The relief of the Netherlands is falsely uniform. It is a large floodplain in which alluvial debris has been deposited from some of the most important rivers in Europe, and the demudation of the glacial moraines that covered the north of the continent during the last ice age. But these deposits are not uniform, and they manage to differentiate different landscapes.
The first clear difference is between the west and the east of the country. It is the west, except for the outer coastal bar, which is below sea level. There is a dividing line between Utrecht and Nijmegen that separates the glacial deposits to the north from the alluvial ones to the south. To the north there are sandy hills and clayey bottoms between which are great blocks of stone, arrived there in the interior of a disappeared glacial tongue.
Five large landscape units can be distinguished.
- The inland sandy landscapes, which occupy the southern and eastern areas. Here the sand predominates, which is not conducive to the development of large plant formations. They are the product of the demudation of moraines and erratic blocks appear, transported by glaciers. The topography is not completely flat, but is resolved in a series of low-lying hills, the Veluwe and Utrecht
- The dune landscapes of the coast, which form the wide coastal cord that separates the sea from the lowlands. They are produced by the sandy contributions of the great rivers, in balance with the force of the sea that prevents their dispersion on the seabed. They are of vital importance for the country, since they not only prevent the sea from invading the lowlands, but also filter the water guaranteeing fresh water in the interior.
- The alluvial sedimentary landscapes, which extend to the southwest (Zeeland) and in the marine gulfs reclaimed from the sea, in the north. They are the base of the soil of the polders. They also appear on the banks of the rivers that cross the country.
- The peat bogs, which appear on some polderized clay sea beds and put into operation to take advantage of the peat as a resource. They also appear in the northeast of the country, on swampy areas of periglacial origin. They are the colonies of peat bogs of Gróninga and Drenthe.
- The calcareous plateau of the southeast. The existence of limestone is an exception in the Netherlands. They form the western edge of the country, around Maastricht. It is a limestone soil covered with loes, a continuation of the Belgian relief. The last vestiges of the Ardennes massif also appear.
As a country located in Europe according to EHEALTHFACTS, the Netherlands is the land of water. There are three main rivers that run through the country: the Scheldt, the Meuse and the Rhine, but it is their relationship with the sea, with the land reclaimed from the ocean through polders, that sets the Dutch landscape apart. In addition, these are flat lands, in which the rivers adopt a meandering path with a multitude of arms.
The river Scheldt (Schelde) is 430 kilometers long. He was born in Gouy (Aisne, France) and crossed Belgium. A good part of its route is channeled, and it is navigable to Cambrai (Belgium). Its main tributaries are the Scarpe, the Lys and the Sensée. In addition, numerous channels start from it that put it in contact with other rivers. Due to its low unevenness, the tides are felt up to 160 km from its mouth. Before reaching the sea it has a wide estuary several kilometers wide. This last part is the one that belongs to the Netherlands.
The Meuse River is about 950 kilometers long. It is born on the Landers plateau (France) at only 384 meters of altitude. It is a slow and meandering river very mighty, which allows the navigation of barges of up to 2000 tons. It empties into the North Sea, forming a common delta with the Rhine, to whose course it approaches up to a few kilometers. It is canalized in most of its route and from it irrigation canals for the whole of the Dutch southeast derive. Its main tributaries are: Samson, Ourthe, Roer and Sambre.
The Rhine is 1,320 km long, of which only the last section corresponds to the Netherlands. Here it is a very mighty river, with up to 2,100 m³ / s. it empties into the North Sea in a wide estuary joint with the Meuse. Its main mouth is one kilometer wide. It is navigable to Basel (Switzerland), and is highly channeled. In the Netherlands it is divided into several arms. The most important are the old Rhine, the Waal and the Lek.
There are many other rivers and canals in the country, in such a way that it has thousands of kilometers of waterways, despite being a small country.
The polders form the characteristic Dutch landscape. A polder is a land reclaimed from the sea thanks to artificial works: dikes, mills, pipelines, etc. The origin of these polders date back to the Middle Ages. There are more than one million polderized hectares. Four types of polders can be distinguished, those of the ancient lands, in the southwest, which appear behind the protective dikes, with an elevation of between 0.5 and 1 meter above sea level. The coastal polders, which are the islands and sand bars that appear in the estuaries of the southwest. They reach between 0.5 and 1 meter above sea level. The dried up lakes, on the old peat bogs, dried up around the 15th century and with an altitude of between 4 and 6 meters below sea level. And the polders of the Zuiderzee, of extraordinary flatness, and at an altitude of between 3 and 5 meters below sea level. They are the youngest and are spread over the areas that the sea flooded in the 13th century, and which gave rise to the polderization work of the country.
All these polders have been reinforced and expanded in the 20th century, in the set of works known as the “delta plan.” The Plan arose after the floods of 1953, and consists of the creation of huge coastal dikes that separate the lowlands from the sea. In addition, other interior dikes were built that allow the creation of artificial freshwater lakes. Modern dikes are also road infrastructures, which provide access to inland cities. If it weren’t for the polders, much of the country would be under the waters of the sea.