The Mekong Delta is one of the largest and most intensively used estuaries in the world. Each year it witnesses widespread flooding which is both the basis of the livelihood for more than 17 million people but also the major hazard. Therefore, a thorough understanding of the hydrologic and hydraulic features is urgently required for various planning purposes. While the general causes and characteristics of the annual floods are understood, the inundation dynamics in the floodplains in Vietnam which are highly controlled by dikes and other control structures have not been investigated in depth. Especially, quantitative analyses are lacking, mainly due to scarce data about the inundation processes in the floodplains. Therefore, a comprehensive monitoring scheme for channel and floodplain inundation was established in a study area in the Plain of Reeds in the northeastern part of the Vietnamese Delta. This in situ data collection was complemented by a series of high-resolution inundation maps derived from the TerraSAR-X satellite for the flood seasons 2008 and 2009. Hence, the inundation dynamics in the channels and floodplains, and the interaction between channels and floodplains, could be quantified for the first time. The study identifies the strong human interference which is governed by flood protection levels, cropping patterns and communal water management. In addition, we examine the tidal influence on the inundation in various parts of the Delta, since it is expected that climate change-induced sea level rise will increase the tidal contribution to floodplain inundation. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.