Aa (river, France)

For other rivers with the same name, see Aa (river).

Native name L'Aa (f)
Country France
Main source Nord-Pas-de-Calais
River mouth North Sea
51°0′21″N 2°6′16″E / 51.00583°N 2.10444°E / 51.00583; 2.10444Coordinates: 51°0′21″N 2°6′16″E / 51.00583°N 2.10444°E / 51.00583; 2.10444
Basin size 1,215 km2 (469 sq mi)
Physical characteristics
Length 89 km (55 mi)
  • Average rate:
    10 m3/s (350 cu ft/s)

The Aa is an 89-kilometre (55 mi) long river in northern France. Its source is near the village of Bourthes. The name Aa is Old Dutch. It means water, and can be traced back to its original Indo-European form as such.[1]

The Aa flows through the following departments and cities:

The Aa flows into the North Sea near Gravelines, very close to the north-eastern limit of the English Channel.


The river's geography can be divided into two parts. First, from its source, in the Artois Hills,[2] to Saint-Omer, it is a small chalk stream, a small version of the Somme. Second, from Saint-Omer seawards, approximately 29 kilometres (18 mi),[2] it is a navigable waterway with branch canals leading towards Calais and Dunkirk and the Canal de Neufossé heading inland into the French canal system.


Saint-Omer formerly lay at the head of its estuary while to seaward, Calais lay on its western margin and Bergues, now inland from Dunkirk, on its eastern one. By the time of the Viking settlements on this coast, Dunkirk was developing on the dunes, offshore across the estuarine marsh from Bergues. Gravelines was the later port at the seaward end of the river as it became, after the area of the estuary was reclaimed. The dates of these events are imprecise but the modern pattern was firmly established by 1588, the time of the Spanish Armada, when an approximation to the modern course of the lowland river formed the boundary between the Spanish Netherlands and France.


The river suffers significant problems from industrial discharge.

The Aa near Blendecques
Pollution in the river


  1. Bayer, Patricia, ed. (2000). "A". Encyclopedia Americana. I A-Anjou (First ed.). Danbury, CT: Grolier Incorporated. p. 1. ISBN 0-7172-0133-3.
  2. 1 2 Dubois, Claude, ed. (1960). "Aa" [Aa]. Grand Larousse Encyclopedique (in French). I: A-Baue (First ed.). Paris, France: Librairie Larousse. p. 3.

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