Located in the North Brabant and South Holland provinces of the Netherlands, De Biesbosch National Park is one of the country’s largest national park facilities, spanning 90 square kilometers and preserving one of the last remaining freshwater tidal wetland regions in Northern Europe.
Prior to the 15th century, the region that now encompasses De Biesbosch National Park was known as Grote Hollandse Waard and contained a number of Dutch villages and cultivated agricultural land. In 1421, the region was submerged as a result of the Saint Elizabeth Flood, which affected more than 300 square kilometers of polder lands as the result of the collapse of unstable dikes in the region that had been poorly maintained due to economic difficulties tied to the Hook and Cod civil wars. The resulting Heidezee river that was created gave the region the name the Bergse Veld, or “Fields of Geertruidenberg,” as a result of the submergence of the surrounding land during high tide.
Since the 18th century, the region has been known as the Biesbosch and much of the land has been reclaimed as polders. Several flooding prevention measures were implemented in the 19th century, such as the creation of new and improved canal routes, which caused the region to lose its functionality as a river delta. During World War II, the region was used as a hideout from German occupation forces and a gathering place for resistance forces. Following the closure of the Haringvliet in 1970, the region lost its direct connection to the sea, transforming its land into a willow forest ecosystem and blocking migration routes for fish species. In 1980, the region was declared a national park, and since that time, reclamation measures have been undertaken to return the ecosystem to its natural wetland state and reconnect it with its nearby rivers.
Today, De Biesbosch National Park spans approximately 90 square kilometers and protects one of the last remaining freshwater delta regions in Northern Europe, which encompasses approximately 8,000 hectares of interconnected river and stream ecosystem. It is located within the North Brabant and South Holland provinces of the Netherlands, near the city of Dordrecht. The park is predominantly comprised of a willow forest ecosystem, with large areas of wet grasslands and reed fields. Native flora and fauna are showcased throughout the park, including beavers which have constructed more than 100 dams throughout the park’s waterways and wetlands and a large variety of waterfowl and seabirds, including sea eagles and kingfishers.
The park is divided into three major sections, including the northern Sliedrechtse Biesbosch, which showcases the area’s most significant tidal influence, featuring a unique intact system of river dunes near the Beneden Merwede river. The western Hollandse Biesbosch is the park’s most heavily populated area for bird species and encompasses much of the park land within the South Holland province, while the Brabantse Biesbosch’s Zuidwaard section, separated from the rest of the park by the Nieuwe Merwede river, consists mostly of willow forest ecosystem. Several other areas of the original Biesbosch region are not preserved as part of the park but are easily accessible for park visitors, including the Dordtse Biesbosch and the Brabantse Biesbosch’s Noordwaard and Oostwaard sections.
A variety of outdoor activities are offered at the park, including cycling routes throughout the park’s polders, fields, meadows, rivers, and nearby villages. Bicycles may be rented at several sites throughout the area. Private sailing charters and guided sailing tours are offered on the park’s waterways, along with opportunities for whisper boat and canoe rentals. A large portion of the park has been leased to Sportvisserij Nederland for supervision of visitor fishing with valid licenses. Other popular outdoor activities include birdwatching, horseback riding, and swimming. A variety of field trip excursions are offered by the park for visitors, including birding, beaver-watching, and plant identification excursions led by park rangers.
Two visitor centers are offered at the park, including the Biesbosch Center Dordrecht, which offers natural history exhibits such as the De Biesbosch, A Dutch Jungle exhibit and cultural history exhibits such as Biesbosch Stories Anno Nu, which highlights oral histories of those who have lived and worked in the region. Next to the center, a Playground Baanhoekweg is offered for young visitors, and a Dierenvriendjespad animal friend path provides an interactive learning experience. Other park activities include the BeverBos beaver habitat exhibit and the Biesbosch Experience water play educational area. Though no food or accommodation amenities are offered within the park, a number of popular restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, and bed and breakfast facilities are offered throughout the greater De Biesbosch region and in nearby Dordrecht.