Shushtar hydraulic system |  Masterpiece of ancient engineering


Shushtar falls are water structures that date back to the Achaemenid period.

Shushtar Mills and Waterfalls is undoubtedly the most unique water-structure in the world. The historical structure has been registered in UNESCO’s List in 2009 .This collection started from the Achaemenid time and was completed during the Sassanid period and reached its peak of prosperity.

Getting to the location 

After crossing the Zagros Mountains and Gatvand dam, Karun River entered the Aghili plain and passed the Fadlak and Kushkak mountains. After crossing this strait, the river gets to a huge rock which the Shoushtar city had made on it, and then it divides into two branches Gargar and Shatit.

The most important part is Shatit or Chahardangeh, which contains 2/3 of the water of the Karun River and then passes the famous Shadorvan Shapouri dam.


Dariyoon, Dariush, or Dara is the first branch that is separated from Shadorvan upstream.
The second branch is known as Gargar or Dodangeh, which consists of 1/3 of the water of the Karun River. Gargar is slang in the city of Shushtar and refers to water pouring from top to bottom.

The Gargar canal first crosses the rocky bank adjacent to the city of Shushtar. After a further flew control dam, it continues downstream via a series of tunnels that operate mills and supply water to the city. The site forms a spectacular cliff and the water falls in cascades into the downstream basin.

The Gargar canal then enters the plain south of the city, at the foot of the mountains where for almost two millennia, its water enabled the planting of orchards and fertile farmland called Mianab.
In the south part of the city of Shushtar, in Band-e-ghir, the branches and the Diz River join each other and form the Grand Karun and move to Ahwaz.

About Shushtar

The Meezan Barrier divides the water of Karun River in a ratio of 2 to 4.

Brief history

By the rise of Sassanid, Ardeshir Babakan ordered to divide the Karun River into two parts in the Shushtar city. In 259 A.D., the first Shapour won the battle against Publius Lucius Valerianus, the Roman Emperor, in Edessa battle, and about 70 thousand Roman and Greek Soldiers were killed or be taken as prisoners.

Shushtar hydraulic system

Bishapour inscription depicting the victory of the Persian king Shapour over the Roman emperor Valerianus.

Some of the prisoners had been sent to Bishapour city, and some had been sent to Jondi Shapour city, which located between the Shush city and the city of Shushtar. By using the workforce of the prisoners, a manmade canal about 23 km length dug out to divide the water of the Karun River, and that needed a deviation dam known as Meezaan Dam, a valuable structure from Sassanid era until now.

The main barrier has 9 conduits. The barrier length is 386 meters, and the height differs from 4/5 meters to 9 meters. Meezaan Dam materials are sandstone in regular and irregular shape, grove, and primary material of cement.

Shushtar hydraulic system

The Meezaan Dam was built by Roman captives after the victory of the Iranian crops over the Roman crops.

This branch of the Karun River was the world’s largest industrial complex. Gargar barrier-bridge is located 300 meters downstream the Meezaan Dam. It has three underground conduits as City, Boleyti, and Nir.
These triple conduits lead the water to the waterfall collection, and rotate the watermills in different canals, and then overflow to the pond.

About Shushtar

Shushtar waterfalls are just one section of this hydraulic system.

Sections of  Shushtar hydraulic system

Shushtar historical hydraulic system is not just waterfalls and watermills but also consists of different sections:

Gargar Barrier-Bridge

It is located on top of the waterfalls and watermills complex and causes different leveles of water to lead the water to the city through triple counduits of City, Boleyti, and Nir.


The Gargar barrier-Bridge was responsible for raising the water level to watermill rotation.

Borjeh Ayar Barrier- Bridge and Mandaeans place of worship

It is located on Gargar branch close to the Mogham Ali temple and Koshtargah (Slaughterhouse) bridge, downstream the waterfalls area.
There are some canals and chambers on the east part of this structure that looks like a cross. This area was located inside a garden, and the water supply was through the Bagh Hakim Conduit from the Boleyti branch.
This area was a holy place to Mandaeans for praying and rituals from the Safavid dynasty to the Ghajar era.


This place is one of the holy places for Mandaeans.

Mahi-bazan Barrier in Shushtar (Khoda-Afarid Barrier)

It was designed to increase water pressure and keep the water level high. It is located between synthetic valleys and has been made of integrated bedrock. Today we can see only 2 parts of the building.

About Shushtar

Mahi Bazan Barrier was designed to increase the water pressure and keep high the water level.

