Saturday, February 6, 2010

Zayandeh River

Zayandeh River (زاینده رود) is the largest river on the central plateau of Iran in Isfahan Province, flowing from west to east, and the most well known river of Iran after Karoon. It has come to be known by this name as a result of the many fields it irrigates on its course and thus brings them to life (for this reason it was formerly known as Zendehrood). Zayandeh River starts in the Zagros Mountains, from a natural pool known as Janan Spring, and travels 400 kilometers eastward before ending in the Gavkhouni swamp, a seasonal salt lake, southeast of Isfahan city. The Zayandeh has significant flow all year long, unlike many of Iran's rivers which are seasonal. The Zayandeh is spanned by many historical Safavid era bridges, and flows through many parks.  

The Zayandeh River basin has an area of 41,500 square kilometers, ranging from an altitude of 3,974 meters to 1,466 meters. Its maximum length is 420 kilometers and its width ranges from 10 to 20 meters in the valleys to 800 meters in Isfahan. Zayandeh River water gives life to the people of central Iran mainly in Isfahan and Yazd provinces. Water diverted per person is 240 liters per day in urban areas and 150 liters per day in villages. The flow of the river has been estimated at 38 cubic meters per second. The Koohrang Tunnel aids in adjoining a part of the waters of the Karoon River to the Zayandeh River. Such tunnels enables Zayandeh River to provide water to the Yazd Province and with another tunnel in the works, Kerman Province will also be benefiting from Zayandeh River.  

A hypothetical pre-historic culture is theorized to have flourished around the Zayandeh River in Iran in the 6th millennium BC. Archaeologists speculate that a possible early civilization existed along the banks of the Zayandeh River, developing at the same time as other ancient civilizations appeared alongside rivers in the region, such as the Sumerian civilization in Iraq and the Indus Valley civilization in ancient India. Archeological excavations in the Zayandeh River basin unearthed a 50,000 year old cave containing human and animal remains.  

Zayandeh River crosses the city of Isfahan, a major cultural and economic center of Iran. In the 17th century, Shaikh Bahai, an influential scholar and adviser to Safavid dynasty, designed and built a system of canals to distribute Zayandeh River water to Isfahan's suburbs. Water from the Zayandeh River helped the growth of the population and the economy, helped established Isfahan as an influential center, and gave a green landscape to Isfahan, a city in the middle of a desert.  

Until the 1960s in Isfahan Province the distribution of water followed a document claimed to date from the 16th Century. It divided the flow of the Zayandeh River into 33 parts which were then specifically allotted to the eight major districts within the region. At the district level the water flow was divided either on a time basis, or by the use of variable weirs, so that the proportion could be maintained regardless of the height of the flow. For centuries Isfahan had been an oasis settlement, noted for its surrounding fertile lands and prosperity. Until the 1960s industrial demand for water were minimal, which enabled the scarce water resources to be utilized entirely for agricultural production. With a growing population within the basin, creation of large steel works and other new industries and rising standards of living particularly within the city, the pressure on water resources steadily increased until the division of water was no longer feasible Approximately 80% of Zayandeh River’s water is consumed for agriculture, 10% for human consumption (drinking and domestic needs of a population of 4.5 million), 7% for industry (like the Zobahan’e Isfahan and Foolad Mobarekeh steel companies and Isfahan's petrochemical, refinery and power plants) and 3% for other uses.  

The Chadegan Reservoir dam project in 1972 was a major hydroelectric project to help with stabilizing water flow and to provide generation of electricity. Since 1972, the Chadegan Reservoir has helped prevent seasonal flooding of the Zayandeh River. There have been a number of tunnel projects to redirect water from the Karoon River to the Zayandeh. These have helped provide water for the growing population and new industries in both Isfahan and Yazd provinces. In the section of the Zayandeh River crossing Isfahan, bridges, parks, paddle boats and traditional cafes and restaurants amongst the rest of Isfahan rich cultural heritage, are major tourist attractions for Iranian as well as international visitors. There are several new and old bridges over the Zayandeh River. Some of the bridges on Zayandeh River in Isfahan are as follows: 

Shahrestan Bridge – Believed to have been built during the Sassanid era. One of the oldest bridges on Zayandeh River it bears much resemblance to Dezful and Shushtar Bridges, also from the Sassanid era. 

Marnan Bridge - Built in 1599 and measures 160 meters long. It was formerly known as Sar Afraz Bridge, however, being a connection to Marnan Village it eventually adopted this name. It was built by a rich member of the Armenian community of the Safavid era.  


