Canals, or navigations, are human-made channels, or artificial
waterways, for water conveyance, or to service water transport
In most cases, the engineered works will have a series of dams and
locks that create reservoirs of low speed current flow. These
reservoirs are referred to as slack water levels, often just called
A canal is also known as a navigation when it parallels a river and
shares part of its waters and drainage basin, and leverages its
resources by building dams and locks to increase and lengthen its
stretches of slack water levels while staying in its valley.
In contrast, a canal cuts across a drainage divide atop a ridge,
generally requiring an external water source above the highest
Many canals have been built at elevations towering over valleys and
other water ways crossing far below.
Canals with sources of water at a higher level can deliver water to a
destination such as a city where water is needed. The Roman Empire's
Aqueducts were such water supply canals.
1 Types of artificial waterways
2 Structures used in artificial waterways
3 Types of canals
7.1 Ancient canals
7.2 Middle Ages
7.3 Early modern period
7.4 Industrial Revolution
7.5 Power canals
7.6 19th century
7.7 Modern uses
8 Cities on water
10 Lists of canals
11 See also
13 External links
Types of artificial waterways
A navigation is a series of channels that run roughly parallel to the
valley and stream bed of an unimproved river. A navigation always
shares the drainage basin of the river. A vessel uses the calm parts
of the river itself as well as improvements, traversing the same
changes in height.
A true canal is a channel that cuts across a drainage divide, making a
navigable channel connecting two different drainage basins.
Most commercially important canals of the first half of the 19th
century were a little of each, using rivers in long stretches, and
divide crossing canals in others. This is true for many canals still
Structures used in artificial waterways
Both navigations and canals use engineered structures to improve
weirs and dams to raise river water levels to usable depths;
looping descents to create a longer and gentler channel around a
stretch of rapids or falls;
locks to allow ships and barges to ascend/descend.
Since they cut across drainage divides, canals are more difficult to
construct and often need additional improvements, like viaducts and
aqueducts to bridge waters over streams and roads, and ways to keep
water in the channel.
Types of canals
There are two broad types of canal:
Waterways: canals and navigations used for carrying vessels
transporting goods and people. These can be subdivided into two kinds:
Those connecting existing lakes, rivers, other canals or seas and
Those connected in a city network: such as the
Canal Grande and others
Venice Italy; the gracht of Amsterdam, and the waterways of
Aqueducts: water supply canals that are used for the conveyance and
delivery of potable water for human consumption, municipal uses, hydro
power canals and agriculture irrigation.
Anthracite on the
Lehigh Canal to feed the early United States
industries in the pioneer-era.
1. Design High Water Level (HWL) 2. Low water channel 3. Flood channel
4. Riverside slope 5. Riverside banquette 6.
Levee crown 7. Landside
slope 8. Landside banquette 9. Berm 10. Low water revetment 11.
Riverside land 12.
Levee 13. Protected lowland 14.
Danube-Black Sea Canal
Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania
Canal de Castilla
Canal de Castilla in
Castile and León
Castile and León (Spain) runs along 207
kilometers, crossing 38 municipalities. Between the 18th century and
early 19th century it was built, initially to transport wheat, now it
is used for irrigation.
Historically canals were of immense importance to commerce and the
development, growth and vitality of a civilization. In 1855 the Lehigh
Canal carried over 1.2 million tons of anthracite coal; by the 1930s
the company which built and operated it over a century pulled the
plug. The few canals still in operation in our modern age are a
fraction of the numbers that once fueled and enabled economic growth,
indeed were practically a prerequisite to further urbanization and
industrialization—for the movement of bulk raw materials such as
coal and ores are difficult and marginally affordable without water
transport. Such raw materials fueled the industrial developments and
new metallurgy resulting of the spiral of increasing mechanization
during 17th–20th century, leading to new research disciplines, new
industries and economies of scale, raising the standard of living for
any industrialized society.
The surviving canals, including most ship canals, today primarily
service mostly bulk cargo and large ship transportation industries,
whereas the once critical smaller inland waterways conceived and
engineered as boat and barge canals have largely been supplanted and
filled in, abandoned and left to deteriorate, or kept in service and
staffed by state employees, where dams and locks are maintained for
flood control or pleasure boating. Their replacement was gradual,
beginning first in the
United States in the mid-1850s where canal
shipping was first augmented by, then began being replaced by using
much faster, less geographically constrained & limited, and
generally cheaper to maintain railways.
