From 1366 to 1369, two canals were dug between Alblasserwaard to Kinderdijk. They were designed to discharge water into river Lek.
When the canals were no longer sufficient to cope with rising water level, windmills were constructed. Eight were built in 1738 and a further eight in 1740 to protect the surrounding land from flooding.
The mills work by draining the excess water from the Alblasserwaard polders - which are situated below sea-level - after which the water is sluiced into the river Lek (the Rijn). The powerful mill sails serve to transmit the force of the wind on to large paddle-wheels which scoop up the water. Nowadays power-driven pumping engines do the job, including one of the largest water screw pumping-stations in Western Europe.
Today, Kinderdijk has no less than nineteen windmills.
This site remains almost unchanged from its original state.
In 1997 the mills of Kinderdijk were put on the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
The foundation "Wereld Erfgoed Kinderdijk" maintains and preserves the windmills in Kinderdijk.
The preservation is not limited to the windmills themselves, but also covers the area in which the windmills are situated.