The Neckar is a 367 km (228 mi) long river, mainly flowing through the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, but also a short section through Hesse, in Germany. The Neckar is a major right tributary of the River Rhine. Rising in the Black Forest near Villingen-Schwenningen in the conservation area Schwenninger Moos at a height of 706 m (2,316 ft) above sea level, it passes through Rottweil, Rottenburg am Neckar, Kilchberg, Tübingen, Wernau, Nürtingen, Plochingen, Esslingen, Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg, Marbach, Heilbronn and Heidelberg, before discharging into the Rhine at Mannheim (at 95 m (312 ft) above sea level).
From Plochingen to Stuttgart, the Neckar valley is densely populated and covered with industrial areas, including several well-known companies, e.g. Daimler AG, the maker of Mercedes Benz cars, and Mahle GmbH. Between Stuttgart and Lauffen, the Neckar cuts a scenic meandering and in many places steep-sided valley into fossiliferous Triassic limestones and Pleistocene travertine. Along the Neckar's valley in the Odenwald hills, many castles can be found, like Burg Hornberg and Burg Guttenberg in Haßmersheim, but also the closed Obrigheim Nuclear Power Plant and the active Neckarwestheim Nuclear Power Plant. After passing Heidelberg, the Neckar discharges on average 145 m3/s (5,100 cu ft/s) of water into the Rhine, which makes the Neckar its 4th largest tributary, and the 10th largest river in Germany.
The name Neckar was derived from Nicarus and Neccarus from Celtic Nikros, meaning wild water or wild fellow. Since about 1100, Black Forest wood was transported by timber rafting, e.g. to Holland for the use in shipyards.
During the 19th century, traditional horse-drawn boats were replaced by steam boats that used a 155 km (96 mi) long chain in the river to pull themselves upstream. The railway made it possible to transport timber to the port of Heilbronn, limiting timber rafting to the lower part of the Neckar after 1899. Thanks to the construction of 11 locks, ships up to 1500t could travel to Heilbronn in 1935.
By 1968, the last of 27 locks, at Deizisau, was completed, making the Neckar navigable for cargo ships about 200 km upstream from Mannheim up to the river port of Plochingen, where the Fils joins, and where the Neckar bends, taking a Northwestern instead of a Northeastern direction. Other important ports include Stuttgart, Heilbronn and Mannheim.
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