Main, river, c.310 mi (500 km) long, formed near Kulmbach, E central Germany, by the confluence of the Roter Main and the Weisser Main, both of which rise in the Fichtelgebirge. It then winds generally west through the rich farmland of central Germany and past the industrial areas of Schweinfurt, Würzburg, Aschaffenburg, and Frankfurt to the Rhine River at Mainz. Navigable from its junction with the Regnitz River, its chief tributary, the Main is an important east-west route. The Ludwig Canal connects it with the Danube River. A recently completed addition to the canal links the Danube with the Rhine, allowing barge traffic from the North Sea to the Black Sea, a distance of more than 2,000 mi (3,200 km). There are about 40 hydroelectric power plants on the Main, of which Griesheim (62,000-kW capacity) is the largest.

City (pop., 2002 est.: city, 641,076; metro. area, 1,896,741), western Germany. Located on the Main River, it was the site of a Roman military settlement in the 1st century AD. It served as a royal residence of the Carolingians from the 9th century through the Middle Ages. A free imperial city (1372–1806), it lost its status under Napoleon but regained it in 1815. It was the capital of Germany from 1816 until it was annexed by Prussia in 1866. Its Old Town, once the largest surviving medieval city in Germany, was mostly destroyed in World War II; some landmarks survive, including its red sandstone cathedral, dedicated in 1239. International trade fairs have been held in Frankfurt since 1240; in the modern era, book, automobile, and computer fairs are popular annual events. The city's manufactures include machinery and printing materials, as well as the high-quality sausages known as frankfurters. Frankfurt is the birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

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The Main (maɪn) is a river in Germany, 524 km (329 miles) long (including White Main, 574 km (357 mi)), and it is one of the more significant tributaries of the Rhine. The Main flows through the German states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg (forming the border with Bavaria for some distance) and Hesse. Its watershed competes with the Danube for water; as a result, many of its boundaries are identical with those of the European Watershed. The Main rises near Kulmbach at the joining of its two headstreams, the Red Main and the White Main. The Red Main rises in the Frankish Alb, 50 km (30 mi) in length, and runs through Creussen and Bayreuth. The White Main rises in the mountains of the Fichtelgebirge; it is 41 km (25 mi) long. Major tributaries of the Main are the Regnitz, the Fränkische Saale, the Tauber, and the Nidda.


The Main is navigable for shipping from its mouth at the Rhine close to Mainz for 396 km to Bamberg. Since 1992, the Main has been connected to the Danube via the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal and the highly regulated Altmühl river. The river has been canalized with 34 large locks to allow CEMT class V vessels to navigate the total length of the river. The 16 locks in the adjacent Rhine-Main-Danube Canal and the Danube itself are of the same dimensions.

Ports and municipalities

Around Frankfurt are several large inland ports. Because the river is rather narrow on many of the upper reaches, navigation with larger vessels and push convoys requires great skill.

The largest city along the Main is Frankfurt am Main. After the junction of its headstreams, the Main passes the following towns and cities: Burgkunstadt, Lichtenfels, Staffelstein, Eltmann, Haßfurt, Schweinfurt, Volkach, Kitzingen, Marktbreit, Ochsenfurt, Würzburg, Karlstadt, Gemünden, Lohr, Marktheidenfeld, Wertheim am Main, Miltenberg, Obernburg, Aschaffenburg, Seligenstadt, Hainburg, Hanau, Offenbach, Frankfurt, Hattersheim, Flörsheim, and Rüsselsheim.

The river has gained enormous importance as a vital part of European "Corridor VII", the inland waterway link from the North Sea to the Black Sea.


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