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The Nemunas, Nioman, Neman or Memel [nb 1]is a river in Eurasia that rises in central Belarus and flows through Lithuania then along the northern border of Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia's western exclave which specifically then takes its southern mouth. It drains into its Curonian Lagoon, narrowly connected to the Baltic Sea. It flows about 900 km (560 mi), so it is considered a major Eastern European river. It flows generally west (to come at Grodno within 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) of Poland), north, then westward.

The largest river in Lithuania, and the third-largest in Belarus, it is navigable for most of its length. It starts from two small headwaters merging about 15 kilometers (9 mi) southwest of the town of Uzda – about 55 km (34 mi) southwest of capital city Minsk. Only 17 kilometres (11 mi), a eastward meander, contributes to the Belarus–Lithuania border. Thereafter the river includes notable loops along a minor tectonic fault.

Its drainage basin settled in the late Quaternary to be roughly along the edge of the last glacial sheet so dates to about 25,000 to 22,000 years BC. Its depth varies from 1 meter (3 ft 3 in) in its upper courses to 5 meters (16 ft) in the lower basin.

Numbers

Neman near Grodno
  • The total length of the Nioman/Nemunas/Neman is 914 km (568 mi).[1] It is the 4th longest river in the Baltic Sea basin. Over its entire length, 436 km (271 mi) flows in Belarus[1] and 359 km (223 mi) in Lithuania. A 116 km (72 mi) stretch is the border between Lithuania and Russia's Kaliningrad oblast.
  • Its greatest depth is 5 m (16 ft), and at its widest it extends about 500 m (1,600 ft).
  • The Nioman/Nemunas/Neman is a slow river; it flows at about 1 to 2 m/s (3.3 to 6.6 ft/s).
  • During floods, water discharge can increase up to 11-fold, to more than 6,800 m3/s (240,000 cu ft/s). Severe floods occur on the lower reaches of the river about every 12 – 15 years, which sometimes wash out bridges.[2]
Neman opposite Kaliningrad Oblast (Russian exclave)
  • The Nioman/Nemunas/Neman is an old river, dating back to the last glacial period. Its valley is now up to 60 meters (200 ft) deep and 5 km (3 mi) broad.
  • It has about 105 first-class tributaries, the largest being the rivers Neris (Viliya) (510 km (320 mi)), Shchara (325 km (202 mi)), and Šešupė (298 km (185 mi)). Fifteen of the tributaries are longer than 100 km (62 mi).
  • In the complete Nioman/Nemunas/Neman basin, there are tributaries extending to the 11th order.
  • The Nemunas basin in Lithuania drains more than 20,000 rivers and rivulets and covers 72% of Lithuania's territory.
  • The total area of the Nioman/Nemunas/Neman basin is 98,200 km2 (37,900 sq mi),[1] 34,610 km2 (13,360 sq mi) of which are within Belarus,[1] the Lithuanian portion of this basin is 46,695 km2 (268 sq mi).
  • Valley of Neman in Grodno Region is the lowest point above sea level in Belarus at 80 to 90 m (260 to 300 ft).[3]

River course

Nemunas loops

Nemunas bend in Liškiava
500 litas banknote featuring Nemunas loops

Since the loops are in Lithuania, they are often referred to as "The Nemunas loops".

In 1992 Nemunas Loops Regional Park was founded. Its goal is to preserve the loops (Lithuanian: vingis) that the river makes in the Punia forest. Near Prienai, the Nemunas makes a 17-kilometer-long (11 mi) loop (like a teardrop) coming within 1.2 km (34 mi) of completing the loop. The Nemunas flows along the double bend between Balbieriškis and Birštonas for 48 km (30 mi) and then moves in a northerly direction for only 4.5 km (2 34 mi). The loops are not conventional river meanders; they follow underlying tectonic structures. The faults are the source of local mineral springs.[4] The area is historically and culturally significant. Its castles served as the first line of defense against forays by the Teutonic knights.

Delta

At its delta the Nemunas splits into a maze of river branches and canals mixing with polders and wetlands and is a very attractive destination for eco-tourism. The four main distributaries are Atmata, Pakalnė, Skirvytė (the southern mouth, marking the international border) and Gilija. The river plays a crucial part in the ecosystem of the Curonian Lagoon. It provides the main water inflow to the lagoon and keeps the water almost fresh. This allows fresh water and brackish water animals to survive there. As the delta extends north the lagoon opposite narrows. Since the delta is in Lithuania, it is often referred to as Nemunas Delta. Nemunas Delta Regional Park was created in the delta in 1992.

