The Emajõgi is a river
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 in Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

 which flows from Lake Võrtsjärv
Lake Võrtsjärv is a lake in southern Estonia with an area of 270 km² . It is the second largest lake of Estonia. The shallow lake is 33.7 m above sea level. The river Emajõgi flows from Lake Võrtsjärv to Lake Peipus.-External links:**...

 through Tartu County
Tartu County
Tartu County , or Tartumaa , is one of 15 counties of Estonia.It is located in eastern Estonia bordering Põlva County, Valga County, Viljandi County and Jõgeva County....

 into Lake Peipus
Lake Peipus
Lake Peipus, ) is the biggest transboundary lake in Europe on the border between Estonia and Russia.The lake is the fifth largest in Europe after Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega in Russia north of St...

, crossing the city of Tartu
Tartu is the second largest city of Estonia. In contrast to Estonia's political and financial capital Tallinn, Tartu is often considered the intellectual and cultural hub, especially since it is home to Estonia's oldest and most renowned university. Situated 186 km southeast of Tallinn, the...

 for 10 km. It has a length of 100 km. The name Emajõgi means "Mother River" in Estonian
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...


The Emajõgi is sometimes called the Suur Emajõgi ("Great Emajõgi"), in contrast with the Väike Emajõgi
Väike Emajõgi
The Väike Emajõgi, is a river in southern Estonia that drains into Lake Võrtsjärv....

 ("Little Emajõgi"), another river which flows into the southern end of Lake Võrtsjärv.

Emajõgi is the second largest river in Estonia by discharge
Discharge (hydrology)
In hydrology, discharge is the volume rate of water flow, including any suspended solids , dissolved chemical species and/or biologic material , which is transported through a given cross-sectional area...

 and the only fully navigable river.


The source of Emajõgi is at the northeastern shore of Võrtsjärv at Rannu-Jõesuu, from where the river follows a roughly eastward course towards Lake Peipsi.

The course of Emajõgi is divided into 3 distinct sections. In the upper course, from Võrtsjärv to Kärevere
Kärevere may refer to several places in Estonia:*Kärevere, Järva County, village in Türi Parish, Järva County*Kärevere, Tartu County, village in Laeva Parish, Tartu County*Kärevere, Viljandi County, village in Suure-Jaani Parish, Viljandi County...

 bridge, the river flows through large, flat and marshy areas, which are part of Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve
Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve
Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve is the largest nature reserve in Estonia. It is a vast wilderness area which covers and consists of a complex of 5 large bogs separated by unregulated rivers, their floodplains, and extensive forests...

. In this heavily meander
A meander in general is a bend in a sinuous watercourse. A meander is formed when the moving water in a stream erodes the outer banks and widens its valley. A stream of any volume may assume a meandering course, alternately eroding sediments from the outside of a bend and depositing them on the...

ing section, Emajõgi lacks a clearly defined floodplain
A floodplain, or flood plain, is a flat or nearly flat land adjacent a stream or river that stretches from the banks of its channel to the base of the enclosing valley walls and experiences flooding during periods of high discharge...

 – the flooded area spans several kilometres at times and has no definite borders. In the middle course from Kärevere to Kavastu
Kavastu, Tartu County
Kavastu is a village in Luunja Parish, Tartu County, on the left bank of Emajõgi.The only operating cable ferry in Estonia crosses the river at Kavastu....

 through Tartu, Emajõgi follows a straighter course and flows in a clearly defined, shallow valley mostly a maximum of 10 m deep. The width of the valley in the middle course is 1–1.5 km; in Tartu, it narrows to 800 m. The narrowest section of the valley (400–600 m) is located in the end of the middle course near Kavastu. In the lower course, the river flows through a swampy lowland – Emajõe Suursoo – before emptying into Lake Peipsi at Praaga.

The length of the river is 100 kilometres (62.1 mi). In 1927, its length was measured to be 117 kilometres (72.7 mi). This may have changed somewhat in the 1930s, when the river's meandering upper course was straightened to allow for easier navigation.


Emajõgi has been widely used as a waterway and trade route for centuries. In past, it has also been an obstacle for land transport between Northern and Southern Estonia, because the river flows in a low-lying and swampy valley. Of the few suitable locations for crossing the river, Tartu has the most favourable conditions. Due to its location on the crossing of land and water routes, Tartu become an important trading center in Ancient Estonia
Ancient Estonia
Ancient Estonia refers to a period covering History of Estonia from the middle of the 8th millennium BC until the conquest and subjugation of the Estonian people in the first quarter of the 13th century during the Northern Crusades.-The Mesolithic Period:...


