The Guadalquivir river is the 5th longest river in the Iberian Peninsula and the 2nd longest river in Spain. Its source is found in Sierra de Cazorla in Jaén. It flows through Jaén, Córdoba, Seville and Cadiz, where it joins the Atlantic Ocean at Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Its name is derived from the Arab word "wadi al-kabr" which means "big river". The Romans called the river "Betis".
The Guadalquivir is famous in Andalucía. 
When people talk about the river in Córdoba and Seville, they think of the river as peaceful, calm and not very clean.
However in Jaén, it is a very different river:
  • It is pure
  • It is clean
  • It is tranquil

 

You can see how the river has shaped and formed the landscape. You can see evidence of erosion. The Guadalquivir starts off very high in the mountains, some 1350 metres above sea level in Sierra de Cazorla. Different water zones feed into the river in Sierra de Cazorla and the Pozo.The river flows down the mountains and it is cold and very clean, like crystal. It doesn't flow straight down but it changes direction. The water level changes with the seasons: in the summer it is very low, but with the rain and snow in the winter it is high. You can see and example of how the river interacts with human history through the presence of the Roman bridge in Jaén. The bridge shows how humans have lived with and attempted to conquer the river.
In Córdoba it is easy to see the river's importance and how it has influenced life, culture, the land and history.There is the Roman bridge, and the focus of all the cultures (Roman, Arab, Christian, etc.) is the river: the most important buildings and monuments incorporate are centred around the river.
The Guadalquivir's basin takes water from 8 Andalusian provinces, such as: Murcia, Albacete, Ciudad Real and Badajoz. The river creates marshy lands, "marismas". These marshes are essential for the environment and wildlife. The marshes are the habitat for various fish, birds, insects and plants.
It is the only river in Spain with significant water traffic. In the past, it was used primarily for business and industrial purposes: transporting clothes, food, spices, metals. Today it is mainly used for tourism and leisure activities. After a long time, the waters from Jaén arrive in Seville.In Seville the river has been changed a lot by human activities. They built canals, flood gates, and have changed the depth of the river. In Seville the Guadalquivir is something more than just a river. It is the life source, the history and the artistic inspiration. It can be seen in all aspects of culture.
Although there have been several terrible floods in Seville, the river continues to be seen
in a generally positive light. You can see the mixing of culture and history easily in Seville: for example, modern tourism vs. Arab and Roman industry; state-of-the-art cruise ships vs. Arab and Roman architecture. You can see the relationship between the river and human history through the evolution of the bridges in Seville: Roman, Arab and Modern. You can see how man has changed the river in Seville too. They have changed its course by building canals etc. We can see several examples of the river's importance, presence and influence on culture in the forms of songs, poems, ballads, and lyrics.