Couple is canoeing on the Ilmenau river in the Lüneburger Heide, © Lüneburger Heide GmbH / Dominik Ketz
© Lüneburger Heide GmbH / Dominik Ketz


52 km
Level of difficulty
Duration of the tour
Multi-day tours available
Suitable for
Recommended months for a canoe tour: Optimal, Possible, Limited

The Ilmenau is a natural haven for canoeists. The first 60 km of the longest river in the Lüneburger Heide, from Uelzen to Lüneburg, is a natural watercourse with several tributaries that meander through the scenic landscape. Bends and extended stream curvatures shape its course and lend a very special charm to the Ilmenau. You will pass through several nature reserves, and with any luck you will catch a glimpse of kingfishers, otters and other rare plants and animals. Various sights along the Ilmenau will entice you to get out of your boat and go for a wander, for example Medingen Abbey, Klein Bünstorfer Heide (Klein Bünstorf Heath), Hundertwasser-Bahnhof Uelzen (Hundertwasser Station, Uelzen) or the magnificent Old Town and the modern Liebeskind construction in Lüneburg. Something very special awaits visitors in Jastorf, as this is where the Ilmenau crosses the Elbe-Seitenkanal (Elbe Lateral Canal). It truly is an amazing feeling to be leisurely paddling while an enormous goods transporter passes you by.

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Swans are peaceful and are relatively common on the Ilmenau. However, during breeding time (March/April) and in early summer (May to July), some males hiss at or even attack paddlers who get too close in order to protect their territory or young. In most cases, keeping a good distance from the animals during this time and, if necessary, paddling to the bank and allowing them to swim past are all it takes to not disturb the wildlife. 99% of encounters with swans do not lead to problems. If you think an attack is likely, it often helps to hit your paddle against the water, bang on the boat or splash the swan with lots of water (the animals are afraid of water). A raised paddle is a good way to protect against approaching swans (often from behind!).



Nature conservation and navigation instructions

As there are two weirs in the area of the Hanseatic Town of Uelzen, it is advisable to start your canoe trip 4.5 km from the source of the river. Another weir in Medingen requires taking a portage route of around 900 m (boat trailer recommended) as there is privately owned land here.

The “Naturschutzgebiet Lüneburger Ilmenauniederung und Tiergarten” nature reserve extends from near the starting point in Grünhagen (17 km along the river) to a short distance from the grounds of the Lüneburg Ruderclub (Lüneburg Rowing Club). Here and along the last kilometres of the Ilmenau (from Winsen), access to the banks is only permitted at the provided access and docking points.

The Ilmenau is a federal waterway from Lüneburg (Abtsmühle) to the mouth of the river. The relevant legal provisions apply here, including the requirement that leisure boats are labelled as such.

However, no commercial shipping vessels currently dock there.

The specifics of the tour

The Ilmenau is easy to reach on foot via the stations in Uelzen, Bad Bevensen, Bienenbüttel and Lüneberg, which operate on an hourly basis. As a rule, rental boats must be reserved in advance. Depending on the provider, they may provide a transfer to the access point, return transfer to the starting point or a rental bike for the return journey. Guided tours are also available on a regular basis. The Ilmenauradweg (Ilmenau Cycle Route), which follows the river from its springs right up to the mouth, is perfect for a combination of paddling and pedalling.

canoe providers with varified quality

Heide Kanu

Marxener Str. 23
21385 Oldendorf
Phone: 04132 - 933 933


Kanu Aktiv

Specials: rental, tours, courses and shop, paddle & pedal
29553 Bienenbüttel
Phone: 05823 - 955 339


further providers

Besonderheiten: Einzel- und Gruppenevents, kostenloses Zubehör
21279 Wenzendorf
Phone: +49 (0) 163 / 170 98 76


your tour contact

Lüneburger Heide GmbH

Wallstraße 4
21335 Lüneburg
Phone: +49 (0) 4131/3093960


HeideRegion Uelzen

Herzogenplatz 2
29525 Uelzen
Phone: +49 (0) 581 / 73040