The Dender is a river in Belgium in the catchment area of the Schelde. Over a length of 65 km, it flows through the provinces of Hainaut, East Flanders and Flemish Brabant. The Dender originates in Aat through the confluence of the Eastern Dender and the Western Dender and flows into the Schelde on the right bank in Dendermonde.
Nowhere does the Dender look so impressive or is the area as green and unspoilt as in Ninove. Make no mistake, however, because that same lovely river sometimes turns into a swirling stream in no time at all. The name "Dender" didn't come from nowhere: The word comes from the Celtic "Tanera" which means "the turbulent, the bubbling".
The Dender has always been a difficult river to navigate due to the strong soil degradation. It used to be 10 to 12m wide and +/- 80km long. In the summer, at low tide, the river could be crossed on foot in several places. In the winter, major floods regularly occurred. After all, the Dender is 90% dependent on rainwater.
The Dender in history
In the 10th century, the first primitive sluices appeared: the "portae aquarium", consisting of thick planks that slid back and forth on either side in wooden poles to regulate the water level. About a century later, with the rise of trading and heavier ships, it became necessary to increase the navigability of the Dender.
In 1285, the first canalisation became a fact, which led to the first toll regulations. In addition to wine, honey, velvet and linewood, peat, wood, iron, straw, grain and salt were also shipped on the Dender. In the 15th century, Flemish, Dutch and English cheeses were also shipped, along with stockfish, sheets, saffron, cinnamon, pepper, sugar, wine, beer, corn, peas and so much more.
At that time, the Dender was often the subject of conflicting interests: On the one hand, the sailsmen wanted to be able to sail at a high water level and on the other hand, the farmers needed low water for their meadows. On the other hand, the millers wanted to use as much water as possible, which threatened to bring shipping to a standstill.
In the 17th century, shipping recovered and the Dender became an important link between Hainaut and the Schelde. Bridges and new locks were built, the bed was widened and the river was canalised.
In 1840, the fledgling Belgian state took control of the Dender and the "new Dender" became a fact.
In the 19th and 20th centuries numerous factories were built along the Dender, for industries such as the match industry. After WW II, the importance of the Dender diminished noticeably. There was never a recalibration and the river became of little economic use: the large ships of today cannot go to the Dender and especially recreational sailing is applicable.
The Dender now
The impressive nature with various biotopes, grey herons and numerous meadows is impressive to enjoy during a pleasure cruise. Nowadays there are a lot of efforts to purify the Dender water and these result in a remarkable improvement of the water quality and the fish stock.
Via the towpath you can cycle from Geraardsbergen to Dendermonde, you will come across picnic areas with shelter here and there. There are also numerous catering facilities along the river for the kayaking visitors.
Today the Dender has become an important tourist asset. The connoisseurs call it one of the most beautiful rivers to sail. What The Thames is to London and the Seine to Paris is the Dender to Ninove...