“God created the world but the Dutch created Holland." -Dutch Saying
The drained areas of land they created used the near magic of polders. Thousands of years ago, the settlers built their dwellings on terpens—large earthen mounds. For more protection against storms and the sea, they constructed dikes connected by long roadways, joining the terps together.
Many of the polders (dikes) surrounded the low areas. They still needed additional draining to reclaim and dry the land, so windmills pumped water higher and higher into canals that carried the water to sea in channels. The Netherlands became associated with windmills as part of their history.
An ambitious government project completed in 1932 finished an 18 mile-long dike (29-kilometer) enclosing the Zuider Zee, a long arm reaching into the North Sea. The dike actually created a freshwater lake fed by the Ijssel River. It reclaimed some half million acres of land.
A devastating flood overcame the project in 1953, killing almost 2,000 people. Following that, the ambitious Delta Project started in 1958 and was finished in 1986. The delta area was rearranged around the Rhine and other rivers. Massive sea dams and a system of dikes and bridges created a network of locks for seaport access to the sea.
Millions of people live in this productive farm area and dairy meadow-lands, and tulip and hyacinth bulb farms thrive in these fields.