Windmills of Kinderdijk

Centuries-old water management in the Ablasserwaard

From our editor Annette Schimmel

07-07-2006 The nineteen windmills near the tiny village of Kinderdijk attract visitors from all over the world. In 1997 UNESCO added this area to the list of World Heritage cultural historic sites. The windmills, dating back to 1740, were built to pump out excess water from the Ablasserwaard, via a series of drainage pools, into the River Lek. Nowadays modern electric pumps have teken over this task and the windmills stand as a symbol for the centuries-old struggle against water in the Netherlands.The windmills and waterways form an entire network which was constructed to control the water level in the region, a process which began, albeit in a simple manner, back in the Middle Ages. As the centuries progressed, so did this work. The landscape bears the marks of this development: dikes, drainage pools, and of course the windmills with their accompanying buildings and land. The modern methods used in water management - using electric and diesel-driven pumps - can also be seen in Kinderdijk.
A 'waterschap' is a government agency whose duty is to regulate water management in a particular region in the Netherlands.

A 'polder' is an area of land in which the water level is artificially regulated. In general the land lies below water level, and the water is pumped out into a system of surrounding ditches, canals, and drainage pools or resevoirs, from which it is carried out to sea by existing rivers and waterways.

Visitor's Windmill

One of the Kinderdijk windmills is opened to the public. On the ground floor you can see how the windmill works, and take a look at the living accommodation with two traditional built-in boxed beds. The first floor takes up half of the windmill and has yet another built-in bed. The second floor was added to the mill at a later date and contains two rooms with three built-in beds. The third floor consists of a smokehouse. The fourth floor contains the mechanismes which transfer movement from the wind shaft to the upright shaft via the wallower (gear system), and the brake wheel which can be operated from ground level by pulling on a rope.


Kinderdijk contains three polder windmills and sixteen resevoir windmills. The polder windmills pumped water from the polders into the Lage Boezem (lower resevoir) of the Overwaard, or the Lage Boezem of the Nederwaard. Most of Kinderdijk's windmills are resevoir windmills, built to pump water from the lower resevoir to the Hoger Boezem or higher resevoir. From the higher resevoir the water was sluiced into the River Lek. The windmills were formerly owned by various 'waterschappen' or water companies, who were individually responsible for the design of their windmill. This is why the windmills of the Nederwaard are round mills made of stone, and the windmills of the Overwaard are octagonal, thatched mills.

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How to get to Kinderdijk

Up-to-date windmill information

Kinderdijk World Heritage Site foundation

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