The IJssel is a northbound distributary of the Rhine
and was supposedly connected to that river when in
12 BC Roman troops dug the Canals of Drusus. New research suggests it may all have happened naturally during heavy floodings
of the Rhine between 400 and 700 AD.
In ancient times the IJssel ended in Lake Flevo, but in the early Middle Ages storms ate
away at the soft peat lake shores and in 1287 massive tidal surges of St Lucia's flood created the saltwater Zuiderzee.
As a result
the IJssel now connected the North Sea and the Baltic Sea with the Dutch and German hinterland.
People all along the river
jumped on the new trading opportunies and in particular the cities at the IJssel delta like Kampen, Zwolle, Hasselt and Hattem became
very important and very rich trading centers, also thanks to their alliance with the Hanseatic League.
Some majestic buildings
of those golden years have survived and the old city centers attract many visitors in summer.
With the completion of the Afsluitdijk in
1932 and the subsequent land reclaimations of the Zuiderzee Works, the IJssel now dumps its water in the artificial lakes
Ketelmeer and Zwarte Meer.
The National Park Weerribben-Wieden is located just north of the IJssel delta. Like all nature in the
Netherlands, this is man-made and a result of many centuries of peat extraction. Here the little town of Giethoorn has grown into
a major and overcrowded tourist attraction, ever since Chinese tourists have discovered this Dutch Venice.