By the early 1880s, canals which had little ability to economically
compete with rail transport, were off the map. In the next couple of
decades, coal was increasingly diminished as the heating fuel of
choice by oil, and growth of coal shipments leveled off. Later, after
World War I
World War I when motor-trucks came into their own, the last small U.S.
barge canals saw a steady decline in cargo ton-miles alongside many
railways, the flexibility and steep slope climbing capability of
lorries taking over cargo hauling increasingly as road networks were
improved, and which also had the freedom to make deliveries well away
from rail lined road beds or ditches in the dirt which couldn't
operate in the winter.
Canals are built in one of three ways, or a combination of the three,
depending on available water and available path:
Human made streams
A canal can be created where no stream presently exists. Either the
body of the canal is dug or the sides of the canal are created by
making dykes or levees by piling dirt, stone, concrete or other
building materials. The finished shape of the canal as seen in cross
section is known as the canal prism. The water for the canal must
be provided from an external source, like streams or reservoirs. Where
the new waterway must change elevation engineering works like locks,
lifts or elevators are constructed to raise and lower vessels.
Examples include canals that connect valleys over a higher body of
Canal du Midi,
Canal de Briare
Canal de Briare and the
A canal can be constructed by dredging a channel in the bottom of an
existing lake. When the channel is complete, the lake is drained and
the channel becomes a new canal, serving both drainage of the
surrounding polder and providing transport there. Examples include the
Lage Vaart (nl). One can also build two parallel dikes in an
existing lake, forming the new canal in between, and then drain the
remaining parts of the lake. The eastern and central parts of the
North Sea Canal
North Sea Canal were constructed in this way. In both cases pumping
stations are required to keep the land surrounding the canal dry,
either pumping water from the canal into surrounding waters, or
pumping it from the land into the canal.
Canalization and navigations
A stream can be canalized to make its navigable path more predictable
and easier to maneuver. Canalization modifies the stream to carry
traffic more safely by controlling the flow of the stream by dredging,
damming and modifying its path. This frequently includes the
incorporation of locks and spillways, that make the river a
navigation. Examples include the
Lehigh Canal in Northeastern
Pennsylvania's coal Region, Basse Saône,
Canal de Mines de Fer de la
Moselle, and Aisne River.
Riparian zone restoration
Riparian zone restoration may be required.
When a stream is too difficult to modify with canalization, a second
stream can be created next to or at least near the existing stream.
This is called a lateral canal, and may meander in a large horseshoe
bend or series of curves some distance from the source waters stream
bed lengthening the effective length in order to lower the ratio of
rise over run (slope or pitch). The existing stream usually acts as
the water source and the landscape around its banks provide a path for
the new body. Examples include the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Canal
latéral à la Loire,
Garonne Lateral Canal
Garonne Lateral Canal and Juliana Canal.
Smaller transportation canals can carry barges or narrowboats, while
ship canals allow seagoing ships to travel to an inland port (e.g.,
Manchester Ship Canal), or from one sea or ocean to another (e.g.,
The flight of 16 consecutive locks at Caen Hill on the Kennet and Avon
A canal boat traverses the longest and highest aqueduct in the UK, at
Pontcysyllte in Denbighshire, Wales.
At their simplest, canals consist of a trench filled with water.
Depending on the stratum the canal passes through, it may be necessary
to line the cut with some form of watertight material such as clay or
concrete. When this is done with clay, it is known as puddling.
Canal of Corinth Greece.jpg
Corinth Canal seen from the air.
Canals need to be level, and while small irregularities in the lie of
the land can be dealt with through cuttings and embankments, for
larger deviations other approaches have been adopted. The most common
is the pound lock, which consists of a chamber within which the water
level can be raised or lowered connecting either two pieces of canal
at a different level or the canal with a river or the sea. When there
is a hill to be climbed, flights of many locks in short succession may
Prior to the development of the pound lock in 984 AD in China by
Chhaio Wei-Yo and later in
Europe in the 15th century, either flash
locks consisting of a single gate were used or ramps, sometimes
equipped with rollers, were used to change the level. Flash locks were
only practical where there was plenty of water available.
