In the Weichselian, the Lower Rhine in the Dutch-German border region has used three courses, dissecting ice-marginal topography inherited from the Saalian. In the Late Weichselian, the three courses functioned simultaneously, with the central one gaining importance and the outer ones abandoning. This study aims to reconstruct the fluvial development and forcings that culminated in abandonment of the northern branch ‘Oude IJssel-Rhine’, at the time of the Lateglacial to Holocene transition. The fluvial architecture is studied using a cored transect over the full width of the valley, detailed cross-sections over palaeochannels and geomorphological analysis using digital elevation and borehole data. Biostratigraphy, radiocarbon dating and OSL dating provide a timeframe to reconstruct the temporal fluvial development. In its phase of abandonment, the fluvial evolution of the Oude IJssel-Rhine course is controlled by the ameliorating climate and related vegetation and discharge changes, besides by intrinsic (autogenic) fluvial behaviour such as the competition for discharge with the winning central branch and the vicinity of the Lippe tributary confluence. The rapid climate warming at the start of the Late Glacial resulted in flow contraction as the initial response. Other fluvial geomorphic adjustments followed, with some delay. An aggrading braided or transitional system persisted until the start of the Allerød, when channel patterns finally changed to meandering. Floodplain incision occurred at the Allerød - Younger Dryas transition and a multi-channel system developed fed by Rhine discharge. At the start of the Holocene, this system transformed into a small-scale, local meandering system, which was abandoned shortly after the start of the Holocene.
The final abandonment of the Oude IJssel-Rhine and Niers-Rhine courses can be attributed to deep incision of the Central Rhine course in the earliest Holocene and is considered to be controlled by flow contraction induced by climate and related vegetation and discharge changes.