narrow, rocky bed. To the north increase the wooded slopes the the Swabian and the Franconian mountains. In between Ingolstadt and also Regensburg the river creates a scenic canyonlike valley. To the southern of the river course follow me the huge Bavarian Plateau, extended with thick layers of river deposits native the many Alpine tributaries. The financial institution is low and also uniform, composed greatly of fields, peat, and marshland.

At Regensburg the Danube reaches its northernmost point, native which that veers south and crosses wide, fertile, and level country. Shortly before it reaches Passau on the Austrian border, the flow narrows and also its bottom abounds with reefs and also shoals. The Danube climate flows with Austrian territory, where it cuts right into the slopes the the Bohemian Forest and forms a small valley. In stimulate to improve navigation, dams and protecting dikes have been built near Passau, Linz, and also Ardagger. The top Danube, part 600 mile (965 km) long, has a substantial average inclination of the riverbed (0.93 percent) and a rapid current of two to 5 miles per hour. Depths differ from 3 come 26 feet (1 come 8 metres). The Danube swells dramatically at Passau wherein the Inn River, its biggest upstream tributary, carries more water than the main river. Other significant tributaries in the top Danube course include the Iller, Lech, Isar, Traun, Enns, and also Morava rivers.


Isar River
Isar river at its source in the Karwendelgebirge (mountains), Bavaria, Germany.
Charles Bear/Shostal Associates

In its middle course the Danube looks more like a flatland river, v low banks and also a bed that reaches a broad of more than one mile. Just in two sectors—at Visegrád (Hungary) and also at the stole Gate—does the river flow through narrow canyonlike gorges. The basin of the middle Danube exhibits two main features: the flatland the the small Alfold and an excellent Alfold plains and also the low peaks that the west Carpathians and also Transdanubian Mountains.


Kazan Gorge
Kazan Gorge, reduced by the Danube River, ~ above the border that Serbia (left) and also Romania (right).
Thomas M. Poulsen

The Danube beginning the small Alfold plain instantly after arising from the Hungarian gates Gorge near Bratislava, Slovakia. There the river stream slows under abruptly and loses its transporting capacity, so that huge quantities the gravel and sand settle on the bottom. A principal an outcome of this deposition has been the development of 2 islands, one on the Slovak next of the river and the other on the Hungarian side, which linked have one area of around 730 square miles (1,900 square km) that assistance some 190,000 residents in much more than 100 settlements. The silting hampers navigation and occasionally divides the river right into two or more channels. Eastern of Komárno the Danube beginning the Visegrád Gorge, squeezed in between the foothills of the western Carpathian and the Hungarian Transdanubian Mountains. The steep right bank is crowned with fortresses, castles, and also cathedrals that the Hungarian Árpád empire of the 10th come 15th century.

The Danube then flows past Budapest, and across the vast good Alfold plain, traversing Croatia, Serbia, and Romania till it get the Iron gate gorge. The riverbed is shallow and marshy, and low terraces stretch follow me both banks. River buildup has developed a large number the islands, including Csepel Island close to Budapest. In this lengthy stretch the river takes top top the waters the its significant tributaries—the Drava, the Tisza, and also the Sava—which create comprehensive changes in the river’s regime. The typical runoff rises from around 83,000 cubic feet (2,400 cubic metres) per 2nd north the Budapest to 200,000 cubic feet (5,600 cubic metres) in ~ the iron Gate. The river valley looks most imposing there, and the river’s depth and current velocity fluctuate widely. The rapids and also reefs of the steel Gate as soon as made the flow unnavigable until a lateral navigating channel and a parallel railway allowed rivercraft to be towed upstream against the solid current.

Beyond the Iron gate the reduced Danube flows across a large plain; the flow becomes shallower and broader, and its current slows down. Come the right, above steep banks, follow me the tableland the the Danubian level of Bulgaria. To the left lies the low Romanian Plain, i beg your pardon is separated native the main stream through a strip of lakes and swamps. The tributaries in this ar are comparatively tiny and account for just a modest boost in the total runoff. They incorporate the Olt, the Siret, and the Prut. The flow is again obstructed by a number of islands. Simply south that Cernavodă, the Danube top northward till it get Galați, whereby it veers abruptly eastward, that is left bank briefly traversing Moldovan territory. Close to Tulcea, Romania, some 50 mile (80 km) native the sea, the river starts to spread out right into its delta.


Olt River
Olt River, flowing through the Făgăraș Mountains, central Romania.

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The flow splits into three channels: the Chilia, which carries 63 percent of the total runoff; the Sulina, which accounts for 16 percent; and also the Sfântu Gheorghe (St. George), i m sorry carries the remainder. Navigating is possible only by means of the Sulina Channel, which has actually been straightened and also dredged follow me its 39-mile (63-km) length. In between the channels, a maze of smaller creeks and also lakes room separated by oblong strips of land referred to as grinduri. Many grinduri space arable and cultivated, and some room overgrown with tall oak forests. A large quantity of reeds that flourish in the shallow-water tracts are provided in the manufacture of file and textile fibres. The Danube delta consists an area of some 1,660 square miles (4,300 square km) and is a comparatively young formation. About 6,500 years back the delta website was a shallow cove that the black Sea coast, yet it was gradually filled through river-borne silt; the delta proceeds to thrive seaward in ~ the price of 80 to 100 feet (24 come 30 metres) annually.