The Swist in Meckenheim
Location North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate
Reference no. DE: 2742
Length 43.7 km [1]
Source Near Kalenborn (bei Altenahr)
50°33′16″N 6°59′09″E / 50.554514°N 6.98583°E / 50.554514; 6.98583Coordinates: 50°33′16″N 6°59′09″E / 50.554514°N 6.98583°E / 50.554514; 6.98583
Source height ca. 330 m above sea level (NHN)
Mouth Near Bliesheim into the Erft
50°46′32″N 6°49′56″E / 50.775472°N 6.832333°E / 50.775472; 6.832333
Mouth height ca. 106 m above sea level (NHN)
Descent ca. 224 m
Basin Rhine
Progression Erft Rhine North Sea
Catchment 289.408 km² [1]
Large towns Meckenheim
Villages Grafschaft, Swisttal, Weilerswist

The Swist is a stream, 43.6 kilometres long, in the German Rhineland. It rises on the northern edge of the Eifel at 330 metres above sea level and empties rom the right and southeast into the Rhine tributary, the Erft, between Weilerswist and Bliesheim.Occasionally the Swist is also called the Swistbach, and locals often just call it der Bach ("the stream").

The Swist flows through the municipality Swisttal, the town of Meckenheim and Flerzheim, a village in the borough of Rheinbach. There are cycle paths by the side of the stream along this stretch. The Swist gave its name to the municipality of Swisttal and the town of Weilerswist. Its source area is situated at the northern edge of the Eifel. The Swist used to be considered the longest stream in Europe until it was canalised and straightened.


The source of the Swistbach in Kalenborn


Its source lies at 330 m above sea level (NN) in the northern part of the Eifel in the Ahr Hills, north of the village of Kalenborn in the collective municipality of Altenahr in the county of Ahrweiler. The Swist has an average gradient of 5 ‰ and flows initially to Vettelhoven (Grafschaft) in a northeasterly direction and then descends at a gradient of just 1.3 ‰ through the Fore-Eifel. It continues along the western slopes of the Ville in the börde landscape of the Rheinbach Loess Plateau through Meckenheim, Flerzheim, Morenhoven, Heimerzheim and Metternich. The municipality of Swisttal and the village of Weilerswist derive their names from the stream. At 106 m above NN the Swist empties into the Erft between Weilerswist and Bliesheim.


Its catchment area lies between that of the Rhine near Bonn and its smaller tributaries like the Hardtbach or Alfterer Bornheimer Bach to the northwest and that of its parent river, the Erft around Euskirchen right in the west and peters out quickly towards the north-northwest. It is rural and, in the open country, arable fields predominate. Around the upper courses of the stream and its especially along its important left-hand tributaries there is a large continguous forest as well as pastures and meadows. The largest part of the catchment belongs to the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the source region is in Rhineland-Palatinate.


The most important tributary of the Swist is the Steinbach, which joins from the left at river kilometre 15.7 as the Jungbach. Between Schweinheim and Essig it bears the name Orbach. The 20.5-kilometre-long stream has a catchment of 48.227 km² which is about 17% that of the Swist. The tributaries of the Swist are listed below.

Mouth height[2]
[m. ü. NN]
Kahlenborner Bach/Swistbach 42.939 right 0.6     2742 112
Buchenwaldbach 42.407 left 1.0     2742 114
Nonnenbach 39.185 right 2.2 1.950   2742 12
Bach von Alteheck 38.103 right 1.5 1.262   2742 132
N.N. 35,251 left 1.1     2742 134
Unnamed stream 32;660 left 1.7     2742 136
Unnamed stream 31,899 right 1.4     2742 138
Essigbach 29.680 left 5.9 7.629 182 2742 14
Mühlengraben/Spießgraben 29,334 right 1.4 4.405 178 2742 16
Altendorfer Bach 28.585 left 10.0 11.534 176 2742 2
Ersdorfer Bach 27.247 left 7.5 5.267 170 2742 32
Morsbach/Wormersdorfer Bach 24.692 left 6.7 12.342 161 2742 34
Unnamed stream 22.675 right 3.1   155 2742 392
Mühlengraben 19.088 right 2.1   146 2742 394
Eulenbach 19.066 links 12.3 23.059 146 2742 4
Wallbach 17.589 left 8.9 22.600 143 2742 52
Steinbach/Orbach/Jungbach 15.717 left 20.5 48.227 140 2742 6
Buschbach 13.482 right 8.2 21.965 134 2742 74
Schießbach 12.676 left 13.7 16.627 132 2742 8
Mühlengraben 12.141 right 1.6   131 2742 912
Uhlshover Graben 12.01 left 1,8[3] 131
Kottengrover Graben 11.485 right 0.7 0.736 130 2742 92
Kriegshover Bach 9.733 right 4.2 8.042 127 2742 94
Müggenhausener Fließ 3.999 left 5.2 11.846 113 2742 96
Weilerswister Mühlgraben 0.675 left 2.9   107 2742 992

River history

Originally the River Ahr flowed in what is now the riverbed of the Swist. After the uplifting of the Ahr Hills, and its route northwards was barred, the Ahr tried to find a way directly to the Rhine.

In places it is said that the Swist is the longest stream in Europe.[4] This probably goes back to when its course was marked by wide meanders in the area of the low gradient between Vettelhoven and its mouth.[5] Since the straightening of the Swist in the early 20th century and certainly no later than its canalisation in the 1960s it has probably lost this record.

Historic bridges

The Roman aqueduct to Cologne crossed the valley of the Swist between Meckenheim and Rheinbach on an arched bridge which was 1,400 metres long and up to 10 metres high. Archaeologists have worked out that the bridge must have once had 295 arches with an inside width of 3.56 metres. Nothing is left of the structure apart from a low strip of rubble. In Lützermiel the foundations of a Prussian bridge have survived. The bridge once carried the district road (Bezirksstraße) from Bonn to Schleiden, built in 1823, over the Swist.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Hydrographic Directory of the NRW State Office for Nature, the Environment and Consumer Protection (Gewässerverzeichnis des Landesamtes für Natur, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz NRW 2010) (xls; 4.67 MB)
  2. Measurement based on German terrain maps (Deutscher Grundkarte) 1:5000 series
  3. Could not be found either in GeoQuelle or in the DGK.
  4. "Die Swist" (pdf; 4.44 MB) (in German). Ministerium für Umwelt und Naturschutz, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucherschutz des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen. September 2008. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  5. Jean Joseph Tranchot (1801-1814) (in German), Topographische Aufnahme der Rheinlande
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