The Merkys (Belarusian: Мяркіс, romanizedMiarkis) is a river in southern Lithuania and northern Belarus. It flows for 13 km (8 mi) through Belarus, 5 km (3 mi) along the Belarusian–Lithuanian border, and 195 km (121 mi) through Lithuania before joining the Nemunas near Merkinė.

Merkine Neman.JPG
Confluence of the Merkys and Neman at Merkinė
CountryLithuania (3,781 km2 or 1,460 sq mi),
Belarus (635 km2 or 245 sq mi)
Physical characteristics
 • location18 km (11 mi) southwest from Ašmiany, Belarus
 • elevation136 m (446 ft)
 • location
near Merkinė
 • coordinates
54°09′23″N 24°11′07″E / 54.15639°N 24.18528°E / 54.15639; 24.18528Coordinates: 54°09′23″N 24°11′07″E / 54.15639°N 24.18528°E / 54.15639; 24.18528
Length213 km (132 mi)
Basin size4,416 km2 (1,705 sq mi)
 • average21 m3/s (740 cu ft/s) (near Varėna)
Basin features
ProgressionNemanBaltic Sea
 • leftŠalčia, Verseka, Ūla
 • rightSpengla, Varėnė

Merkys is mostly fed by underground streams and therefore is cooler during summers and has smaller fluctuations in water level than other rivers in Lithuania.[1] Near Žagarinė (128 km or 80 mi before its mouth) the Merkys is connected with Lake Papys by a canal. The Vokė originates from this lake and consumes most of the Merkys' water. Before the canal average discharge of the Merkys is 3 m3/s (110 cu ft/s) and below it only 0.7 m3/s (25 cu ft/s).[1] At the end of the 19th century the drainage basin of the Merkys grew by some 410 km2 (160 sq mi) as its tributary Ūla overtook some of the Kotra's watershed area.[1]

The Merkys is a popular destination among water tourism enthusiasts as part of it belongs to the Dzūkija National Park and it flows into the Neman near the historical site of Merkinė. Archaeological findings show that people inhabited the area as early as the Mesolithic period. The Merkys is known for its diverse fauna, being declared a reservoir for trout in 1974.[1]


The name of the river, Merkys, originate from merkti, an appellative word in the Lithuanian language meaning to soak.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Jonas Zinkus; et al., eds. (1987). "Merkys". Tarybų Lietuvos enciklopedija (in Lithuanian). Vol. III. Vilnius, Lithuania: Vyriausioji enciklopedijų redakcija. pp. 54–55.
  2. ^ Zinkevičius, Zigmas (2007). Senosios Lietuvos valstybės vardynas. Vilnius: Science and Encyclopaedia Publishing Institute. p. 48. ISBN 5-420-01606-0.