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The Bug

the Bug River the Bug River

If Polish rivers were to compete in a beauty contest, the Bug would definitely have a fair chance of winning. Not only is it beautiful, it is also quite long. It has its source in the Ukrainian Podolian Upland, some 772 km for its mouth in Zalew Zegrzyński. It marks state as well as voivodeship boundaries. Over a distance of 300 km it passes along the Polish-Ukrainian and the Polish-Belorussian borders and along several dozen kilometres it separates Mazovia from Podlasie.

The Bug has seen very few changes since the middle ages, when it was a significant part of the amber road. It has preserved its natural and untamed character. Its depth as well as the width of the riverbed vary. The water attains its peak level in April, after the spring thaw, and after the June rain. It is usually most shallow in September. The river has a relatively rapid current and tends to get capricious. It creates numerous curves, meanders and has picturesque islands. The river valley is relatively narrow. The bottom of the valley is filled with green meadows, and the high slopes add to its charm. The valuable scenery of the Bug valley had been appreciated, and two landscape parks were established to preserve it ‘Podlaski Przełom Bugu’ and ‘Nadbużański Park Krajobrazowy’.

Must sees

A trip on the river gives you a chance to leave civilization behind. Each river bend holds different views in store, birds soar above and fish splash in the water – a dream come true for nature lovers. The river also grants the opportunity to visit the monuments and the diversified culture of the borderland. Some of the landmarks of Podlasie are the charming village of Mielnik and Drohiczyn – the former capital of the region. You must also see the tiny Zuzela, the birthplace of primate Stefan Wyszyński, and take at look at the Lierne vault of the church in Brok. Popular holiday resorts are located along the banks and the sandy beaches. Among the favourites are Serpelice and Kamieńczyk.

Before you set off…

You will encounter many forks along your way. Luckily the route is marked and, especially when the water is low, it is worth following the signs. That way you will avoid the wide and numerous shoals. There are no special waterside campsites, yet many holiday resorts are open during the peak season. There are many villages where you can stop by to do the shopping or get water supplies. In case of bad weather, you can wait until it clears in one of the many agritourist pensions. There are more than enough picnic and camping sites along the river.

Route: Niemirów – Serock

The proposed route comprises the entire waterway: from the border to Zegrze. Not difficult and fit for beginners. The over 200 km journey takes about 8-10 days.

0.0 km Niemirów

The enormous church of St. Stanislaus hints that the beautifully situated village was once a town. The whitewashed building was erected in 1620 and rebuilt after being damaged in 1791. Apart from the church there aren’t many stone buildings in Niemirów. Although they still have their traditional charm, the Podlasie cottages are mostly holiday homes. From May to September vehicles can cross the river by ferry.

10.0 km Serpelice

It’s a good idea to stop at the beach of the holiday resort. The popular vacation destination lies within the ‘Podlaski Przełom Bugu’ Landscape Park. The protected area stretches along several dozens kilometres along the south part of the river valley. The river cuts through moraine hills and the ridges of the valley rise to several dozen metres. Drained meadows prevail in the valley, while pine forests grow on the plateaus.

One of the curiosities of Serpelice is the so-called Kalwaria Podlaska (Calvary of Podlasie), a replica of the Via Crucis of Jerusalem. The largest of the chapels of the Crucifixion stands on the highest hill of the Serpelice forests.

14.0 km Zabuże

A village of holiday homes among riverside meadows with many agritourist pensions available for guests.

Mielnik15.0 km Mielnik

One of the most beautiful towns along the Bug stretches over a high scarp. Far-reaching views, the wide flow of the river and many traces of a stormy past render Mielnik an interesting tourist destination. The mysterious ruins of the castle church from the beginning of the 15th century, the 19th century synagogue and the Orthodox church are all worth a visit.

16.9 km Ferry

In peak season (May-September) the ferry is as busy as a bee, as it connects the lovely Mielnik with the tourist left bank. Watch out for the steel rope which hangs low above the water.

22 km Stare Mierzwice

Vacation resorts mushroom among the pine forests on the left bank.

26.2 km railway bridge on the Hajnówka – Siedlce track

Below it is an island. Less than a kilometre further on the river turns left and divides into four narrow channels.

30.9 km road bridge on the Białystok – Lublin route

You will recognize it without fail. The blue construction matches the surrounding greenery and the blue skies. On your left is the ‘Kózki’ protected area. It is aimed to preserve the shelter and nesting stands of bird species such as the Stone-Curlew, the Little Ringed Plover and the Little Tern. The Red-Throated Pipit and the Black-Throated Loon migrate here.

