Dyke and Lock

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Otterndorf, Germany

Dyke and Lock Otterndorf Reviews

Kathrin_E Kathrin_E
371 reviews
Elbe Dyke and Lock Feb 16, 2017
The highest elevation within Otterndorf’s boundaries is the dyke on the Elbe shore. After refurbishments in the 1980s it now has a height of 8.30 metres. In the flat marshland this is almost alpine…

The tidal hub is around 3-4 metres in the mouth of the Elbe under normal circumstances. Then add northwestern gales pressing the water into the funnel-shaped estuary from the North Sea: This area is highly endangered by storm surges. Dykes are essential for survival. Colonization in the middle ages began with the construction of dykes. The first ones were still low and often didn’t withstand the attack of the water. In the run of the centuries there was more and more progress in dyke building. The dykes became higher and, more important, wider and less steep. The modern sea dyke withstands almost everything – fingers crossed! Global warming, the rising sea level, and the plans to dig the Elbe bottom much deeper so that bigger vessels can pass independent from tides will cause higher and more dangerous floods in the future.

Go for a walk on the footpath on top of the dyke, and enjoy the wide view over the salt meadows and the Elbe mouth. The German speakers will find the information boards interesting that tell about history and technology of the dyke, the North Sea, its tides, floods and nature. But stay on the paved trails. Do not walk in the meadows, do not climb up or down the dyke except on the paved trails and stairways. Sheep’s hooves do not damage the grass cover but your shoes or bike wheels will. A tiny hole in the grass can become a big hole when water attacks, and in the end cause the dyke to break.

The bronze monument close to the Medem lock recalls the early times of dyke building. It shows three men pushing and pulling a wheelbarrow full of soil up the slope. Without machines this was tough, backbreaking work – but essential for survival on the coast. Everyone had the duty to participate: each real estate owner was responsible for the maintenance of an assigned piece of dyke. If he could not afford to maintain that any more he’d lose all his land.

The communities had to organize themselves to cope with such a big project. Building and repairs and maintenance of the dykes were never-ending. The dykes have to be constantly controlled, any damage, now matter how small, needs to be repaired immediately. People had to rely on each other. If one neglected his duties, everyone was in danger. My theory is that this gigantic task lead to the development of the strong, self-administrated and self-conscious estates of Hadeln and their unique historical status.

In the marsh you have the choice: either drown in seawater coming in, or drown in the freshwater from landside. The locks and pumps in the dyke have a double function: to keep the sea water out at high tide, and to let the freshwater out at low tide. Otterndorf’s locks are placed at the meeting point of the Medem, a natural tidal stream, and Hadelner Kanal, an artificial canal which was built in the late 19th century. Since then the regular floods in the low Sietland have been a thing of the past.

Outside the lock, the mouth of the Medem is used as a small port for sailboats and motor boats. There is also a restaurant in the yacht club building. The road past the locks continues behind the dyke towards the holiday park and campground. Several ramps and stairways lead over the dyke and then down to the beach.
View from the dyke over the forela…
Behind the dyke
Detail of the dyke's surface
Outside the dyke
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photo by: Kathrin_E