Updated: March 9, 2023Published: November 30, 2022
Are you visiting Madrid and want to do a different activity? Or are you just interested in knowing which rivers are nearby to learn a little more about the nature of Spain?
Either way, you are in the right place. In this article, I will show you the main rivers in Madrid and the activities you can do in each one. Some of these rivers are not very well known, so you can take advantage and discover a little piece of Madrid that look more similar to the countryside than the city.
I know, surely you have been told that Madrid has no rivers and is a pure city. But that’s a lie. At the end of this post, you will be surprised by the number of natural resources that we have around us without having to go so far away.
Rivers in Madrid have served as a water supply for its neighbors, bringing life to vegetation and garden products. They have also been a source of employment for many years. So let’s explore what they have to offer!
List of Rivers in Madrid and their length
The Community of Madrid has 13 major rivers: The Aulencia, Tajuña, Jarama, Henares, Guadarrama, Duratón, Algodor, Alberche, Manzanares, Lozoya, Guadalix, Perales, and Madarquillos River. All these rivers of Madrid are either born in the same province’s foothills or cross it from other lands to refresh the fields of Madrid.
Lenght (in km)
Basin Area (in km²)
1. Aulencia River
2. Tajuña River
3. Jarama River
4. Henares River
5. Guadarrama River
6. Duratón River
7. Algodor River
8. Alberche River
9. Manzanares River
10. Lozoya River
11. Guadalix River
12. Perales River
13. Madarquillos River
Map of Rivers in Madrid
Most Popular Rivers in Madrid
1. Manzanares River
The Manzanares is a river in the center of the Iberian Peninsula. It is a tributary of the Jarama on the right, turning into a tributary of the Tagus. This river, which flows entirely through the Community of Madrid, rises in the Sierra de Guadarrama, in the Ventisquero de la Condesa, and passes through the city of Madrid. It flows into the Jarama River, in the municipality of Rivas-Vaciamadrid, after a distance of 92 kilometers.
2. Jarama River
The Jarama is one of the most important tributaries of the Tagus. It rises in the foothills of the Cebollera mountain range. It flows through the Spanish provinces of Guadalajara and Madrid and is the longest river that runs through the latter. The river crosses it from north to south in its eastern half, serving some of its sections of the boundary between Madrid and Guadalajara. Its main tributaries are, on the right bank, the Lozoya, Guadalix, and Manzanares rivers; on the left bank, the Jaramilla, the Henares, and the Tajuña.
3. Guadarrama River
The incredible Guadarrama River is a tributary of the Tagus that originates in the Community of Madrid. It crosses it in its upper and middle courses. In its lower course, it crosses the province of Toledo, where it flows after 131.8 kilometers. It originates in the valley of the Fuenfría, at an altitude of 1900 m, within the municipality of Cercedilla in Madrid.
There are beautiful waterfalls (cascadas) where you can dip in this river. These are:
La Cascada del Purgatorio in the Lozoya Valley.
La Chorrera de San Mamés.
El Charco del Hervidero in San Agustín de Guadalix.
La Chorrera de Mojonavalle in Canencia.
La Chorrera del Hornillo.
You should definitely read this post for more information about beautiful waterfalls in Spain. You’ll love it!
The Henares river is an affluent of the Jarama river that rises in the Sierra Ministra (Iberian System) at 1220 m altitude and flows into the Jarama river northwest of Mejorada del Campo town. Due to its flow and length, the Henares is the most important affluent of the Jarama River. Its basin covers an area of 4,144 km².
Of its 160 km, 124 approximately cross the province of Guadalajara and the rest the Community of Madrid. It enters the Community of Madrid, specifically at Los Santos de la Humosa, and heads towards Alcalá de Henares.
In its time, it was a very abundant river surrounded by crops. Yet, the river flow is currently very low and does not exceed a cubic meter per second in summer. Like many other rivers, the Henares has been exposed to severe dangers such as industrial dumping, abusive logging, lack of conservation, or overexploitation of its resources. However, work is being done to recover and conserve its richness in native fish such as barbel, carp, redfish, and vegetation rich in white poplars.
5. Lozoya River
The Lozoya River is an affluent of the Jarama River, which crosses the north of the Community of Madrid for 81 kilometers, from west to east. (unlike most of the Madrid rivers that cross the Community from north to south). From the Guadarrama mountain range, it reaches the border between the Community of Madrid and Castilla-La Mancha (it is in Patones, where it flows into the Jarama river). The mountains of Cabeza de Hierro, Navacerrada, Cotos, and Peñalara feed its water.
In the course of the Lozoya River, there are five interconnected pantanos. Which are: Pinilla, Riosequillo, Puentes Viejas, El Villar, and El Atazar. These are reservoirs that contain a tremendous ornithological richness and where different nautical activities such as sailing, canoeing, or paddle surfing, among others, can be practiced!!
These reservoirs store 62% of the water resources of the Community of Madrid (capacity of 589 hm³) and are responsible for more than 50% of the total consumption of potable water in the province.
Its water is considered the highest quality for human consumption in Spain and has received several international awards. The reason for this is that the rocks that make up its valley are hard: gneiss, granite, quartzite, and slate, so that when flowing, it drags and dissolves few minerals, which is the reason why its water has a good taste and, therefore, is very valuable for human consumption. Along its course, there are more than 1280 native plant species, and as for
the fauna, there are 39 species. Discover everything about the wildlife and flora of Spain in these posts:
The Alberche is a tributary of the Tagus on the right, which flows through the Spanish autonomous communities of Castilla y León, Madrid, and Castilla-La Mancha. It rises on the southern slopes of the Sierra de Villafranca, belonging to the Central System. After 177 km, it flows to the height of Talavera de la Reina in the province of Toledo.