48.5 km Drohiczyn

DrohiczynThe old capital of Podlasie appears strikingly beautiful from the water. At the bottom of the scarp is a ferry harbour with a bar open in peak season. A wide sandy beach invites for a swim. The climb up the slope is worth the while, as you get to experience the sleepy ambience of a Podlasie town and to visit the numerous monuments of sacred architecture, such as the cathedral and the Piarist college from the 18th century, a post-Franciscan church and a monastery complex from the turn of the 17th and 18th century, the church and monastery of Benedictine sisters from the 18th century, considered a major monument, and the Orthodox church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker from the 19th century. From the old settlement site, or the castle hill (Góra Zamkowa), extends a breathtaking panorama of the Bug valley.

50.5 km Bużyska

Once village buildings disappear on the left bank, the Bug proves how changeable it can get. Initially the river widens, overflowing a large island. Below the island the Bug curves to the left, then sharply turns right, to finally contracts to a width of 60 m, which is not much considering the average span of the river.

56.7 km mouth of Myśla

After swallowing the small left-bank tributary the Bug takes an abrupt turn left, unveiling a beautiful panorama of an enormous sandy scarp. The Swallows which nest in it crisscross the sky.

59.5 km road bridge on the Sokołów Podlaski – Drohiczyn route

63.0 km Wirów

On the left bank you will notice the ruins of a 19th century Orthodox church and monastery complex. The far-reaching view of the widening valley of the Bug is breathtaking.

66.0 km ‘Wydma Mołożewska’ reserve

BugIt could be the most beautiful spot of the route. The Bug takes a wide curve to the left. The left bank is a protected area of a natural reserve. Many rare aquatic bird species have their nests here. You might get a glimpse of a common Ridge Plover, a Dunlin or a Little Tern. Around the bend the river flows between two scarps, creating a postcard-like gorge. To the left is another protected area – ‘Skarpa Mołożewska’. Rare species of thermophilic plants grow on the high bank.

71.0 km Gródek

A village of summer resorts has spread out across the left bank. You might try to make out the traces of an early medieval fortified settlement and the rampart remains. The 18th century wooden church is worth visiting. It initially served as a Greek Catholic church. Shoals and islands appear in the river current below the village. The route leads on the left side.

82.6 km islands

A serious of several large islands stretches across a distance of over 10 kilometres.

88.9 km mouth of the Nurzec

The Nurzec is the most prominent right-bank tributary of the Bug in Poland. Contrary to its tributaries the river is not regulated and its bed at the mouth is rather narrow, yet during spring thaws it overflows and floods the terrace. Right next to its mouth you come across a green isle.

93.0 km Nadbużański Park Krajobrazowy

You enter the area of the Nadbużański Landscape Park. It is the largest area of this kind in Poland, which covers over 57 000 ha, reaching out to the Zegrze Reservoir. It enlaces the picturesque river valley with its many oxbow lakes, meadows, manures and woods.

99.5 km Nur

In the middle ages a fortified watch post towered over the high right bank. In the 16th century Nur was a port on the waterway through which crops were sent downstream to Baltic towns. Legend has it that this is the place where queen Bona hid the keys to her treasure vault under a boulder. The boulder lies in the river and is visible when the water gets low. Today Nur is a tranquil holiday destination.

100.3 km road bridge between Czyżewo and Ceranów

The next 20 km is an easy and rather monotonous leg.

105.5 km Zuzela

Cardinal and primate Stefan Wyszyński was born in the small village on the right bank of the Bug, which now boasts a museum dedicated to his childhood years, based in an old wooden school building. In one of the rooms a classroom from the beginning of the 20th century was recreated, while the second is a reconstruction of the Wyszyński family household, with many family souvenirs.

122.6 km bridge on Małkinia - Sokołów Podlaski route

The spectacular scenery is largely due to the oxbow lakes which surround the riverbed. Less than 1.5 km to the left is Treblinka, the site of a wartime Nazi extermination camp. The Museum of Struggle and Martyrdom (Muzeum Walki i Męczeństwa) commemorates its victims through an exhibition of monuments and tokens.

124.6 km railway bridge on the Warsaw – Białystok track

There is an island before the bridge. One of the spans of the bridge was destroyed during the Second World War and it has not yet been reconstructed.

