The Guadalquivir (/ˌɡwɑːdəlkɪˈvɪər/, also UK: /-kwɪˈ-/, US: /-kˈ-, ˌɡwɑːdəlˈkwɪvər/,[1][2][3] Spanish: [ɡwaðalkiˈβiɾ]) is the fifth longest river in the Iberian Peninsula and the second longest river with its entire length in Spain. The Guadalquivir river is the only great navigable river in Spain. Currently it is navigable from the Gulf of Cádiz to Seville, but in Roman times it was navigable to Córdoba.

Guadalquivir River in Seville
Location of the Guadalquivir
Etymologyfrom al-wādī l-kabīr, "the great valley" or "the great river" in Arabic
CitiesCórdoba, Seville
Physical characteristics
SourceCañada de las Fuentes
  locationCazorla Range, Quesada, Jaén
MouthAtlantic Ocean
Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz
36°47′N 6°21′W
0 m (0 ft)
Length657 km (408 mi)
Basin size56,978 km2 (21,999 sq mi)
  average164.3 m3/s (5,800 cu ft/s)
Basin features
  leftGuadiana Menor, Guadalbullón, Guadajoz, Genil, Corbones, Guadaira
  rightGuadalimar, Jándula, Yeguas, Guadalmellato, Guadiato, Bembézar, Viar, Rivera de Huelva, Guadiamar


The Spanish river is 657 km (408 mi) long and drains an area of about 58,000 km2 (22,000 sq mi). It begins at Cañada de las Fuentes (village of Quesada) in the Cazorla mountain range (Jaén), passes through Córdoba and Seville and ends at the fishing village of Bonanza, in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, flowing into the Gulf of Cádiz, in the Atlantic Ocean.

The marshy lowlands at the river's end are known as "Las Marismas". The river borders Doñana National Park reserve.


The modern name of Guadalquivir comes from the Arabic al-wādī l-kabīr (الوادي الكبير), meaning "the great valley".[4][5] Classical Arabic wādī is pronounced in present-day Maghrebi Arabic as oued, explaining the word's rather dissimilarity to its Arabic source. Which a direct borrowing from would've looked something like "Wadilkabir" or even "Al-Wadi Al-Kabir" if accuracy was sought after.

There were a variety of names for the Guadalquivir in Classical and pre-Classical times. According to Titus Livius (Livy), The History of Rome, Book 28, the native people of Tartessians or Turdetanians called the river by two names: Kertis/Certis and Rerkēs (Ρέρκης).[6] Greek geographers sometimes called it "the river of Tartessos", after the city of that name. The Romans called it by the name Baetis (that was the basis for name of the province of Hispania Baetica).


The Phoenicians established the first anchorage grounds and dealt in precious metals. The ancient city of Tartessos (that gave its name to the Tartessian Civilization) was said to have been located at the mouth of the Guadalquivir, although its site has not yet been found.

The Romans, whose name for the river was Baetis, settled in Hispalis (Seville), in the 2nd century BC, making it into an important river port. By the 1st century BC, Hispalis was a walled city with shipyards building longboats to carry wheat. In the 1st century AD the Hispalis was home to entire naval squadrons. Ships sailed to Rome with various products: minerals, salt, fish, etc. During Arab rule between 712 and 1248, the Moors left a stone dock and the Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold), to reinforce the port defences.

In the 13th century, Ferdinand III expanded the shipyards and from Seville's busy port, grain, oil, wine, wool, leather, cheese, honey, wax, nuts and dried fruit, salted fish, metal, silk, linen and dye were exported throughout Europe.

A reconstructed waterwheel is located at Córdoba on the Guadalquivir River. The Molino de la Albolafia waterwheel originally built by the Romans provided water for the nearby Alcázar gardens as well as being used to mill flour.[7]

After the discovery of the Americas, Seville became the economic centre of the Spanish Empire as its port monopolised the trans-oceanic trade and the Casa de Contratación (House of Trade) wielded its power. As navigation of the Guadalquivir River became increasingly difficult Seville's trade monopoly was transferred to Cádiz. The construction of the artificial canal known as the Corta de Merlina in 1794 marked the beginning of the modernisation of the port of Seville.