You can dip near this river (if you were wondering). The Alberche beach is located in a place surrounded by vegetation where the Alberche and Perales rivers converge. In this place, a sufficient amount of water gathers so that you can bathe peacefully. It is an ideal place to escape from urban life for a while. As it is very close to Madrid, you can enjoy it at any time of the year. But of course, if you want to bathe in the river, the best time to visit is spring and summer.
Many Madrileños refer to this area as the Playa de Madrid
7. Tajuña River
The Tajuña river rises near the town of Clares, at the northeastern end of Guadalajara, and flows into the second most extended Tagus basin, the Jarama river, to the southwest of the municipality of Titulcia. A tributary of the Jarama river, it forms its sub-basin of the Tajo basin.
Throughout its course, we find several protected areas of great environmental interest. It has high fertility and excellent soil quality, providing the areas through which it flows with a vital activity related to irrigated agriculture.
8. Perales River
The Perales River is another of the rivers belonging to the Madrid community. Its basin covers an area of 132 km² and contains interesting examples of Mediterranean forests.
This river is a tributary on the left of the Alberche. It runs through the southwestern end of the Community of Madrid, rises in the mountainous formation of Las Machotas on the southern slopes of the Sierra de Guadarrama, and flows into the Alberche in Aldea del Fresno.
A curious fact about the Perales River is that its flow depends mainly on rainfall. There are no significant aquifers along its course, so the river has a low, stable water level, drying up in many sections during the summer.
Moreover, the Perales is one of the best-preserved rivers in the Community of Madrid from an environmental point of view. And, as I told you earlier, at the confluence of the Perales and Alberche rivers, both form a large sandy area used during summer for bathing.
Less Known Rivers in Madrid
9. Aulencia River
The Aulencia is a Spanish river that runs entirely through the Community of Madrid. It rises on the southern slopes of the Sierra de Guadarrama and flows into the river after 34 km. Despite its short distance and low flow, this river has a particular historical importance due to its connection with the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial and the monumental complex of La Granjilla de La Fresneda.
The Aulencia river is also one of the main suppliers of drinking water in the Madrid region, thanks to the Valmayor reservoir, the second largest in Madrid!
10. Madarquillos River
Moving on, we have the Madarquillos River. It is a river of the Community of Madrid and a tributary of the Lozoya River, which flows into the Puentes Viejas Reservoir in territory belonging to the town of Piñuecar.
This area where the river flows is known by many for being sandy on its banks. This explains why many people go there in summer to enjoy the bath.
11. Guadalix River
The Guadalix River (also called Miraflores in its upper stretch) is an affluent of the Jarama, and the Tajo runs for 42 kilometers through the Community of Madrid. It rises in the Sierra de la Morcuera (Rascafria) at an altitude of over 2000 meters and continues to San Sebastián de Los Reyes, where it flows into the Jarama River.
The river has two reservoirs: Miraflores and Pedrezuela (also called El Vellón). From the latter, part of the stored water is used to supply the city of Madrid.
The river basin is a fluvial canyon with a diversity of original rocks, and as it passes through San Agustín de Guadalix, it creates a double waterfall with the name of Charco del Hervidero, an area considered of high ecological value and very visited for its landscapes and spectacular vegetation (oaks, junipers, wild roses, poplars, weeping willows, and alders) and fauna with a great variety of birds (robins, oropendolas, goldfinches and wagtails).
12. Algodor River
The Algodor River is a river in central Spain, which rises in the Navajo Lagoon, at 822 m altitude, in the municipality of Retuerta del Bullaque in the Montes de Toledo in Castilla-La Mancha, and it flows left into the Tagus River in Aceca.
13. Duratón River
The Duratón River is a river in central Spain, a tributary on the left bank of the Duero River that flows through the provinces of Madrid, Segovia, and Valladolid.
It is now well known as the source of the Hoces del Río Duratón natural park. It owes its importance to being the tributary of the Duero that flows into Peñafiel, thus participating in the Ribera del Duero denomination. Also, it has a length of 106 km and drains a basin of 1,487 km².
If you are not yet familiar with the concept of “denomination of origin,” I invite you to read this post about the wine regions in Spain:
For a long time, the Manzanares River had been polluted and isolated from the city since the 1970s. That negative conception has been turned upside down since 2011, when Madrid Río, a huge linear park that runs along the banks of the Manzanares for 7 kilometers, was inaugurated.
This is probably the best activity to enjoy near the Manzanares River in Madrid!
The park provides a space for society beyond its gardens, sports fields, and children’s playgrounds. It even offers a beach to soothe the summer heat. In addition, hard work has been done to renaturalize the river, which has recovered its geological activity in record time!!
Waterways and rivers are part of the natural public heritage. They belong to all citizens and their conservation is in everyone’s interest, and this is why it makes us proud to share with eveyone our natural wonders. So I hope you enjoyed this post and let me know in the comments what would be your next escape from the city!
Inigo Navarro is a seasoned travel writer with a deep understanding of Spain's cities, culture, people and language. Born and raised in Spain, he has spent years exploring the country and is currently one of the most-read Travel Bloggers about Spain. Inigo is also an experienced digital marketer, a father to 4 beautiful children and a huge Real Madrid Fan. ¡Hala Madrid!