Tributaries

The following rivers are tributaries to the river Neman/Nemunas (from source to mouth):

  • Left: Servach, Uzda – about 55 km (34 mi) southwest of capital city Minsk. Only 17 kilometres (11 mi), a eastward meander, contributes to the Belarus–Lithuania border. Thereafter the river includes notable loops along a minor tectonic fault.

    Its drainage basin settled in the late Quaternary to be roughly along the edge of the last glacial sheet so dates to about 25,000 to 22,000 years BC. Its depth varies from 1 meter (3 ft 3 in) in its upper courses to 5 meters (16 ft) in the lower basin.

    Since the loops are in Lithuania, they are often referred to as "The Nemunas loops".

    In 1992 Nemunas Loops Regional Park was founded. Its goal is to preserve the loops (Lithuanian: vingis) that the river makes in the Punia forest. Near Prienai, the Nemunas makes a 17-kilometer-long (11 mi) loop (like a teardrop) coming within 1.2 km (34 mi) of completing the loop. The Nemunas flows along the double bend between Balbieriškis and Birštonas for 48 km (30 mi) and then moves in a northerly direction for only 4.5 km (2 34 mi). The loops are not conventional river meanders; they follow underlying tectonic structures. The faults are the source of local mineral springs.[4] The area is historically and culturally significant. Its castles served as the first line of defense against forays by the Teutonic knights.

    Delta

    At its delta the Nemunas splits into a maze of river branches and canals mixing with polders and wetlands and is a very attractive destination for eco-tourism. The four main distributaries are Atmata, Pakalnė, Skirvytė (the southern mouth, marking the international border) and Gilija. The river plays a crucial part in the ecosystem of the Curonian Lagoon. It provides the main water inflow to the lagoon and keeps the water almost fresh. This allows fresh water and brackish water animals to survive there. As the delta extends north the lagoon opposite narrows. Since the delta is in Lithuania, it is often referred to as Nemunas Delta. Nemunas Delta Regional Park was created in the delta in 1992.

    Tributaries

    The following rivers are tributaries to the river Neman/Nemunas (from source to mouth):

    Largest settlements on the river

    From west to east, the largest settlements are Sovetsk/Tilsit, Neman, Kaunas, Alytus, Druskininkai, Grodno, and Masty.

    Significance in culture

    Ptolemy referred to Nemunas as Chronos (although competing theories suppose Chronos was in fact Pregolya).

    The river has lent its name to the Neman Culture, a Neolithic archaeological subculture.[5]

    Napoleon and his army crossing the Neman in June 1812

    In German, the part of the river flowing in what for a time was Prussia has been called die Memel at least since about 1250, when Teutonic Knights built Memelburg castle and the town of Memel at the mouth of the Curonian Lagoon, naming it after the indigenous name of the river, Memel. The city of Memel, now in Lithuania, is known today as Klaipėda (confusingly, another city of Memel was on the Dange River, now called the Danė). In German road maps and lexika, only the 112-kilometer (70 mi) section within Prussia (starting at Schmalleningken) was named Memel; the bulk of the river was the Niemen.

    The border between the State of the Teutonic Order and Lithuania was fixed in 1422 by the Treaty of Lake Melno and remained stable for centuries. The Treaty of Tilsit

    In 1992 Nemunas Loops Regional Park was founded. Its goal is to preserve the loops (Lithuanian: vingis) that the river makes in the Punia forest. Near Prienai, the Nemunas makes a 17-kilometer-long (11 mi) loop (like a teardrop) coming within 1.2 km (34 mi) of completing the loop. The Nemunas flows along the double bend between Balbieriškis and Birštonas for 48 km (30 mi) and then moves in a northerly direction for only 4.5 km (2 34 mi). The loops are not conventional river meanders; they follow underlying tectonic structures. The faults are the source of local mineral springs.[4] The area is historically and culturally significant. Its castles served as the first line of defense against forays by the Teutonic knights.

    At its delta the Nemunas splits into a maze of river branches and canals mixing with polders and wetlands and is a very attractive destination for eco-tourism. The four main distributaries are Atmata, Pakalnė, Skirvytė (the southern mouth, marking the international border) and Gilija. The river plays a crucial part in the ecosystem of the Curonian Lagoon. It provides the main water inflow to the lagoon and keeps the water almost fresh. This allows fresh water and brackish water animals to survive there. As the delta extends north the lagoon opposite narrows. Since the delta is in Lithuania, it is often referred to as Nemunas Delta. Nemunas Delta Regional Park was created in the delta in 1992.

    Tributaries

    The following rivers are tributaries to the river Neman/Nemunas (from source to mouth):