This is the second installment in my ‘Day Trips from Amsterdam‘ series. Check back every Thursday for a new Dutch destination.
The Delta Works
This week we head to the south-west of The Netherlands to the incredible Delta Works. This is not an attraction that inspires drool-worthy selfies, but it is a modern marvel that will impress you with the capabilities of man. The Delta Works serve to protect The Netherlands from flooding, a threat that has devastated the low-lying country multiple times throughout history.
The History of The Delta Works
1953 is a year engrained into Dutch memory, and the tragedies that occurred that year were a catalyst for the need and eventual construction of the Delta Works. On January 31, 1953 a big storm hit the North Sea. A lethal combination of high tides and wind caused flooding all over Northern Europe. There was no warning. The Netherlands was hit the worst and by the morning of February 1, 1953, the province of Zeeland was underwater. 1,836 people lost their lives within that 24 hour period, not including the 307 lives lost in England, 19 in Scotland, 28 in Belgium and the 230 that were lost at sea.
The Dutch have spent centuries battling the sea, and for the most part, have been very successful in their endeavours. The Flood of 1953 was a turning point, the country wanted to make sure that a flood of that magnitude never happened again. In the 1960’s, after years of research, the Dutch began constructing a flood defense system that would protect the low-lying regions from the unruly sea. They spent decades building a unique system of dams and storm surge barriers that was finally finished in 1998. The result has been named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, an engineering marvel.
“De stormvloedkering is gesloten. De Deltawerken zijn voltooid. Zeeland is veilig.” (The flood barrier is closed. The Delta Works are completed. Zeeland is safe.) – Queen Beatrix, 1986
Visiting the Delta Works
As the Delta Works are quite extensive, there are multiple locations you can visit. I recommend driving to Oosterscheldekering, the largest and most impressive barrier in the Delta Works. Oosterscheldekering is located between the islands of Schouwen-Duiveland and Noord-Beveland in the province of Zeeland. Driving across it is really incredible, and the massive size of the structure is striking against the backdrop of the North Sea. Although you can technically take a tour (check the Delta Works website for up-to-date info) I was more than happy to just look. There is a wonderful beach on the right-side of the N57, just as you get off the Oosterscheldekering. There is free parking, and a terrific view.
If you are dedicating an entire day to the Delta Works, I would suggest you also stop at the Maeslant Storm Surge Barrier as they have a terrific educational centre explaining the infrastructure and functions of the Delta Works. Most everything is in Dutch, but they also have handouts in other languages for foreign visitors. The Maeslant Storm Surge Barrier is the world’s largest moveable barrier. It is hard to believe after seeing it in person that something of this size could be moved.
How to Get There
Zeeland is made up of many islands, but they are all well connected and easily accessible from Amsterdam. Although it is possible to get to these locations by public transport, I would recommend driving for a hassle-free day trip.
Amsterdam to Oosterscheldekering will take around 2 hours, but be aware that roads can be busy toward Zeeland during peak times of day as they are the only routes possible.
The Maeslant Storm Surge Barrier will take a little over an hour, and is near The Hague if you want to combine your trip.
While the Delta Works are officially finished, they are still a constant work in progress. The Dutch government announced that they would allocate 100 billion euros over the next hundred odd years for upgrading the Delta Works with global warming and worst-case scenarios in mind.
“Hier gaan over het tij, de wind, de maan en wij“
“Here the tide is ruled by the wind, the moon and us.”