• River Cruises - The Rhine

    River Cruises - The Rhine

    By Derek Swanson (9 August 2009)

    The Rhine is 820 miles (1320km) long and originates from two sources deep in the Swiss Alps; the Vorderrhein and the Hinterrhein, which merge at Reichenau in the valley leading to Lake Constance. The Rhine travels north through Germany and Holland to empty into the North Sea near Rotterdam. The Rhine forms the border between nations along much of its length and has always been a very significant European river for commerce and transport.

    This flight used FS2004, FScene Europe, German-Swiss mesh, German Rivers, and an FS2002 river width enhancement NEWRIVER.ZIP.

    The nearest airports to the Rhine's two sources are at Altenrhein (LSZR) in Switzerland near the Austrian border and Friedrichshafen (EDNY) in Germany, home of the famous Dornier flying boats, Both are sited on the shores of Lake Constance which is also known as the Bodensee.

    From Altenrhein or Friedrichshafen you fly south up the valley, following the Rhine which is the left of the two rivers that you see entering the lake. The valley turns to the right (south-westerly) and narrows. Just after a dog-leg turn you will see the confluence at Reichenau. It's useful to save your flight at this point since is it from here that you will explore the two sources - the Vorderrhein and the Hinterrhein.

    To reach the Vorderrhein simply follow the valley you are in south-west as it winds though some narrow ravines and joined by tributaries from the mountains on the left. The valley is several miles long with some false "ends" on the way. As you approach the head of the valley, the river turns left and up a wide gorge to the source at the top indicated by the river just stopping.


    Valley to Vorderrhein

    Source of Vorderrhein

    To visit the Hinterrhein, either reload the flight you saved earlier or fly back to Reichenau. Take the river that flows south through the narrow gap into the mountains. After an initially wide part of the valley it narrows into a very steep and winding tree-lined gorge. I found that a helicopter was the best craft to fly up this gorge as you need to go quite slow to avoid crashing into the sides and the rocky outcrops. The valley opens out for a bit then narrows once again. As you come to fork, bear right then once over the lake keep climbing until you reach the snow capped valley head. As before, the source is seen by the river coming to an end.

    Steep Valley to Nederrhein

    Source of Hinterrhein

    Lake Constance

    Having visited both sources, you can now return to Reichenau and follow the Rhine down the valley to Lake Constance, or to your start airport. The Rhine feeds into Lake Constance from the south and exits at the end of its north-west "finger". Fly down the lake keeping to the west side, then at the fork follow the left side and you will find the point where the river flows out. The Rhine winds north-west to a small populated area with some high ground to the north which is worthy of a detour to explore. Beyond the town the river heads south-west into a very rural landscape. There are some very tight bends before the Rhine settles into a deeper valley bed. Zurich (LSZH) is the first airport you pass, followed by Basle Mulhaus (LFSB). For most of the route since Lake Constance, the Rhine has been the border between two countries, Germany and Switzerland, a function that is characteristic of the river along most of its length.

    Aiming for Lake Rhine exit

    Route to Basle

    Landing at Basle

    After Basle, the river turns to the north, which will be its general heading until you reach the Dutch border many miles hence. Here it forms the border between Germany and France. If you have installed the South German Rivers scenery, the river appears to split in two but one of these is actually a canal in real life. The river continues north in a flat plain as you pass the small airport of Bremgarten (ETDG) on the right, followed a little further by Freiburg (EDTF) which is the gateway to the high ground of the Black Forest to the west. The Black Forest is worth a bit of exploration if you like mountain and valley flying.

    Further north again, the two rivers merge into one which FS2004 portrays as a thin ribbon, which later becomes two again. After crossing the two lakes close to each other there are two airports to choose from at which to land - Lahr (EDTL) to the right (again on the edge of the Black Forest); and Entzheim (LFST) to the left - Strasbourg's airport in the south-east of the city. Proceeding north again you reach the area of Baden-Baden and Karlsruhe-Soellingen airport (EDSB), nestling quite close to the river.

