During heavy summer floods in 1884 Vistula’s riverbank moved about 500 m in the direction of Kępa Gocławska, leaving in its midst on the left riverbank a huge sandy backwater. The designer and builder, an English engineer William Lindley, built the River Pump Station, and engineer Kwiciński built the wintering harbour wet dock using the remaining section of the inlet. Works in the port were completed in 1904. Czerniakowski Port is the first river port in Warsaw. At the beginning of the 20th century part of the port escarpment was reinforced with granite rocks and oak paling. The port was used to launch and repair steam ships and barges up to 65m in length.
During the Warsaw Uprising port workers repaired boats and weapons for the insurgents. In 1945 river shipyards and a mechanical and repair workshop were operating here. In 1951 the workshops were converted into the Warsaw River Shipyards. River vessels were repaired and new vessels were built here. Between 1958 to 1969 twenty four “Żubr pushers” (pusher – a water vessel with propulsion, built so that a set of barges could be pushed by its prow; usually used in inland waters), and thirty small inland passenger ships were built. The 9th century BC Egyptian ship built for the film “Pharaoh” was the last vessel built here in 1965. In winter Port Czerniakowski was also a wintering harbour.
The shipyards were closed down in 1969. The slipway to repair tugboats and barges was covered with rubble. Today, only a few elements remain of that water construction. Camouflaged hundred-year old embankments covered with granite rocks and concrete stairs emerge from the port’s waterfront. Twenty rail tracks used as slipways can be seen in the port at low tide. From the bygone era only a few buried anchors and bollards have survived.
The area is of great value to nature. Because of diversified vegetation and clean water, the conditions are conducive to foraging, relaxing and for animals to propagate. Many species of fish live here, such as pike, bream, perch, roach, carp, etc., and crayfish. There are grey and white herons, ordinary terns that fly to Africa for winter, seagulls, cormorants, swans, ducks, dun crows, magpies, black woodpeckers, kingfishers, wagtails, and swallows that leave Poland for winter, etc. One can also find a fox, a beaver, an otter and a vole. The port’s banks are overgrown with trees, such as white, black and Canadian poplars, and with several varieties of willow trees.
Entry for vessels to Czerniakowski Port is on the left bank at 511 km of navigable course on the Vistula. A port canal, nearly one kilometer in length, starts here leading to the wet dock of the old wintering harbour, today called “the frying pan”. An anti-flood lock chamber at its entry and the Łazienkowski Bridge in the middle cut across the port canal.
Until 2008 the port had the only wooden bridge in use in Warsaw. It led to the Czerniakowski Cape. Soldiers from the 2nd Sappers Warsaw Brigade in Kazuń built the bridge as part of their training. It was built in three weeks, in March-April 1980. It was a makeshift structure to be used only for a few years. However, the army built the bridge very soundly and it served Varsovians for 28 years. It was initially intended to provide access to the Scouts Water Centre.
The wooden sappers’ bridge was used by scouts, pedestrians and cyclists. It was also often visited by tourists. The delightful Czerniakowski Port could be admired from there, especially at night. The bridge was closed in early 2008 as it was in danger of collapsing. The Department of Public Areas decided to dismantle this sappers’ structure. This little bridge was removed in late September and early October.
Today, a small part of the Czerniakowski Port’s waterfront is used by sailors from the PTTK ‘Rejsy’ Sailing Centre and Warsaw Rowing Association. Canoeists train in the port from time to time. Fishermen have great conditions here for fishing. The port has also become a friendly place for mooring a small number of houseboats.
Unfortunately, Czerniakowski Port had not been deepened for the last 40 years. Erosion of the bottom of Vistula’s riverbed that has taken place over that period together with the sedimentation of silt in the port, has led to the situation where in low tide a large part of the port’s water area dries up and is unusable. Since 1945 in Warsaw Vistula’s bottom sank to about 2.5 m.
An exhibit of old postcards depicting the Vistula in Warsaw is located on the left side of the port, on the fencing of the City of Warsaw Municipal Guards offices, at 130/132 Czerniakowska Street. The exhibit includes 100 large reproductions of wood engravings, graphics, paintings and photographs depicting the river from the 16th century to mid-20th century. ‘Ja Wisła’ Foundation prepared the exhibition.