The River Elbe within the tides

The River Elbe

The Elbe extends for 1,091 kilometres from its source in the Giant Mountains in the Czech Republic to where it meets the North Sea. Of this, around 870 kilometres are navigable. The river falls into two sections – the Lower Elbe for the stretch of around 145 kilometres from the estuary to the Port of Hamburg, and the Upper Elbe for the upriver section further inland.

Access depth for the Port of Hamburg

Ships with a maximum draft of 12.80 metres can arrive and leave the port irrespective of tide at any time. Using the tidal surge for covering the stretch of river from North Sea as far as Hamburg, drafts of up to 15.10 metres are possible. Making allowance for the tide, in the other direction drafts of up to 13.80 metres are feasible.


    • The River Elbe
    • The River Elbe


Ebb & flood tide

The North Sea and the Elbe are tidal waters. In other words, the water level varies between low and high tide. Tidal range, or the average difference between water levels, amounts to a mean 3.66 metres. Water level rises with the flood tide for six hours from low to high water. In the next six hours the water level falls with the ebb to low water again. The rise and fall of the water creates a tidal current that in Hamburg runs at about 2.5 knots.

Tide calendar


The Elbe Habitat Foundation enhances the river landscape

2010 the Elbe Habitat Foundation was established to enhance the ecological status of the Tidal Elbe, preserve the natural diversity and strengthen the unique habitats of the river landscape. The Tidal Elbe is the 148 km stretch of the Elbe before it flows into the North Sea. It starts at the weir at Geesthacht, flows through the metropolitan region of Hamburg and drains into the sea at Cuxhaven. Thanks to the large estuary and the strong influx of fresh water from the Elbe, a unique natural area has formed governed by the tides. The area is home to an abundance of plants and animals, f.e. to more than 100 partly protected fish species. Precise, the foundation is taking care of making the banks and dyke foreland more natural, supporting the development of essential shallow water areas, reconnecting tributaries to the main river and developing the ecological value of biologically productive tidal flats. In the Foundation representatives from the city, Hamburg Port and environmental organisations work hand in hand.

More information about Elbe Habitat Foundation



    • The Elbe Habitat Foundation
    • The Elbe Habitat Foundation