    Twin rivers from Basle

    Leaving Lahr AFB

    Approaching Mannheim

    Leaving Baden-Baden, the Rhine once again resumes a wide path, only to revert to the ribbon as you approach the city of Mannheim. The Rhine is now truly within Germany and there are many tributaries joining at this point, but keep going north and you will arrive at Mannheim City airport (EDFM) which is to the right in the south of the city. The university city of Heidelberg and its airport (ETIE) is to the right, the city renowned for its castle and river valley with cliff top chateaux.

    The Rhine passes to the left of Mannheim airport as it flows through the city, emerging as a wide river again at the northern boundary. North-west of Mannheim you will fly over the town of Worms, famous for Martin Luther's trial for his Protestant beliefs. The river moves inexorably north to the city of Mainz where there are a number of large midstream islands and here the river Main feeds into the Rhine from the east. The very large city of Frankfurt is to the left at this time with its international airport (EDDF) between the Rhine and the city. At the north end of Mainz the Rhine turns west quite sharply for a short distance before resuming its northerly route and joined at this point by the river Nahe from the south.

    Leaving Mannheim

    Approaching Mainz

    Landing at Frankfurt

    The Rhine now enters a section of narrow steep-sided valley which is good for fast low-level flying. It is in this valley, which continues to the city of Koblenz and Winningen airport (EDRK), that you would find the famous Chateaux on the cliff tops although sadly, these are not seen in FS2004. About a third of the way to Koblenz you will fly over the famous Lorelei Rock which is a dangerous stretch of water with very strong currents. This is the legendary place of the mermaids whose alluring calls to sailors are reputed to cause the boats to run aground. As the valley sides lower and just before the FS2004 bridge over the river south of Koblenz, there is the junction with the Lahn River, a tributary to the right, which has traveled 150 miles (242 km) from its source deep within Germany. This river is worth exploring with its steep wooded sides and tightly twisting path, although you'll struggle to fly a fast jet along here. At Coblenz the Rhine meets the river Mosel as it empties at the end of its journey north through France and Luxembourg.

    Leaving Koblenz, the Rhine takes a north-westerly turn as you fly over two bridges and after a short stretch of flat terrain, returns to a steep-sided valley until reaching Bonn and Cologne with its large airport (EDDK). Cologne is the biggest city encountered to date on this flight and the Rhine flows through the middle of it. The next stretch towards Dusseldorf takes us into UEFA and Champions League territory with the town of Levekusen to the north of Cologne and that of Monchengladbach to the east of Dusseldorf.

    Over Mainz

    Lorelei Valley

    Over Cologne

    We are now getting close to the Dutch border and the land remains flat with the Rhine twisting its way between small towns. A grass strip at Romerwadt (EDLX) offers a haven for small planes, but beware the trees on the final approach to runway 27. To land larger aircraft you must detour across the river to Laarbruch airbase (ETUL). FS2004 has the runway markings signifying a closed airport, and although there are no navigation or landing aids, ATC will let you land here.

    Landing at Laabruch

    Good bridge at Dutch border

    Rhine divides in Holland

    On returning to the river you will find one of the very few flyable bridges - it's a very tight fit but it can be done! You soon reach the town of Spijk and the border with Holland, where the Rhine splits in two and merges with other rivers. The main flow takes the left fork and becomes the river Waal while the lesser flow, which retains the Dutch title "Nederrijn" or "Lower Rhine", flows a little further north before also turning west. The Nederrijn passes the city of Arnhem, famous for the failed attempt to take its bridge in WWII, before turning west and running parallel to the Waal. Both rivers form the basis of a very large delta which is augmented by other rivers, and results in two major outflows into the North Sea south of Rotterdam. The best way to fly this stretch is between the two branches of the Rhine with FS2004 making a reasonable portrayal of the delta with its many streams and lakes. The nearest airport to the end of the river is at Rotterdam (EHRD), where you may wish to land.

    Landing at Rotterdam

    So, another river cruise completed. For the next trip it's a short hop across the English Channel to Blighty for a visit to one of the few long rivers in England - the Thames.

    Happy Flying.

    Derek Swanson
    [email protected]

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