The Ohře River (German: Eger) has always played a crucial role in the territory of north-west Bohemia. It creates a natural longitudinal axis dividing the elongated landscape and its geologically divergent formations. The Czech part of the river basin with an area of 5,614 km2 has always belonged among the most densely inhabited parts of our country. According to chronicler Cosmas, the land was originally known as Lucko and water again played a major role in its subsequent division into districts that were named after rivers.
The Ohře in History
As with other rivers in the Czech Republic, the Ohře River also is the subject of numerous historical and natural history documents. Nonetheless, the history of fishery is undoubtedly most significant in terms of water management.
Famous for its abundance of fish, the river inspired medieval historians to draw attention to this fact in their writings. An example may be found in the renowned work of Bohuslav Balbín "Miscellanea historica regni Bohemiae" written in 1679, in which the following record has been preserved: "... in the Elbe, salmon are hunted by fishermen particularly in the first months when they leave the sea, enter into rivers, and run to the tributaries of the Elbe and the Eger, all the way up to Doksany." Later documents include the well-known works of W.F. Howorka (1851 – 1913), a professor at the Grammar School in Kadaň, and who also taught fishery at the Agricultural School in Kadaň. His career allowed him to dedicate his time and efforts to his profession of a natural historian, and in 1888, in an annual publication entitled Programm des Communal – Obergymnasiums in Kaaden, he actually published a fishery textbook, including a key for determining fish species. He succeeded in determining 32 fish species in the Ohře River and warned of growing pollution and poaching. His "Reflections on Improving Fishery in the Eger" are quite educational even today. He proposed measures based on his in-depth knowledge of the river and its tributaries that have been effective to our time. Moreover, he was committed to preserving salmon in the Ohře River, denoting it as a genuine salmon river: ". . . which I can hardly imagine without spawning salmon".
If we wish to understand the efforts of the members of fishermen associations as well as fishing experts from the turn of the 19th and 20th century, we only need to familiarize ourselves with the etymology of the name of the river. Many authors claim that the name is derived from the Celtic name Agara, which literally means "Salmon River". The name is a combination of the word "ag" or "eg" meaning "salmon" and the word "are" or "ara" meaning "flowing water". The original name has been more or less preserved in the German territory, where the river is known as the Eger.Across the borders the town of Cheb is called Eger in German. Its local names from the districts of Louny or Litoměřice, where the river is known as the Ohara or Ohárka, strongly remind of its Celtic origin. Unfortunately, the truth is that today only a few realize the origin of the name of the river or the lost fight for preserving the native fish after which the river was named.
The River and Its People
Apart from fishery, the Ohře was an important source for the people serving common good, i.e. mainly for irrigation of agricultural land, exploitation of water energy, and floating timber. Numerous sawmills, mills and iron-mills were built along the river course, as well as associated water management structures. Nonetheless, it was mainly rafting that played a substantial role in economic development in the Ohře River Basin. First written records of floating timber on the river date back to the 13th century. Documents of floating 300-year-old fir trees for masts for the Hamburg docks have been preserved from the 1850s. Floating of bulky logs is documented from as far as Stráž nad Ohří, under favourable water-level conditions of course. The last rafts floated down the river in 1906. After that, the Ohře ceased to be an important waterway. The river, however, were not only beneficial towards the people. Floods were frequent on the river, sometimes even several times in a year. Floodwater covered vast areas and caused immense damage to buildings and crops. Floods were common in spring and in summer during rainstorms, when their unexpected and rapid progress given by the character of the river basin was especially dangerous. An interesting fact is that most of the major recorded floods culminated on St. Margaret Day, i.e. on 13 July. Drifting ice, i.e. the so-called green or Kadaň ice that destroyed houses and structures, raised fears especially among the people living along the middle and lower river course. Annals contain many records of floods and of the inflicted damages, and they bear evidence of the decisive influence the river had on the people in the past. The development of the Ohře River Basin in the late 19th and early 20th century brought about a number of significant structures that served the purposes of industry, agriculture, transport, and flood protection.
General Characteristics and Specific Conditions of the Managed Area
The area managed by the state-owned enterprise Ohře Catchment Basin in Chomutov exceeds 10,000 square kilometres. The Labe (Elbe) divides the elongated shape of north-west Bohemia into the western and eastern parts. The Ohře is a natural axis of the western part, while the Ploučnice River of the eastern part. The source of the Ohře River is in Bavaria, Germany, at the foot of Schneeberg and it flows into the Elbe in Litoměřice. The total length of the river on the territory of the Czech Republic is 256 km and the river basin covers and area of 5,614 km2. On its journey through the territory of the Czech Republic, the upper and middle course of the Ohře are enclosed by Krušné hory (Ore Mountains) on the left and Slavkovský les (Slavkov Forest) and Doupovské vrchy (Doupov Mountains) on the right. The river is characterised by intense flow rate fluctuation, rapid changes, as well as immense sediment and suspended bed-load and sediment transport. The lower 100km long course passes the distant České středohoří (Bohemian Uplands) on the left and flows through an open countryside, one of the most fertile areas of Bohemia spreading from Žatec via Louny to Litoměřice. Since time immemorial, this area has been afflicted with floods and even today, the bankfull capacity of certain parts of the river course is insufficient to hold even a one-year flood. Nonetheless, the area is covered with original, well-preserved and environmentally highly valued floodplain forests and riparian stands.
Left/Right – as viewed towards the mouth
- Odrava (R)
- Libocký potok (L)
- Svatava (L)
- Rolava (L)
- Teplá (R)
- Bystřice (L)
- Liboc (R)
- Blšanka (R)
- Chomutovka (L)
(Processed based on the data of the Ohře River Catchment Basin)