The source valley of the Maritsa river in the Rila Mountains
|Native name||Bulgarian: |
|Country||Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey|
|⁃ location||Rila Mountains, Bulgaria|
|⁃ elevation||2,378 m (7,802 ft)|
|Aegean Sea, 14.5 km (9.0 mi) east of Alexandroupoli|
|Length||480 km (300 mi)|
|Basin size||53,000 km2 (20,000 sq mi)|
|⁃ average||for mouth 234 m3/s (8,300 cu ft/s)|
The Maritsa, Meriç or Evros (Bulgarian: , Marica; Ancient Greek: , Hébros; Greek: , Évros; Latin: Hebrus; Romanized Thracian: Evgos or Ebros; Turkish: Meriç) is, with a length of 480 km (300 mi) (of which 309 km or 192 mi in Bulgaria), the longest river that runs solely in the interior of the Balkans, and one of the largest by discharge. Its drainage area is about 53,000 km2 (20,000 sq mi), of which 66.2% in Bulgaria, 27.5% in Turkey and 6.3% in Greece. It has its origin in the Rila Mountains in Western Bulgaria, flowing southeast between the Balkan and Rhodope Mountains, past Plovdiv and Parvomay (where the Mechka and the Kayaliyka join it) to Edirne, Turkey. East of Svilengrad, Bulgaria, the river flows eastwards, forming the border between Bulgaria (on the north bank) and Greece (on the south bank), and then between Turkey and Greece. At Edirne, the river flows through Turkish territory on both banks, then turns towards the south and forms the border between Greece on the west bank and Turkey on the east bank to the Aegean Sea. Turkey was given a small sector on the west bank opposite the city of Edirne. The river enters the Aegean Sea near Enez, where it forms a river delta. The Tundzha is its chief tributary; the Arda is another one. The lower course of the Maritsa/Evros forms part of the Bulgarian-Greek border and most of the Greek-Turkish border. The upper Maritsa valley is a principal east-west route in Bulgaria. The unnavigable river is used for power production and irrigation.
The places that the river flows through include Pazardzhik, Plovdiv, (next to) Parvomay, Dimitrovgrad and Svilengrad in Bulgaria, Edirne in Turkey and Kastanies, Pythio, Didymoteicho and Lavara in Greece. There are a number of bridges over the river, including the one at Svilengrad, the one west of Edirne in Turkey and GR-2 with the D110/E90 further south and as its border crossings.
The earliest known name of the river is Euros (, Alcman, 7th-6th century BC). Indo-European *ewru and Ancient Greek ?s meant "wide". The Indo-European "wr" sound shifted in Thracian to "br", creating the Thracian name Ebros. Thereafter, the river began to be known as Hebros in Greek and Latin. Rather than an origin as "wide river", an alternative hypothesis is that Hebros meant "goat" in Thracian.
While the name (Hebros) was used in Ancient Greek, the name ? (Maritsa) had become standard before the ancient form (now: Évros) was artificially restituted in Modern Greek. The name Maritsa may derive from a mountain near the mouth of the river known in antiquity as ? or ?, Latinized as Merit(h)us.
The Maritsa/Evros river has become one route for illegal migrants arriving into the EU. Many people, from Asia and Africa have used the Maritsa route after agreements sometimes seem to temporarily block other routes e.g. across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy and Spain. A border barrier was erected on the Greek side in 2012, which has prevented many from entering Greece.
Starting from the river's source, significant tributaries of Maritsa include:
The lower course of the river Maritsa/Evros, where it forms the border of Greece and Turkey, is very vulnerable to flooding. For about 4 months every year, the low lands around the river are flooded. This causes significant economic damage (loss of agricultural production and damage to infrastructure), which is estimated at several hundreds million Euro.
Recent large floods took place in 2006 and 2007. Several causes have been proposed: more rainfall due to climate change, deforestation in the Bulgarian part of the catchment area, increased land use in the flood plains and difficult communication between the three countries.
The Bulgarian Maritsa motorway, which roughly follows the course of the river from Chirpan (where it branches out of the Trakia motorway) to the Turkish border at Kapitan Andreevo, is also named in honour of the river.