Stories & Experiences

Pumping stations along the Zuiderzee

The habitability and liveability of the Netherlands are greatly dependent upon its protection against the water. This has everything to do with the fact that a large part of the country sits below sea level. While cycling the LF Zuiderzeeroute you’ll discover the traces that the Zuiderzee has left in the landscape and that have helped to shape it. You’ll also come face to face with ingenious waterworks that separate water and land.

Water management
The Netherlands has been active in the field of water management since as early as the 10th century. Land behind the dykes is kept dry and protected against the high tide. Partly due to drainage, excavation and deforestation, the soil has sunk over the years. People had to be creative and built dykes and mounds. While riding the LF Zuiderzeeroute you’ll see several of these dykes and mounds. Removal of the water is also of vital importance. In addition to natural drainage, the Dutch have been using active groundwater management and pumping stations since the Middle Ages. 

A pumping station is basically a very large pump that moves water from a lower to a higher area. Precipitation and water that enters the polder must be pumped out. The pumping station ensures that the water level is maintained. Depending on the area where the pumping station does its work, the Dutch refer to it as a ‘poldergemaal’ (polder pumping station) or ‘boezemgemaal’ (reservoir pumping station). A ‘poldergemaal’ almost always discharges into a storage basin, river or canal. A ‘boezemgemaal’ empties the water in a river, a canal or the sea.

Warder and Cees Mantel pumping stations
During your 440-kilometre-long ride around the former Zuiderzee you’ll see a number of these pumping stations. Just past the town of Warder you pass by the Warder pumping station, a modern pump house that opened in 1998. From a viewpoint on the dyke you can have a good look at the pumping station against the backdrop of endless grasslands, intersected by dead straight ditches. Most of the province of North Holland is below sea level and from here that’s easy to see. The water level of the Markermeer (Lake Marken) behind you is considerably higher. The pumping stations pump the water to the Markermeer and thus keep the polder on the other side of the dyke dry. Further down the road, after passing Schardam, you’ll encounter another one of these pumping stations. The Cees Mantel pumping station is really brand new, it opened in 2017. It can easily pump out 2000 cubic metres of water per minute. That’s about equal to an Olympic-size swimming pool full of water, every minute. Fish can pass the pumping station in two directions.

Pumping stations turned museum
Near Andijk and seven kilometres further west near Medemblik, you’ll find two former pumping stations behind the dyke that now house a museum: the Poldermuseum in the former pumping station ‘Het Grootslag’ and the Nederlands Stoommachinemuseum (Dutch steam engine museum) in the former steam pumping station ‘Vier Noorder Koggen’.

Just after leaving Medemblik you ride past an imposing pumping station from 1930 that is used to keep the Wieringermeer polder dry. The electric pumping station is named after engineer Cornelis Lely, the initiator of the Zuiderzee Works. These works rank among the world’s largest hydraulic engineering projects.

Smeenge pumping station
Near Kraggenburg in the Noordoostpolder you cycle past the Smeenge pumping station. It was put into service on 22 April 1941. The Noordoostpolder fell dry on 9 September 1942, also thanks to the work of the Buma pumping station. Overall about 1500 million cubic metres of water were pumped from the polder, of which about 375 million were removed by the Smeenge pumping station. The pumping station was named after the liberal politician H. Smeenge, one of the great advocates of the Zuiderzeevereniging that was founded in 1885. This association did research into the reclamation of the Zuiderzee, the Wadden Sea and the Lauwers Sea. The Dienst der Zuiderzeewerken (Zuiderzee Works Department) commissioned architect D. Roosenburg from The Hague to design the pumping station building in a functionalist style. It’s certainly worth a visit. 

Lovink pumping station
There are three pumping stations in Eastern Flevoland. The smallest of the trio is the Lovink pumping station in Biddinghuizen. The pumping station was named after Dr. H.J. Lovink (1866-1938), who chaired the state committee that prepared the draining of the Zuiderzee polders and was therefore involved in the construction of Proefpolder Andijk (pilot polder Andijk). The pumping station was taken into use in 1957 in order to drain the Eastern Flevoland polder in collaboration with the Colijn and Wortman pumping stations. If you want to visit the pumping station you’ll have to take a bit of a detour from the route.

While riding the LF Zuiderzeeroute you’ll pass several other pumping stations that are worth getting off your bike for:

  • Wouda pumping station 
  • Arkemheen steam pumping station 
  • A.F. Stroink pumping station