The Douro River
To talk about the Douro is not only to talk about a river or a region. It is much more than just that... it is to talk about all its history and its peoples, which make it so special.
To get to know the Douro is not just to visit the region; it is to go on a journey to discover a unique place, with unique history, culture and people.
There are several explanations concerning the origin of the name «Douro». Legend has it that it was usual to see small shiny stones trolling that turned out to be gold. Some people say the name is due to the clay-like colour of the waters of the river, the result of the great quantities of dirt that flash floods brought downhill and because of its lively yellow colour gave it the gold colour. But there are still those who believe that the name comes from the Latin «Durius», in other words, «Duro» (hard), due to the hardness of its sinuous curves of high rocky slopes.
The River Douro rises in the Urbión Mountains, in the north of Spain, at around 2000 meters of altitude. It is the second largest river in Portugal with a total length of 927 km; in Portuguese territory the river is only 210 km long and is navigable all long that course thanks to the dams that nowadays are also an attraction, due to the difference in the water level. The Carrapatelo Dam has a difference in the water level of 35 meters, one of the deepest in Europa.
It was this once narrow and troubled river that brought prosperity to the region, as the casks full of the precious nectar, Port Wine, used to be transported downstream. In past centuries, the river was a challenge and a danger to those who sailed on it with strong and fast currents, rapids and tricky, half submersed rocks. At that time, only a small wooden boat – Rabelo boat – could sail this waters and take the wine from the Douro valley until the mouth of the river, where on both riverbanks are located the towns of Oporto and Vila Nova de Gaia.