Het Verdronken Land van Saeftinghe is a large swamp in the very east of Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, and borders the river Scheldt directly. It is an official nature reserve area. The area is very treacherous since large patches of land can be consumed by the tides within seconds. The area shouldn’t be explored without an experienced guide for that reason.
Saeftinghe was drained in the thirteenth century under management of the abbey of Ter Doest. The most most widely known occupant of that abbey, Willem van Saeftinghe, gave his name to the polderland. The polder was very successful due to its fertile soil and peat reserves. This prosperity, however, ended on November 1st, 1570 during the All Saints’ Flood, which flooded the regions around the river Scheldt. Only Saeftinghe and some surrounding lands remained dry. This however, was shortlived, as in 1584, fourteen years after the flood, during the Eighty Years’ War, the Dutch saw themselves forced to break through the dike. As a result, Saeftinghe sank below the Scheldt.
Attempts to reclaim the land again were made, the most notable of which was in 1907, but Saeftinghe was never reclaimed. Attempts were made until the Second World War broke out. The 1960s brought an increase in wealth and free time to the Dutch, which resulted in a growing interest and appreciation of nature. This resulted in Saeftinghe becoming a protected nature reserve of 3600 hectares of swamp.
As mentioned above, Het Verdronken Land van Saeftinghe is a swamp. Its soil is for three tenths consisting of sand banks and mosaic and seven tenths of the soil consists of vegetated ground: Salt march plants and grasses can be found. In several parts of the reserve peat can be seen on the surface.
The land is highly influenced by the tides of the Scheldt. Portions of the land can drown in a matter of seconds, making the area dangerous for anyone visiting without an experienced guide.