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History of timber rafting on Vltava river

Floating wood on rivers and waterways in Bohemia has a very old tradition and history. The oldest document about the floating of wood on the Vltava River is the foundation document of the Břevnov Monastery of Benedictines about mills and weirs on the Vltava from 992.

In the year 1088, a customs duty was started to be paid on Výton, in the present-day part of Prague, from wood floated down the Vltava. From the year 1130, part of the wood on this "Výtoni" was given to the Vyšehrad church as customs duty.
Vague references documenting the floating of wood in Bohemia come from the first third of the 12th century, but only the Privilegium of John of Luxembourg from 1316 captures rafting in full bloom. The boom in timber floating in the form of raft springs is evidenced by the decree of Emperor Charles IV. of Weirs and Duties of 1366, which normalized the raft culverts in the mill weirs and established the places where tolls were collected on driftwood.

Only the 16th century brings additional material regarding both the floating of wood in an unbound state (typical of the upper reaches of the Vltava River) and rafting itself, which required a certain water flow and was therefore used mostly only in the middle and lower reaches of the Vltava. In the 16th century, sailing became clearly the cheapest mode of transport, the importance of which was increased by the growing consumption of construction timber, trade in salt and other articles.

From 1562, Český Krumlov became the first Vltava anchorage. Another boom came in 1575, when navigation became completely free, regardless of status or property. The increase in the importance of rafting during this period is also evidenced by mentions of the existence of swimming guilds, or the oldest preserved standards determining the size of one "Vltava spring" (the width of the spring was around six meters).

Serious changes to the Vltava flow were brought about by the Thirty Years' War (proposals of the Strahov abbot Kryšpín Fuk - 1585 - 1653) and then especially by the 18th century, at the beginning of which old proposals for connecting the Vltava with the Danube reappeared and during which several navigation patents and legal standards were drawn up adjusting the navigation mode.

Another intensification of the timber trade was brought by the year 1823, when the Schwarzenbergs received the privilege to ship timber abroad. The profitable export of South Bohemian wood culminated during the second half of the 19th century, when the modifications of waterways were limited to maintenance work only, as the railways almost pushed out shipping and the current state was sufficient for barge navigation.

After the First World War, and especially during the economic crisis, the scope of rafting was significantly limited, and the last rafts passed through Prague in 1947. After that, rafting operated on the Vltava only on a local scale until 1960. The very last rafts sailed on 12/09/1960 , which passed through the so-called The Gate of Oblivion at the Eagle Dam.