In late November 2010 the new Seville lock began to function as a regulator of the tides after five years of work (2005–2010).


The Guadalquivir River Basin occupies an area of 63,085 km2 and has a long history of severe flooding.

During the winter of 2010 heavy rainfall caused severe flooding in rural and agricultural areas in the provinces of Seville, Córdoba and Jaén in the Andalusia region. The accumulated rainfall in the month of February was above 250 mm (10 in), double the precipitation for Spain for that month. In March 2010 several tributaries of the Guadalquivir flooded, causing over 1,500 people to flee their homes as a result of increased flow of the Guadalquivir, which on 6 March 2010 reached a volume of 2,000 m3/s (71,000 cu ft/s) in Córdoba and 2,700 m3/s (95,000 cu ft/s) in Seville. This was below that recorded in Seville in the flood of 1963 when a volume of 6,000 m3/s (210,000 cu ft/s). was reached. During August 2010 when flooding occurred in Jaén, Córdoba and Seville; three people died in Córdoba as a result.[8]


The Doñana disaster, also known as the Aznalcóllar Disaster or Guadiamar Disaster was an industrial accident in Andalusia. In April 1998 a holding dam burst at the Los Frailes mine, near Aznalcóllar, Seville Province, releasing 4 to 5 million cubic metres (140 to 180 million cubic feet) of mine tailings. The Doñana National Park was also affected by this event.

Dams and bridges

Of the numerous bridges spanning the Guadalquivir, one of the oldest is the Roman bridge of Córdoba. Significant bridges at Seville include the Puente del Alamillo (1992), Puente de Isabel II or Puente de Triana (1852), and Puente del V Centenario (1972).

The El Tranco de Beas Dam at the head of the river was built between 1929 and 1944 as a hydroelectricity project of the Franco regime. Doña Aldonza Dam is located in the Guadalquivir riverbed, in the Andalusian municipalities of Úbeda, Peal de Becerro and Torreperogil in the province of Jaén.


The Port of Seville is the primary port on the Guadalquivir River. The Port Authority of Seville is responsible for developing, managing, operating, and marketing the Port of Seville.

The entrance to the Port of Seville is protected by a lock that regulates the water level, making the port free of tidal influences. The Port of Seville contains over 2,700 m (8,900 ft) of berths for public use and 1,100 m (3,600 ft) of private berths. These docks and berths are used for solid and liquid bulk cargoes, roll-on/roll-off cargoes, containers, private vessels and cruise ships.[9]

In 2001, the Port of Seville handled almost 4.9 million tonnes (5.4 million short tons) of cargo, including 3.0 million tonnes (3.3 million short tons) of solid bulk, 1.6 million tonnes (1.8 million short tons) of general cargo, and over 264,000 tonnes (291,000 short tons) of liquid bulk. Almost 1,500 vessels brought cargo into the port, including more than 101,000 TEUs of containerized cargo.[9]

See also


  1. "Guadalquivir". Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  2. "Guadalquivir" (US) and "Guadalquivir". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  3. "Guadalquivir". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  4. Rafael Valencia (1992). "Islamic Seville: Its Political, Social and Cultural History". In Salma Khadra Jayyusi, Manuela Marín (ed.). The Legacy of Muslim Spain. BRILL. p. 136. ISBN 90-04-09599-3.
  5. Eric Ziolkowski (28 October 2014). "Kierkegaard's Subterranean Fluvial Pseudonymity". In Jon Stewart, Katalin Nun (eds.). Volume 16, Tome I: Kierkegaard's Literary Figures and Motifs: Agamemnon to Guadalquivir. 16. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 280. ISBN 978-1-4724-4136-2.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  6. Smith, William. "Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), BAETIS". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. Perseus Digital Library.
  7. "Córdoba Molino de Albolafia mill, The city of Córdoba tourist main sights, Andalusia, southern Spain". Retrieved 2015-04-05.
  8. "Spain Water Problem: The Guadalquivir river ne". Retrieved 2015-04-05.
  9. "WPS - Home Page". Retrieved 2015-04-05.
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