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Traffic on the Emajõgi River

Traffic on the Emajõgi River

The Emajõgi River is one of the most important symbols of Tartu.


This river that makes its way from Lake Võrtsjärv to Lake Peipsi was a major trade route in medieval times, used to trade with Hanseatic cities to the west and the cities of Pihkva and Novgorod to the east. As the river lost depth, the river route also lost its relevance. The Emajõgi River is the only fully navigable river in Estonia.


The river is infamous for its swampy banks, which have made it difficult to cross and construct bridges over for centuries.


During summer, the river sometimes causes floods in the city. Its water level can fluctuate by 1.2-2.6 metres in a year. In December 2010, an information board measuring the water level was installed by the river in central Tartu. The board displays the air temperature and the water level and temperature of the river in real time, with data updated every 10 minutes. The water level in the river has been measured since 1867.


There are four bridges for vehicles and two for pedestrians that cross the river within city limits. Tartu is known for having regular discussions regarding the construction of yet another bridge.


Bringing life and people back to the riverside is one of the primary challenges the City of Tartu is currently dealing with. To this end, the city has constructed promenades and hiking trails along the riverbanks, opened cafés and built a harbour and a series of moorages.

Photos by Heikki Leis
Photos by Heikki Leis

Sailing on the Emajõgi River

A number of companies offer to take visitors sailing on the Emajõgi River. You will also find organisers for canoe trips.


The Emajõgi River Barge Society arranges wonderful trips on the historical barge Jõmmu and the Viking ship Turm.


Jõmmu is also suitable for seminars and training events. The barge is anchored during meetings, after which you can go on a tour of the river.


July is when river traffic reaches its peak, as it is the month of the River Parade during the Hanseatic Days.


Last changed 07.12.2020