Moskva River

The Moskva River, also known as the Moscow River, is a river of western Russia

Moscow river
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It rises about 90 miles west of Moscow, and flows roughly east through the Smolensk and Moscow Oblasts, passing through central Moscow.

Moskva River
pinterest button Moskva River Vitaly Repin, CC BY 2.0

About 70 miles south east of Moscow, at the city of Kolomna, it flows into the Oka River, itself a tributary of the Volga, which ultimately flows into the Caspian Sea.


Moskva and Moscow are two different renderings of the same Russian word Москва. The city is named after the river. The origin of the name is unknown, although several theories exist.

Babegorodskaya dam in Moscow, 1867
pinterest button Babegorodskaya dam in Moscow, 1867 неизвестен, Public Domain

One theory is a composition of two words «Moss» and «Gov.» The word «Moss» was very common in place names during the 9th-10th Century (perhaps Viking-Germano-Norman influence). «Gov» or «Gau» (говъ) originally meaning a stretch of navigable river (perhaps Viking-Germano-Norman influence), see «Chernigov.»

Cities and towns

Moscow (Москва́), the capital of Russia, is situated on its banks. The river also flows through the towns of Mozhaysk, Zvenigorod, Zhukovsky, Bronnitsy, Voskresensk, and — at the confluence of the Moskva and Oka — Kolomna.

As of 2007, there are 49 bridges across the Moskva River and its canals within Moscow city limits; the first stone bridge, Bolshoi Kamennyi Bridge, was erected in 1692. Within the city, the river is 120–200 metres wide, the narrowest point being under the Kremlin walls.

A reproduction of the postcard dated early 20th century
pinterest button A reproduction of the postcard dated early 20th century   unknown, Public Domain

Drinking water for the city of Moscow is collected from five stations on the Moskva River and from the Upper Volga reservoirs (north and north-west of the city).

View on Swissotel Krasnye Holmy Moscow, located on the island between Moscow river and Vodootvodny Channel
pinterest button View on Swissotel Krasnye Holmy Moscow, located on the island between Moscow river and Vodootvodny Channel Lavanda Green, GNU 1.2


Canals, built within Moscow city limits, have created a number of islands. Some of them have names in Russian, some have none. Major, permanent islands (west to east) are:

  • Serebryany Bor. Separated from the mainland in the 1930s.
  • Tatarskaya Poima, commonly known as Mnyovniki. Separated from the mainland in the 1930s
  • Balchug Island, also known as Bolotny Ostrov, lying just opposite the Kremlin. The island was formed by the construction of the Vodootvodny Canal in the 1780s, and has no official name in Russian. Moscow residents informally call it «Bolotny Ostrov» (Bog Island) while members of Moscow's English-speaking community refer to it as Balchug.
  • One uninhabited island north of Nagatino.
  • Three uninhabited islands east of Nagatino, connected by the Pererva dam and lock system.


Since winter 2009—2010 on the Moskva River new entertainment is entered: walk on the winter river on the ice breaker.

View from Moskvoretskaya embankment of the Moskva River
pinterest button View from Moskvoretskaya embankment of the Moskva River Михаил Егоров, CC BY-SA 3.0

There are five walking river ice breakers which ply on a route from a mooring Hotel Ukraine to the Novospassky Monastery and back. Duration of walk will make about 2 hours.

Useful Information

The Moskva River
Russian: река Москва, Москва-река
pron. Moskva-reka
also known as the Moscow River


The river is 503 km (313 mi) long, with a vertical drop of 155 m (509 ft) (long-term average).

The area of its drainage basin is 17,600 km2 (6,800 sq mi). The maximum depth is 3 metres above Moscow city limits, and up to 6 metres below it. Normally, it freezes in November–December and begins to thaw around late March.

In Moscow, the river freezes occasionally; during an unusually warm winter in 2006–2007, ice began melting on January 25.

The absolute water level in downtown Moscow is 120.0 metres above sea level (long-term average of summer lows after World War II); a historical maximum of 127.25 metres above sea level was set by the 1908 flood.

Sources of water

The main tributaries are the Ruza, Istra, Yauza, Pakhra, and Severka rivers. Sources of water are estimated as 61% thaw, 12% rain and 27% subterranean.

Since completion of the Moscow Canal (1932–1937), the Moskva River has also collected a share of Upper Volga water. This has enabled reliable commercial shipping, which was previously interrupted by summer droughts (older dams built in 1785, 1836 and 1878 were not effective).

The average discharge, including Volga waters, varies from 38 m³/s near Zvenigorod to 250 m³/s at the Oka inlet. The speed of the current, depending on the season, varies from 0.1 m/s (winter, dams closed) to 1.5–2.0 m/s (May, dams open).