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Manzanares River, Madrid Guide

The Manzanares River (Real de Manzanares) runs through the heart of Madrid and has provided a source of fresh water for the city since its foundation. The Manzanares flows south from the Sierra de Guadarrama before joining the westerly flowing Tagus River. After a 1,000km journey the water flows out into the Atlantic Ocean on the Portuguese coastline.

Why was the Manzanares River Important for Madrid?

Before the advent of modern water control the Manzanares River shrunk to a mere trickle during the hot Spanish summer but it was this river that encouraged the Moors to found a city here in the 9th century. The depth and flow of the Manzanares River Madrid nowadays is maintained by the constant supply of purified wastewater from the huge city that spans its banks. This source of water is so clean that parks and even a city beach open onto the cooling waters of the river and the entire length of the Manzanares (excluding the area in Madrid) lies within national parks. The Manzanares River was key to the history and development of Madrid and today acts as a great tourist attraction.

Manzanares River Madrid Information

The Manzanares is 92km (57miles) long and the source of the river lies in the Navacerrada mountain pass, part of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range of central Spain. The river drains a water basin of 52,796 hectares and is dammed up stream to form the Santillana reservoir the main source of fresh water for Madrid. The Manzanares ends when it joins the larger Jarama river near the village of Arganda del Rey. The source of the river is at 2,000 meters above sea level and drops a total of 530 meters by the time it joins with the Jarama River. When the Manzanares passes through Madrid it has an average flow rate of 12m³/s.


Before the 17th century the Real de Manzanares was known as the Guadarrama which refereed to the four rivers that originated in the Sierra de Guadarrama. Each of the tributaries was given a unique own name by the Ducado del Infantado in the 17th century and the Real de Manzanares was named after the town of Manzanares in Ciudad Real.

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