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City canoeing in Hamburg

July 19, 2018

Not the Elbe – the Alster

The 56km Alster river joins the Elbe in the centre of Hamburg, and the Canoe Club (click here) is so old that the German word kanu didn’t even exist when it was founded in 1905.

They own a lovely old building with all facilities, a camping lawn, and private river frontage right in the middle of the city.


For a modest fee members of other canoe clubs can camp and use the facilities. A great base for an urban paddle. We did two, each about 6km there and back

Trip 1. Upstream to Fuhlsbüttel dam and power station

Distances measured from the canoe club. Right and left banks labelled as for a downstream paddler.

200m – Meenk bridge


300m – Railway bridge (1941).  Beach bar right upstream


500 m – Deelböge bridge. As you pass under it you feel you’re entering open country.


Branches left and right mark the original river course. The straightened new channel varies in width.

800m – Metzger bridge. Still very rural. An estate of lovely old (im)mobile chalets left bank


1.3 km – Damm bridge 1918. Braband Bistro upstream right bank.


1.7 km – Hindenburg bridge 1920 Skaggerak canal leaves left


2.2 km – Senglemann bridge 1919 (widened 2001).


3 km – Hasenberg bridge 1913.  The river widens in front of a park on the left bank, allowing the tourist boats to turn.


Fuhlsbüttel hydroelectric power station (110KW) (2000), the navigation limit for larger boats. Fish bypass and canoe rollers.

Hamburg airport is a few hundred yards west, and Ohlsdorf, the world’s 4th largest cemetery an equal distance east. Helmut Schmidt, West German chancellor, James Last, big band leader, and 1.5 million others are buried here.

Trip 2. The Isebek canal

Ise beck, a tiny stream running into the Alster was canalised way back, became polluted and nearly got paved over in the 1960s. Various sewage treatment plants and storm water basins keep it reasonably clean today, but the resulting flow is too low for the water to be adequately oxygenated for most fish. In 1988 oxygenation pipes were installed, and they seem to be working well. No pong in June 2018. More here.

From the canoe club turn right. Downstream on the Alster

50m Fahrhaus footbridge. Weighed down with love padlocks

100m Winterhuder bridge followed by riverside restaurant left


Again side channels follow the river’s original course.

300m – U3 railway bridge. Tourist boats fatten their customers.


500m – U1 railway bridge


800m – Goene bridge

1 km – The next bridge leads to Alster lake. Too windy for me. Turn right under Heilwig bridge and enter Isebek canal.


The canal is lively with boat clubs and and bars.

1.3 km – Ise bridge


1.5 km – Railway bridge


1.6 km – Eppendorf bridge


2 km – Kloster bridge


2.25 km – Grindel bridge

About 50 metres after this bridge the canal narrows. Thick bushes hide the urban surroundings.

2.5 km – Manstein bridge

2.6 km – Geben footbridge


2.8 km – Bundestrasse bridge.  Excellent landing stage and access.

3 km – The canal ends in a stagnant dead end. No attractive landing.


But overall a fine urban paddle.

Jim Thornton







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