Main (river)

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"Main River" redirects here. For other uses, see Main River (disambiguation).
Würzburg Löwenbrücke.jpg
The Main River in Würzburg
Position of the Main in Germany
Origin Upper Franconia
50°5′11″N 11°23′54″E / 50.08639°N 11.39833°E / 50.08639; 11.39833
Mouth Rhine
49°59′40″N 8°17′36″E / 49.99444°N 8.29333°E / 49.99444; 8.29333Coordinates: 49°59′40″N 8°17′36″E / 49.99444°N 8.29333°E / 49.99444; 8.29333
Basin countries Germany
Length 527 km (327 mi)
Avg. discharge 200 m3/s (7,100 cu ft/s) at mouth
Basin area 27,292 km2 (10,538 sq mi)

The Main (German pronunciation: [ˈmaɪn]) is a river in Germany. With a length of 527 km (327 mi) (including the White Main: 574 km (357 mi)), it is the longest right tributary of the Rhine, and the longest river lying entirely in Germany (if we consider the Weser and the Werra as two separate rivers; together they are longer).


The Main River flows through the German states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg (forming the border with Bavaria for some distance) and Hesse. Its basin competes with the Danube for water; as a result, many of its boundaries are identical with those of the European Watershed.

The Main begins near Kulmbach in Franconia at the joining of its two headstreams, the Red Main (Roter Main) and the White Main (Weißer Main). The Red Main originates in the Franconian Jura mountain range, 50 km (31 mi) in length, and runs through Creussen and Bayreuth. The White Main originates in the mountains of the Fichtelgebirge; it is 41 km (25 mi) long. In its upper and middle section it runs through the valleys of the German Highlands. Its lower section crosses the Lower Main Lowlands (Hanau-Seligenstadt Basin and northern Upper Rhine Plain) to Wiesbaden, where it discharges into the Rhine. Major tributaries of the Main are the Regnitz, the Franconian Saale, the Tauber, and the Nidda.

The name derives from the Latin Moenus or Menus, and is not related to the name of the city Mainz (Latin: Moguntiacum).


The Main is navigable for shipping from its mouth at the Rhine close to Mainz for 396 kilometres (246 mi) to Bamberg. Since 1992, the Main has been connected to the Danube via the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal and the highly regulated Altmühl river. The Main has been canalized with 34 large locks (300 m × 12 m (984 ft × 39 ft)) to allow CEMT class V (110 m × 11.45 m (360.9 ft × 37.6 ft)) vessels to navigate the total length of the river. The 16 locks in the adjacent Rhine-Main-Danube Canal and the Danube itself are of the same dimensions.


Tributaries from source to mouth:

Ports and municipalities[edit]

Around Frankfurt are several large inland ports. Because the river is rather narrow on many of the upper reaches, navigation with larger vessels and push convoys requires great skill.

The largest cities along the Main are Frankfurt am Main and Würzburg. The Main also passes the following towns and cities: Burgkunstadt, Lichtenfels, Bad Staffelstein, Eltmann, Haßfurt, Schweinfurt, Volkach, Kitzingen, Marktbreit, Ochsenfurt, Karlstadt, Gemünden, Lohr, Marktheidenfeld, Wertheim, Miltenberg, Obernburg, Erlenbach/Main, Aschaffenburg, Seligenstadt, Hainburg, Hanau, Offenbach, Hattersheim, Flörsheim, and Rüsselsheim.

The river has gained enormous importance as a vital part of European "Corridor VII", the inland waterway link from the North Sea to the Black Sea.[1]

Main line[edit]

In a historical and political sense, the Main line is referred to as the northern border of Southern Germany, with its predominantly Catholic population. The river roughly marked the southern border of the North German Federation, established in 1867 under Prussian leadership as the predecessor of the German Empire.

The river course also corresponds with the Speyer line isogloss between Central and Upper German dialects, sometimes mocked as Weißwurstäquator.


Main-Radweg Logo

The Main-Radweg is a major German bicycle path running along the Main River. It is approximately 600 kilometres (370 mi) long and was the first long-distance bicycle path to be awarded 5 stars by the General German Bicycle Club ADFC in 2008. It starts from either Creußen or Bischofsgrün and ends in Mainz.[2]


  1. ^ "NoorderSoft Waterways Database". Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  2. ^ "Main-Radweg". Retrieved 23 April 2013. 


  • Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte (ed.), Main und Meer - Porträt eines Flusses. Exhibition Catalogue to the Bayerische Landesausstellung 2013 (German). WBG. ISBN 978-3-534-00010-4.

External links[edit]