33 Pol - Built in 1632 it is the longest, and one of the most famous bridges of Zayandeh River. It is also knows as Alahverdi Khan Bridge. Throughout history traditional Abrizan festivities took place at this bridge.  


Khaju Bridge - Built in 1650, it is as well known as 33 Pol. It was frequently deorated and used for various celebrations.  

Choobi (Joui) Bridge – Believed to have been built in the 17th century, it used to be an exclusively utilized bridge connecting Haft Dast Building to Sa’adat Abad Garden.  

Felezi Bridge - Built in 1959 with a length of 136 meters. Constructed out of iron, it is located in the center of Isfahan and is frequently used by trucks and busses.  

Bozorgmehr Bridge - Built in the 1970s and located in east Isfahan. It measures 130 meters long and 16 meters wide.  

Vahid Bridge - Built in 1976 in west Isfahan, it stretches 130 meters long and 22 meters wide. It is heavily utilized by heavy duty vehicles travelling in the north-south direction.  

Azar Bridge - Built in 1976. Similar to the Felezi Bridge, it is very solid but compared to the other bridges it lies very low with respect to the River’s average water level.  

Ferdosi Bridge - Built in the 1980s, it runs north-south. Given that its neighboring bridges do not permit motor vehicle passage, it deals with a healthy dose of daily traffic.  

As of late and as a result of climate changes, Zayandeh River has become seasonal. Unlike many of Iran's rivers it normally had significant flow all year long. However, as of 2009, the severe draught caused the river to completely dry up. It wasn’t until late in the year that water started flowing into the river again, bringing it back to life. 



  1. Dear Ramin.
    Your site is just great, with very impressive photos!
    But why have you said here that 33 pol was built in 1632 - your earlier posting is correct, not this.
    Do you have a system of notifying people when you put a post up, cos then I would know when to look?
    Maybe you'd like to look at my site (focusing on Safavid history)
    This has one posting on 33 pol:
    There will be another one mentioning 33 pol soon, suggesting a new interpretation of the date evidence.
    Best wishes

  2. I should have given you my email in case you want to contact me - since I see you dont seem to have a system for notifying commenting responders of track-backs (tho the verify system is very good - I may borrow this idea).
    I'm on
    Best wishes

  3. Caroline,
    I'm not sure about the exact date of its construction and I think probably there aren't any solid historical documentations of it either. But I have seen the date range from the late 16th century through 1632. Are you saying that the 1596 date is correct? In most sources that I have seen, they seem to suggest the 1625-32 date range. Although another explanation could be the date was converted from an Islamic lunar calendar rather than the Persian calendar, hence the difference. In the early 17th century they were about 40 years apart.
    I suppose you could subscrbe to my blog via the follow button to be notified of new posts. I wasn't able to access your blog; it just gave me a blank page. I'd be interested to read what you have about the Safavid history.

  4. Hi Ramin
    A mss by Fazli reported by Charles Melville (in Newman, 2003, Society and culture in the early modern Middle East - its on Google books, so you can find it on the internet - its footnote 30 on p71) says it was constructed in 1607.
    But i think Gouvea (in 1602) must be describing the bridge - many-spanned, great view etc etc.
    I'll write on this in a blog relatively soon.
    Can you really not get to my site ( - or the blog is on there - this weeks posting is on ancient earth forts.
    Best wishes

  5. Aha, finally I got to access your site. I think it was just a bad connection the other night. Looks very informative, I'm going to have to explore it!
    By all means use some f the material from my Rostam post for your Shahnameh one. I'd like to see your final version of that too!
    By the way can you read Farsi? It's a shame how some of the historical structures have been defaced with graffiti stating gibberish (such as Hi mom!)....

  6. Glad you got in!
    My Farsi is laboriously slow, I have to confess.
    All I was planning to do with your Rostam post was link to it - if thats OK
    Please do leave comments on my site, on any articles you like / want to add to / want to disagree with! I'm sure you feel that getting good comments is more than half the fun! I'll certainly be doing this with your site if thats OK
    Best wishes

  7. Hi Ramin
    I've referenced your site again in this weeks posting, hope you like being referenced like this!
    I'm doing something comparing a ?1970s Negah video and an 1890 description of the rinsing that used to go on upon the banks of the Z.
    Its at
    Hope all good
    Best wishes