Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heterocyclic PAHs (NSO-HETs), alkylated PAHs and phenols are known as the prevailing contaminants in groundwater at tar contaminated sites. Besides these local sources, the concentrations and the distribution in particular of NSO-HETs in environmental samples, such as rivers, have received notably less attention. To investigate their occurrence in river basins two sensitive analytical methods for the simultaneous extraction of 86 substances including NSO-HETs, classical EPA-PAHs, alkylated PAHs and phenols were developed: liquid-liquid extraction for the whole water phase and solid phase extraction for the dissolved water phase only. Solely GC-MS or additionally LC-MSMS for fractionated basic nitrogen heterocycles (N-HETs) were used for quantification. Limits of quantification were in the low ngL(-1) range. Concentrations were determined in 29 aqueous samples from 8 relatively large rivers located in Lower Saxony (Germany) and the North Sea. NSO-HETs had comparable or even higher sum concentrations than EPA-PAHs. N-HETs, especially acridine and quinolines with concentrations of up to 20ngL(-1) per substance, were predominant.