The Iron Gates of the Danube River originally consisted of four narrow gorges and three wide basins spread over several miles of the river dividing Romania and Serbia. The term "Iron Gate" was first used by The Times of London in 1853 and while some consider the entire 83-mile stretch of the river to be the Iron Gates, most define it as only the section with the four narrow gorges.
In the 1960's, the government built a massive lock and dam to help control the speed of the river and make navigation safer. Before the Danube River was dammed, commercial boats transferring goods dreaded navigating the rapids of the narrow Iron Gates section of the river. After completion of the dam project, the river flowing through the Iron Gates calmed and the water rose 130 feet higher than before the dam and power station were built. The two locks, spread more than 50 miles apart, anchor each end of the Iron Gates and the impact of the dam can be felt for over 100 miles; over 23,000 residents living along the river needed to be resettled after the dam was completed.
Danube River cruises in eastern Europe sail through the Iron Gates in daytime, and the scenery is spectacular, though not as dramatic as it was over 50 years ago. Most river cruise travelers consider the Iron Gates area and the Wachau Valley in Austria as the most scenic parts of the Danube River.
Eastern European river cruises on the Danube typically run between Budapest and Bucharest or the Black Sea. Those wishing to cross Europe from the Black Sea to the North Sea at Amsterdam can combine an eastern Europe Danube River cruise with a "Grand European" river cruise between Budapest and Amsterdam.
In this photo, the Roman emperor Trajan laid a marker to commemorate the construction of the road to Dacia nearly 2000 years ago.
Iron Gate of the Danube River between Serbia and Romania
The Tabula Traiana marker laid by the Roman emperor Trajan over 2000 years ago can be seen on the left side. It's on the Serbian side of the Danube and was moved to its current location in 1972 when the dam and hydroelectric station on the river caused the water to rise.
Dacian Chief Decebalus Carved into the Iron Gates
This huge face carved into the Romanian side of the Danube River celebrates the Romanian hero Decebalus, who fought many battles with the Romans.
Decebalus Carved into the Rock Cliff of the Iron Gates
Decebalus led his army into battle with the Romans many times. He took his own life after the Roman emperor Trajan conquered Dacia.
High Cliffs Line the Iron Gate of the Danube River
The towering cliffs make this wider section of the eastern Danube River one of the region's most scenic locations. Once ships pass into the narrower part of the river the width can shrink to 500 feet.
The Mraconia Monastery on the Iron Gates of the Danube River
A monastery was built on this location in either the 14th or 15th century (the exact year is in unknown) but the building was destroyed during 17th-century battles. Attempts at reconstruction were halted after the rising waters in the 1960's placed the ruins completely under water. The new stone Mraconia Monastery was erected in 1993 above the ruins.
Cross on Cliff Overlooking the Danube River
This cross is far larger than it appears in the image as the cliffs overlooking the Danube River are massive in their scope and can reach up to 1000 feet in height.
Iron Gate of the Danube River between Romania and Serbia
Narrow gorges like this one on the eastern Danube River were filled with rapids before the river was dammed. The final gorge of the Iron Gates forms a barrier between the Carpathian and Balkan mountains.
Cave in the Rock Wall of the Iron Gates of the Danube River
Numerous caves line the rock walls of the Iron Gates of the Danube River separating Romania and Serbia. The largest cave, Ponicova, is located near Dubova Town and is also known as Water Mouth Cave and Bat’s Cave.