The Vistula, the longest Polish river (1047 kilometers) has always been a symbol of our country. It has been commemorated in hundreds of poems, songs, novels, films, and opera and theater productions. For centuries it was a major trade route in Poland and Europe. In the 16th and 17th centuries it had the status of the most important commercial river of the world. Grain from the south of Poland was transported down the river to the western Europe, and goods from overseas, to the heart of Poland. It is commonly believed that the Second Peace Treaty of Toruń, 1466, which initiated free timber rafting on the river, led to the Golden Age, the greatest period in our history. Today, the Vistula is referred to as "the last wild river of Europe".
After the construction of a dam in Włocławek in 1970, the regulation of the river, especially in its lower section, was neglected. Plans to build more dams in future, although never implemented, dramatically reduced efforts to maintain the existing hydrotechnical structures. Today, although the Vistula is part of two international waterways, i.e. E70 (connecting Rotterdam with Klaipeda) and E40 (connecting the Baltic Sea with the Black Sea), it fails to meet shipping requirements. Many parts of the river are just too shallow. Scientists argue over the strategy of building a series of dams and creating stepped falls on the river. That solution would radically change the character of this waterway, turning it into a system of water reservoirs separated with dams. One thing is certain – the Vistula has always been and will always be the largest watercourse in this part of Europe. Luckily, the one which is no longer dirty. Water quality in the river has improved much over the last decades and is now considered very good. Abundant wildlife is the best evidence of this improvement. Bathing in the Vistula seems to be back in fashion. Tourism on the Vistula flourishes.