Locks use a lot of water, so builders have adopted other approaches
for situations where little water is available. These include boat
lifts, such as the Falkirk Wheel, which use a caisson of water in
which boats float while being moved between two levels; and inclined
planes where a caisson is hauled up a steep railway.
To cross a stream, road or valley (where the delay caused by a flight
of locks at either side would be unacceptable) the valley can be
spanned by a navigable aqueduct - a famous example in
Wales is the
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (now a
UNESCO World Heritage Site) across the
valley of the
Another option for dealing with hills is to tunnel through them. An
example of this approach is the
Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent and
Mersey Canal. Tunnels are only practical for smaller canals.
Some canals attempted to keep changes in level down to a minimum.
These canals known as contour canals would take longer, winding
routes, along which the land was a uniform altitude. Other, generally
later, canals took more direct routes requiring the use of various
methods to deal with the change in level.
Canals have various features to tackle the problem of water supply. In
cases, like the Suez Canal, the canal is simply open to the sea. Where
the canal is not at sea level, a number of approaches have been
adopted. Taking water from existing rivers or springs was an option in
some cases, sometimes supplemented by other methods to deal with
seasonal variations in flow. Where such sources were unavailable,
reservoirs—either separate from the canal or built into its
course—and back pumping were used to provide the required water. In
other cases, water pumped from mines was used to feed the canal. In
certain cases, extensive "feeder canals" were built to bring water
from sources located far from the canal.
Where large amounts of goods are loaded or unloaded such as at the end
of a canal, a canal basin may be built. This would normally be a
section of water wider than the general canal. In some cases, the
canal basins contain wharfs and cranes to assist with movement of
When a section of the canal needs to be sealed off so it can be
drained for maintenance stop planks are frequently used. These consist
of planks of wood placed across the canal to form a dam. They are
generally placed in pre-existing grooves in the canal bank. On more
modern canals, "guard locks" or gates were sometimes placed to allow a
section of the canal to be quickly closed off, either for maintenance,
or to prevent a major loss of water due to a canal breach.
Canal in Sète, France.
The transport capacity of pack animals and carts is limited. A mule
can carry an eighth-ton [250 pounds (113 kg)] maximum load
over a journey measured in days and weeks, though much more for
shorter distances and periods with appropriate rest. Besides, carts
need roads. Transport over water is much more efficient and
cost-effective for large cargoes. It goes back to the earliest days of
See also: List of Roman canals
See also: Qanat
Grand Canal of China
Grand Canal of China at Suzhou.
The oldest known canals were irrigation canals, built in Mesopotamia
circa 4000 BC, in what is now
Iraq and Iran. The Indus Valley
Civilization, Ancient India, (circa 2600 BC) had sophisticated
irrigation and storage systems developed, including the reservoirs
Girnar in 3000 BC. In Egypt, canals date back at least to
the time of
Pepi I Meryre
Pepi I Meryre (reigned 2332–2283 BC), who ordered a
canal built to bypass the cataract on the Nile near Aswan.
In ancient China, large canals for river transport were established as
far back as the
Spring and Autumn Period
Spring and Autumn Period (8th–5th centuries BC), the
longest one of that period being the Hong Gou (
Canal of the Wild
Geese), which according to the ancient historian
Sima Qian connected
the old states of Song, Zhang, Chen, Cai, Cao, and Wei. The Caoyun
System of canals was essential for imperial taxation, which was
largely assessed in kind and involved enormous shipments of rice and
other grains. By far the longest canal was the Grand
Canal of China,
still the longest canal in the world today and the oldest extant
one. It is 1,794 kilometres (1,115 mi) long and was built to
carry the Emperor Yang Guang between Zhuodu (Beijing) and Yuhang
(Hangzhou). The project began in 605 and was completed in 609,
although much of the work combined older canals, the oldest section of
the canal existing since at least 486 BC. Even in its narrowest urban
sections it is rarely less than 30 metres (98 ft) wide.
