A Paradise Not Just for People

The Millinger Sea

The Millinger Sea is something really special. Not because it is a real sea. It is called that because in Lower German the meanings of "sea" and "lake" have been swapped. Neither is it because you can swim here in the bathing beach area although that is something special because it is usually strictly prohibited in nature conservation areas. No, what is special about the Millinger Sea is that, together with the Hurler Sea and the Bienen Old Rhine, it is one of the last Old Rhine systems in the Lower Rhine and is therefore one of the most  valuable nature conservation areas in North Rhine-Westphalia. Because what actually looks like a lake was originally a Rhine oxbow lake that was connected to it when the Rhine flooded the meadows. Today the Rhine flows deeper than in days gone by because - mostly straightened and squeezed between embankment dams - it flows ever faster, carries along more gravel from the floor and thus digs ever deeper into its river bed.  Its floods therefore hardly reach the Millinger Sea naturally. Nevertheless, it is still a typical river meadow water body and is home to many of the fish species familiar to this habitat, such as bitterling, roach, perch, bream, tench and eel. Even pikes and the rare spined loach live here. Some of these species are actually commuters who have adapted their lives to living in the flowing river and the quiet oxbow lakes. Perch, roach or pike normally migrate with the spring floods to spawn in the oxbow lakes. Many young fish then return to the Rhine until they reach sexual maturity; in other species, the young fish seek out the oxbow lakes because the food available to them there is better. In the past, the Millinger Sea has only rarely been accessible to fish. A sluice gate at the sluiceway between the Bienen Old Rhine and Millinger Sea mostly prevents migration. However, the plans for renovating the embankment dam include a redesign to make it navigable for fish.  But the fish still commute. In the Millinger Sea they find good hiding places for their brood in the lush vegetation during the summer. However, it becomes dangerous in the winter when there are fewer protective plants available. Then the fish migrate to the ditches that are not easily accessible to predators, such as the heron. These ditches link to the Millinger Sea , which acts as a sort of hub, linking to many bodies of water, some of them a long way away. It may seem hard to believe, but many a fish from the Millinger Sea will have travelled to Holland via the Hetter and have reached the Ijsselmeer.