The founding of Kinderdijk

The Alblasserwaard is a country region in Holland in the south-east of the Dutch province ‘Zuid-Holland’. It also forms the southern part of the ‘Groene Hart’ (Green Heart) national landscape. It is a low-lying, thinly populated polder area that is surrounded by rivers and canals. The Alblasserwaard is crossed by ditches, canals and two small rivers: the Alblas and the Giessen. In the lowest, most western point of the Alblasserwaard, you will find the village of Kinderdijk, where 19 authentic, iconic windmills grace the polder landscape…

Past history

The Alblasserwaard is a beautiful, extensive peat landscape which is situated below sea level. The history of the Alblasserwaard goes back to over 10,000 years ago, when the wind sculpted sand dunes (called ‘donken’), some of which are still visible in today’s landscape. After the land was populated and depopulated a few times, the Alblasserwaard became permanently inhabited from the year 1000 onwards.

These days, the Alblasserwaard is considered one of the most beautiful country regions of the Netherlands. So don’t hesitate to stop by for an entertaining cultural day trip and a great opportunity to explore Holland’s gorgeous nature. Below, you will find additional information about the origin of the Alblasserwaard in general and the history of Kinderdijk in particular…

Overwaard & Nederwaard

The Alblasserwaard was drained naturally until the 13th century. Peat rivers drained the surplus water to the large rivers. Due to dewatering, which led to the land settling, increasing problems were seen when the river level was high. Floris V, Count of Holland, ordered the establishment of the first water board, which was tasked with managing and maintaining the Alblasserwaard’s ring of dykes. During the mid-fourteenth century, two large drainage organisations came into being: the water boards of Overwaard and Nederwaard.

High boezem & low boezem

The Alblasserwaard was drained into the river Lek at the lowest point near the village of Kinderdijk. Over here, the main waterways of the Overwaard (Achterwaterschap) and the Nederwaard (Nieuwe Waterschap) came together, even now, only separated by a narrow strip of land. When the water level in the river was low, these waterways could only be individually drained via a series of sluices. This system operated until the new water storage system, a system of boezems (storage basins), was built around 1738.

The increasing drainage problems led to the construction of high boezems. To be able to pump the water from the low boezem into the high one, nineteen windmills were built, which now form the unique Kinderdijk windmill landscape.

Steam-powered pumping station

In 1868, the windmills were supplemented by two steam-powered pumping stations. The Wisboom pumping station, named after the then chairman of the board of the Overwaard, drained the Overwaard. Four scoop wheels drained the water from the lage boezem of the Overwaard into the hoge boezem. Incidentally, the windmills continued to operate. Eventually, the Nederwaard steam-powered pumping station was dismantled. The J.U. Smit pumping station now stands on the foundations of the former station.

Electrical pumping stations

In 1924, the steam-powered pumping station was converted to electricity and the steam installation and the large chimney were taken apart. The former boiler house provided room for the transformer room, machine room and a workshop. New wings were built to house two double-sided Pannevis centrifugal suction pumps. These were driven by two three-phase 115-195 kW engines. In 1953, a second electrically-driven auxiliary pumping station was built next to the Wisboom pumping station (this has now been disassembled).


In 1995, the current screw pumping station, the Overwaard (Ir. G.N. Kok pumping station/ Overwaard), was taken into use and the Wisboom station was taken out of service. However, the Wisboom station and its installations were retained as a monument. The station has since been restored to working order by the World Heritage Kinderdijk Foundation. In addition to its status as a monument, the Wisboom station now houses the Visitors' Centre of World Heritage Kinderdijk.

Tip: The rich cultural history of the Groene Hart, the unspoiled nature landscape of the Alblasserwaard and the iconic windmill complex of the village, make Kinderdijk into a unique location and a perfect destination for an unforgettable day trip in Holland. On top of that, Kinderdijk is also the ideal base for bikers and hikers that want to explore the surrounding area…

Banner Kinderdijk video 1927

Banner Kinderdijk video 1941

Banner Kinderdijk video 1955

Banner Kinderdijk video 1960

Banner Kinderdijk video 1965

Banner Kinderdijk video 1975