Greek engineers were the first to use canal locks, by which they
regulated the water flow in the
Ancient Suez Canal
Ancient Suez Canal as early as the
3rd century BC.
"There was little experience moving bulk loads by carts, while a
pack-horse would [i.e. 'could'] carry only an eighth of a ton. On a
soft road a horse might be able to draw 5/8ths of a ton. But if the
load were carried by a barge on a waterway, then up to 30 tons could
be drawn by the same horse
Ronald W. Clark referring to transport
realities before the industrial revolution and the
Thal Canal, Punjab, Pakistan.
In the Middle Ages, water transport was several times cheaper and
faster than transport overland. Overland transport by animal drawn
conveyances was used around settled areas, but unimproved roads
required pack animal trains, usually of mules to carry any degree of
mass, and while a mule could carry an eighth ton, it also needed
teamsters to tend it and one man could only tend perhaps five
mules, meaning overland bulk transport was also expensive, as men
expect compensation in the form of wages, room and board. This was
because long-haul roads were unpaved, more often than not too narrow
for carts, much less wagons, and in poor condition, wending their way
through forests, marshy or muddy quagmires as often as unimproved but
dry footing. In that era, as today, greater cargoes, especially bulk
goods and raw materials, could be transported by ship far more
economically than by land; in the pre-railroad days of the industrial
revolution, water transport was the gold standard of fast
transportation. The first artificial canal in Western
Europe was the
Fossa Carolina built at the end of the 8th century under personal
supervision of Charlemagne.
In Britain, the Glastonbury Canal is believed to be the first
post-Roman canal and was built in the middle of the 10th century to
River Brue at Northover with Glastonbury Abbey, a
distance of about 1.75 kilometres (1,900 yd). Its initial
purpose is believed to be the transport of building stone for the
abbey, but later it was used for delivering produce, including grain,
wine and fish, from the abbey's outlying properties. It remained in
use until at least the 14th century, but possibly as late as the
More lasting and of more economic impact were canals like the Naviglio
Grande built between 1127 and 1257 to connect
Milan with the Ticino
Naviglio Grande is the most important of the lombard
“navigli” and the oldest functioning canal in Europe.
Later, canals were built in the
Flanders to drain the
polders and assist transportation of goods and people.
Canal building was revived in this age because of commercial expansion
from the 12th century.
River navigations were improved progressively
by the use of single, or flash locks. Taking boats through these used
large amounts of water leading to conflicts with watermill owners and
to correct this, the pound or chamber lock first appeared, in the 10th
century in China and in
Europe in 1373 in Vreeswijk, Netherlands.
Another important development was the mitre gate, which was, it is
presumed, introduced in
Italy by Bertola da Novate in the 16th
century. This allowed wider gates and also removed the height
restriction of guillotine locks.
To break out of the limitations caused by river valleys, the first
summit level canals were developed with the
Grand Canal of China
Grand Canal of China in
581–617 AD whilst in
Europe the first, also using single locks, was
Stecknitz Canal in
Germany in 1398.
Early modern period
Dutch canal in Negombo, Sri Lanka.
c. 1500–1800 The first canal to use pound locks was the Briare
Canal connecting the
Seine (1642), followed by the more
Canal du Midi
Canal du Midi (1683) connecting the Atlantic to the
Mediterranean. This included a staircase of 8 locks at Béziers, a 157
metres (515 ft) tunnel and three major aqueducts.
Canal building progressed steadily in
Germany in the 17th and 18th
centuries with three great rivers, the Elbe,
linked by canals. In post-Roman Britain, the first early modern period
canal built appears to have been the Exeter Canal, which was surveyed
in 1563, and open in 1566.
The oldest canal, technically a mill race built for industrial
purposes in North America is
Mother Brook between the Boston,
Massachusetts neighbourhoods of Dedham and Hyde Park connecting the
higher waters of the Charles
River and the mouth of the Neponset River
and the sea. It was constructed in 1639 to provide water power for
In Russia, the Volga–Baltic Waterway, a nationwide canal system
Baltic Sea and
Caspian Sea via the
Neva and Volga
rivers, was opened in 1718.
Lowell's power canal system.