137.2 km Brok

A castle bourg existed here as early as in the 13th century, conveniently situated on a junction of trade routes leading from the Baltic into Russia and from Lithuania to Cracow. Brok was granted municipality privileges in 1501. The city, squeezed between the river and the woods of Puszcza Biała, is now a popular holiday destination. A sandy beach lies almost in the very heart of the town. The charming streets are lined with quaint wooden houses from the beginning of the 20th century.

BugOver the market square tower the brick walls of the town’s most prominent monument, the parish church of St. Andrew the Apostle. It was constructed between 1541 and 1560. It was founded by Płock bishop Andrzej Noskowski. The temple is a combination of two styles. The form is Gothic, yet the gable is Renaissance style. Inside, the presbytery and the magnificent vault of the nave catch the eye. The unmistakable motive of circles connected with boards is similar to the one in the Pułtusk collegiate church, as both buildings were designed by the same architect, Jan Baptysta of Venice. The main baroque altar, with a painting of Christ on the cross, dates back to 1742. Yet the late-Renaissance side altar in the form of the Tree of Jesse is much more interesting. The 16th century image of the Madonna with Child is attributed to the Italian school.

In a grove on the edge of the town you can make out mysterious ruins of a tower. This is the only trace that remains of a summer residence of the Płock bishops, constructed on the Bug bank in the early 17th century. Currently plans of reconstructing the palace exist.

137.7 km road bridge on Ostrów Mazowiecka – Łochów route

148.0 km Udrzyn

This is the point where the Bug becomes a meandering river with many oxbow bakes. Each river bend brings magnificent sights.

168.0 km Brańszczyk

The erstwhile significant centre of rafting timber from Puszcza Biała is today a large holiday destination on the right bank of the river.

172.0 km mouth of Liwiec, Kamieńczyk

A large village located on the fork of the Liwiec and the Bug. From the 15th to the 19th it bustled with activity and even had municipal privileges. From the accounts of water transport duty, collected by the authorities in the 1560s we can conclude that each year many barges (up to 4000) loaded with cereal and forestry products floated past the town. Considering the rafting season lasted around 4 months, that gives an average of 30 barges daily. Until the twenties Kamieńczyk was an important centre of rafting timber from Puszcza Kamieniecka. It is now a popular summer holiday destination of Varsavians, yet is has preserved the charm of a sleepy hamlet. Traditional wooden houses surround the neo-Gothic church.

179.7 km Wyszków

The road bridge of the Warsaw – Białystok route is visible from afar, and so is the white silhouette of the classic church on the right bank. The largest city we get to pass during the trip was once a residence of the Płock bishops and an important commercial centre. Unfortunately it suffered severe damage during the last war. Today it consists mostly of blocks of flats and some industrial facilities. If you want to visit the city, you should stop 100 m before or after the bridge.

180.5 km railway bridge on the Ostrołęka – Tłuszcz track

It seems just another iron railway bridge, yet this is the place where some scenes of Andrzej Wajda’s ‘Katyń’ and Filip Bajon’s ‘The Spring to Come’ were shot, as well as parts of the series ‘Four tank-men and a dog’.

186.0 km Gulczewo

It is the last leg of our trip. The river becomes less winding and the right bank is lined with houses and summer residences.

205,4 km Kuligów

A large summer resort on the left bank of the  Bug. In peak season there is a bar by the sandy beach. The Zegrze Reservoir is close by, you can tell that because of the busy water traffic. Watch out for fast motorboats!

209.0 km Kania Polska

You pass three islands, the favourite picnic spot of weekend water sport amateurs..

211.5 km Zalew Zegrzyński

Here the river flows into the second largest reservoir of Mazovia, Zalew Zegrzyński. A tour around the banks of the artificial lake is also worth a go, you can leave it for another occasion (see chapter Zalew Zegrzyński).

213.0 km Serock

The local beach is a good spot to end the excursion. The quaint town is worth a visit (see the description of Zegrze).

Useful hints

Check out their services:

Uhowo: KAYLON, ul. Kolejowa 8, tel. 502 508 060, 502 508 050,, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; canoe trips

Serpelice: Ośrodek Urocza, tel. (83) 359 81 25,; canoe trips, gondola and raft cruises, equipment rental

Kamieńczyk: Kamyk-Kajaki, ul. Różana, tel. 508 638465,

Mielnik: Active Adventure, ul. Duboniska 2, tel. (85) 657 70 67, 606 662 225,; canoes, traditional wooden ‘pychówki’ boats.

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