Ribe is the oldest city of present day Denmark – hence it got a long history. Part of this history includes several devastating floods over the centuries. The city is a low lying city at the west coast of Jutland which is prone to severe fall and winter storms.
Over the years the city was flooded many times including the devastating flood of 1634. It was finally decided something had to be done to prevent more flooding of the city of Ribe. A new dike was built a short distance out of Ribe – but one problem remained. A small river runs from Ribe to the sea – and the dike would stop the river from draining a huge area around Ribe. Hence they to make sure the water could pass out to the sea. A lock was needed.
The trouble with a lock is there are many different versions of a lock. The cheapest version would just be a lock which could let the water pass – but not allow boats to pass to the sea. This was a very unpopular solution from the citizen of Ribe – since this would cut off the harbor of Ribe from the sea and the old tradition as a harbor city on the west coast of Jutland would be over forever. Hence the locals started lobbying the parliament for a contribution to help fund a more expensive version of a lock with a chamber which would allow boats to pass out into the North Sea.
Finally the Danish parliament decided to help fund a chamber lock for Ribe so the harbor could be maintained. The lock was finally finished in 1915 and the city hasn’t been flooded since this day.
The investment in the expensive lock turned out to be a waste of money. The road to Ribe harbor has always been fairly difficult with low water out in the approach from the north sea and when you get to the lock you still have to navigate the small river of Ribe Å which had many turns and twist making it difficult to navigate for bigger ships. Hence the harbor of Ribe quickly declined despite the new lock and the harbor of the new city of Esbjerg a short distance away took over as the main harbor of this area.
Today the only use of the harbor is for some minor pleasure boats which may occasionally move into the North Sea – but there is no merchant ships heading to Ribe anymore.