Daryoon creek

Daryoon is a creek that separates from Shatit River and then joins it again. It was dug out in the Achaemenid period. It is the second manmade canal in the city of Shushtar after the Gargar River that waters the high agricultural lands between main branch of the Karun River and the Gargar branch. The name of Daryoon is derived from the name of the first Dariush.

The Kolah-Farangi Tower

The kolah-Farangi tower is a 7-meter height octagonal structure that stands on a 4-meter height infrastructure. People of Dezful believe that this tower was a special place for the Roman emperor and Shapour Sassani to monitor the roman captives who were work on Shushtar hydraulic system.

About Shushtar

The Kolah-Farangi tower was the special place of the Roman emperor during the construction of the Shushtar hydraulic system by Roman captives.

The waterfalls and watermills complex

The Shushtar historical hydraulic system comprises a vast ensemble of flow control structures, canals, some of which dug into the rock, and numerous water uses, which form a perfectly coherent ensemble. While this complex has its roots in the Achaemenid times, much of its renovation and expansion was carried out by the Sassanid.

Salasel Castle

Salasel castle was a massive fortress containing several courtyards, bathrooms, barracks, and towers from the Sassanid era.


Salasel Castle was one of the parts of the Shushtar hydraulic system, which has different parts itsef.

Shadorvan Shapouri dam

Shadorvan dam, some known as Qeisar dam, was built during Shapour the first time to regulate the water flow into six equal portions. Much of the construction was done by Roman soldiers captured by Shapour following his battle with the Roman Emperor Valerianus. It located near 300 meters south of the Meezaan dam.
Some believe that it is the oldest bridge in the world which had had 44 arches; only 16 of them can be seen today.
It has 1500 feet long and still uses to return the water of the Karun River to agricultural lands.

About Shushtar

Some believe that the Shadorvan Bridge in Shushtar is oldest bridge in the world with 44 arches.

The eye-bird view of the historical hydraulic system derived from Karoon River by the Meezan Barrier and the location of the Shushtar hydraulic system.
1- Meezaan Dam
2- Gargar Dam
3- Shushtar water mills
4- Shatit or Chahardangeh
5- Gargar or Dodange
6- Karun River
7- Survivors of Shushtar historical bridge


The deployment of the sections of Shushtar hydraulic system .

There are different elements in Shushtar water mills:

Water transmission tunnels

In addition to the main tunnels mentioned above, there are a series of water-guiding tunnels that were dug up by thighs in the heart of the mountain.
In parallel with the water-accelerating ducts, some rooms, so-called Shovadon or Shabestan, have been built, which used to be the resting places of the millers.

 About Shushtar

The handmade conduits, designed to rotate the watermills by raising the water pressure.

The Gargar Dam

One of the gates of the city of Shushstar was built on this dam, but the dam is not seeable today because of other facilities that added to the construction.


The ways of construction, installation, and instruction of these mills are exclusive, and 33 of them still seeable. The mill blades are made of the Konaar tree, which is resistant to the water, and against the European mills, the axis is horizontal.


It is called to a place that was a water canal in the past and was located near the river at a low altitude.


It is a small 2 arches bridge on the west side of the area that connects the 2 parts of the collection.

West part staircase

It was used to exist out, and today is blocked.


Chahartaq, literally four arches, is a modern term for an equilateral architectural unit consisting of four arches or short barrel vaults between four corner piers, with a dome on squinches over the central square, this square, and the lateral bays under the arches or barrel vaults together constitute a room of cruciform ground plan.
The construction of Chahartaq dates back to more than 2000 years and seems to be a shrine for Mithra and Zurvanisms.

Power plant

The second power plant of Iran-salt powerhouse- was built in this complex in 1312 Solar Hijri and produced 110-volt power. The salt powerhouse was replaced by the Mostofi power plant in 1323.

Ice making factory

It was established by the name of Jolazadeh in 1334. It was active some years after the revolution.

Pump house

It was responsible to produce the water of the city of Shushtar from.

About Shushtar

It is called to a place that was a water canal in the past and was located near the river at a low attitude.

To read this article in Persian Language click here .

* Written by Marjan Ghanavati and Translated by Haleh Givari.


Official Website: N/A Entrance fee:500.000  IRR
Wikipedia: Click here Name(s) in Persian: سازه های آبی شوشتر 
UNESCO Website: Click here Public transportation availability: Yes
Province: Khuzestan Accommodation availability: Sarabi Traditional Hotel
Phone: +98612 6228930 Facilities: Yes
Working days: All days Restaurant & Cafe availability: No
Opening hours: 8:00 AM-5:00 PM Best time to visit: Spring

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