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Vistula (vĭsˈcho͝olə), Pol. Wisła, longest river and principal waterway of Poland, c.665 mi (1,070 km) long. It rises in the West Beskid range of the Carpathians, S Poland, and flows NE past Kraków, NW past Warsaw and Toruń, and N past Grudziądz and Tczew to the Gulf of Danzig on the Baltic Sea. The two main branches of its estuary are the Nogat, which flows past Malbork to the Vistula Lagoon, and the Martwa Wisła [dead Vistula], which flows past Gdańsk. Navigable for small craft for almost its entire length, the Vistula is connected by canals with the Oder, Dnieper, Neman, and Pregel rivers. Among its tributaries are the Dunajec, San, and Narew (with the Bug) rivers. Coal is transported from SW Poland, and lumber is logged along the lower Vistula.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Wista), a river in Poland. The Vistula is the longest river in the Baltic Sea basin and the second largest in volume in the basin (after the Neva). The river is 1,068 km long and has a basin area of 198,500 sq km, of which 24,000 sq km are in the USSR and Czechoslovakia. The Vistula rises in the western Carpathians (Silesian Beskids) at an elevation of 1,065 m and flows into the Gulf of Gdańsk 15 km east of Gdańsk. In its upper reaches, for a distance of 60 km before it flows out of the Beskids, the Vistula is a turbulent mountain stream. Below Kraków, after receiving the waters of a number of tributaries, its volume increases considerably; the width of the riverbed below its confluence with the Dunajec is 200 m, and below the San it is 600-1,000 m. In its middle course, up to the Brda River, and in its lower course the Vistula is a typical plains river, flowing mainly through a wide valley that is terraced in places. For a long distance the riverbed meanders, and in places it breaks up into branches and channels; it is also unstable and has numerous shallows and shoals. From Torurń to the sea the course of the river is completely regulated; above Toruń, areas threatened by serious erosion of the riverbank have been strengthened. At a distance of 50 km from the sea the Vistula divides into the Nogat, Dead Vistula, and other branches, forming a broad delta known as the region of Żulawy. The part of the delta that lies below sea level is protected by levees. The seaport of Gdańsk is situated at the mouth of the Dead Vistula. Most of the Vistula’s tributaries flow into it from the right: the Dunajec, Wisloka, San, Wieprz, and Bug. Of the tributaries entering from the left, the largest are the Pilica and Brda.

The volume of the Vistula is determined in large part by the tributaries flowing from the Carpathians. The spring high waters result from melting snow, and flash floods are frequent in summer and winter. Rapid and high rises (up to 10 m) in the water level, especially in the upper and middle courses, lead to catastrophic floods. The floods are often caused also by ice blockage. In the intervals between flash floods the river becomes shallow, making navigation difficult. The average annual flow of the Vistula is 84 cu m per sec at Kraków, 590 cu m per sec at Warsaw, and 1,030 cu m per sec at Tczew (near its mouth). The surface ice of the river, particularly in the upper reaches, is unstable.

The river is navigable to the mouth of the Przemsza (940 km) for ships with a displacement of 200-500 tons for 200-250 days of the year. The creation of a waterway for ships with a displacement of 1,000 tons to the mouth of the Przemsza is projected for 1980. In order to regulate the flow of water for the needs of the national economy, reservoirs are being constructed on the Vistula and its tributaries (with hydroelectric power stations being built at several of them), and levees are being erected along the riverbed. Five dams and a hydroelectric station below Warsaw are expected to be constructed by 1980. There are a number of smaller hydroelectric power stations on the Vistula’s tributaries. The Vistula is connected to the Dnieper by the Dnieper-Bug Canal and to the Odra by the Bydgoszcz Canal. The reconstruction of these canals for the purpose of creating the East-West Waterway has begun with the construction of a dam on the river Narew. A canal to connect the upper Vistula with the Odra is also projected. Kraków, Warsaw, Ptock, and Toruń are situated on the Vistula.


Lencewicz, S. Fizicheskaia geografiia Pol’shi. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from Polish.)
Ihnatowicz, S., A. Obuchowski, and B. Turnau. “Ogólne koncepcje techniczne zagospodorowania zasobów wodnych w Polsce.” Gospodarka Wodna, 1965, nos. 8-9.
Bęć, “System wodny Wisfy.” Gospodarka Wodna, 1968, no. 5.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a river in central and N Poland, rising in the Carpathian Mountains and flowing generally north and northwest past Warsaw and Torun, then northeast to enter the Baltic via an extensive delta region. Length: 1090 km (677 miles)
2. Lagoon. a shallow lagoon on the SW coast of the Baltic Sea, between Danzig and Kaliningrad, crossed by the border between Poland and Russia
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005