In the 19th century, Emajõgi was actively used for transporting different cargo to Tartu – firewood
Firewood is any wood-like material that is gathered and used for fuel. Generally, firewood is not highly processed and is in some sort of recognizable log or branch form....

, timber
Timber may refer to:* Timber, a term common in the United Kingdom and Australia for wood materials * Timber, Oregon, an unincorporated community in the U.S...

, hay
Hay is grass, legumes or other herbaceous plants that have been cut, dried, and stored for use as animal fodder, particularly for grazing livestock such as cattle, horses, goats, and sheep. Hay is also fed to pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs...

, fish, and so on. The main type of vessel used was the lodi, a small river barge
A barge is a flat-bottomed boat, built mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods. Some barges are not self-propelled and need to be towed by tugboats or pushed by towboats...

 or sailing ship adjusted for navigation on Lake Peipsi and Emajõgi. Up to 200 barges were anchored in Tartu port at the time. The first steam paddler appeared on Emajõgi in 1843; there were six by 1900.
The last river barges disappeared by the mid-20th century. Several new ships were brought to the river in the Soviet era to continue navigation to Pskov
Pskov is an ancient city and the administrative center of Pskov Oblast, Russia, located in the northwest of Russia about east from the Estonian border, on the Velikaya River. Population: -Early history:...

, Piirissaar
Piirissaar is an Estonian island located in Lake Peipus. It belongs to Tartu County as the Piirissaare Parish.Piirissar is the largest island in Lake Peipus with a size of 7.8 km². It is located c. 15 km from the mouth of the Emajõgi river. Piirissaar is located c...

, among other destinations. Fast hydrofoil
A hydrofoil is a foil which operates in water. They are similar in appearance and purpose to airfoils.Hydrofoils can be artificial, such as the rudder or keel on a boat, the diving planes on a submarine, a surfboard fin, or occur naturally, as with fish fins, the flippers of aquatic mammals, the...

s, which were first introduced in 1960s, operated daily on the Tartu-Pskov route. Traffic on the route ended in 1992. Though attempts have been made to restart it since 1997, it remains closed.


Emajõgi is crossed by 10 bridges, the majority of them located in Tartu.
The bridges are, in downstream order:
  • Rannu-Jõesuu bridge at the source of Emajõgi on Tartu–Viljandi
    Viljandi is a town and municipality in southern Estonia with a population of 19,150 . It is the capital of Viljandi County. The town was first mentioned in 1283, upon being granted its town charter by Wilhelm von Endorpe....

    • Includes an old bridge currently reserved for pedestrians and local traffic and a new highway bridge completed in 2009.
  • Kärevere bridge on Tartu–Tallinn
    Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

    • Includes a closed old bridge and a new highway bridge completed in 1999.
  • Jänese railway bridge on Tallinn–Tapa
    Tapa, Estonia
    Tapa is a town in Lääne-Viru County, Estonia. Located at the junction of the country's Tallinn-Narva and Tallinn-Tartu-Valga railway lines, it is an important centre of transit for freight as well as rail passengers...

    –Tartu railway 7 km northwest of Tartu
  • Kroonuaia bridge in Tartu
  • Vabadussild in Tartu
    • Vabadussild replaced the Raudsild in 2008.
  • Kaarsild – pedestrian bridge in Tartu
  • Võidu bridge in Tartu
  • Turusild – pedestrian bridge in Tartu
  • Sõpruse bridge in Tartu
  • Luunja bridge on Tartu–Räpina
    Räpina is a town in Põlva County, Estonia. The administrative centre of Räpina Parish, it has a population of 2,867 .-External links:*...


In addition to the bridges, the only operating cable ferry
Cable ferry
A cable ferry is guided and in many cases propelled across a river or other larger body of water by cables connected to both shores. They are also called chain ferries, floating bridges, or punts....

 in Estonia crosses the river at Kavastu
Kavastu, Tartu County
Kavastu is a village in Luunja Parish, Tartu County, on the left bank of Emajõgi.The only operating cable ferry in Estonia crosses the river at Kavastu....

, about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) downstream of Luunja bridge.

Some new bridges have been proposed to be built in connection with the Tartu ring road.
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