See also: History of the British canal system
See also: History of turnpikes and canals in the United States
The modern canal system was mainly a product of the 18th century and
early 19th century. It came into being because the Industrial
Revolution (which began in Britain during the mid-18th century)
demanded an economic and reliable way to transport goods and
commodities in large quantities.
By the early 18th century, river navigations such as the Aire and
Calder Navigation were becoming quite sophisticated, with pound locks
and longer and longer "cuts" (some with intermediate locks) to avoid
circuitous or difficult stretches of river. Eventually, the experience
of building long multi-level cuts with their own locks gave rise to
the idea of building a "pure" canal, a waterway designed on the basis
of where goods needed to go, not where a river happened to be.
The claim for the first pure canal in
Great Britain is debated between
"Sankey" and "Bridgewater" supporters. The first true canal in
what is now the United Kingdom was the
Newry Canal in Northern Ireland
Thomas Steers in 1741.
The Sankey Brook Navigation, which connected St Helens with the River
Mersey, is often claimed as the first modern "purely artificial" canal
because although originally a scheme to make the Sankey Brook
navigable, it included an entirely new artificial channel that was
effectively a canal along the Sankey Brook valley. However,
"Bridgewater" supporters point out that the last quarter-mile of the
navigation is indeed a canalized stretch of the Brook, and that it was
Bridgewater Canal (less obviously associated with an existing
river) that captured the popular imagination and inspired further
In the mid-eighteenth century the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, who owned a
number of coal mines in northern England, wanted a reliable way to
transport his coal to the rapidly industrializing city of Manchester.
He commissioned the engineer
James Brindley to build a canal for that
purpose. Brindley's design included an aqueduct carrying the canal
River Irwell. This was an engineering wonder which
immediately attracted tourists. The construction of this canal
was funded entirely by the Duke and was called the Bridgewater Canal.
It opened in 1761 and was the first major British canal.
The new canals proved highly successful. The boats on the canal were
horse-drawn with a towpath alongside the canal for the horse to walk
along. This horse-drawn system proved to be highly economical and
became standard across the British canal network. Commercial
horse-drawn canal boats could be seen on the UK's canals until as late
as the 1950s, although by then diesel-powered boats, often towing a
second unpowered boat, had become standard.
The canal boats could carry thirty tons at a time with only one horse
pulling - more than ten times the amount of cargo per horse that
was possible with a cart. Because of this huge increase in supply, the
Bridgewater canal reduced the price of coal in
Manchester by nearly
two-thirds within just a year of its opening. The Bridgewater was also
a huge financial success, with it earning what had been spent on its
construction within just a few years.
This success proved the viability of canal transport, and soon
industrialists in many other parts of the country wanted canals. After
the Bridgewater canal, early canals were built by groups of private
individuals with an interest in improving communications. In
Staffordshire the famous potter
Josiah Wedgwood saw an opportunity to
bring bulky cargoes of clay to his factory doors and to transport his
fragile finished goods to market in Manchester,
Birmingham or further
away, by water, minimizing breakages. Within just a few years of the
Bridgewater's opening, an embryonic national canal network came into
being, with the construction of canals such as the
Oxford Canal and
the Trent & Mersey Canal.
The new canal system was both cause and effect of the rapid
The Midlands and the north. The period between
the 1770s and the 1830s is often referred to as the "Golden Age" of
For each canal, an Act of Parliament was necessary to authorize
construction, and as people saw the high incomes achieved from canal
tolls, canal proposals came to be put forward by investors interested
in profiting from dividends, at least as much as by people whose
businesses would profit from cheaper transport of raw materials and
In a further development, there was often out-and-out speculation,
where people would try to buy shares in a newly floated company simply
to sell them on for an immediate profit, regardless of whether the
canal was ever profitable, or even built. During this period of "canal
mania", huge sums were invested in canal building, and although many
schemes came to nothing, the canal system rapidly expanded to nearly
4,000 miles (over 6,400 kilometres) in length.
Many rival canal companies were formed and competition was rampant.
Perhaps the best example was Worcester Bar in Birmingham, a point
Worcester and Birmingham Canal
Worcester and Birmingham Canal and the
Navigations Main Line were only seven feet apart. For many years, a
dispute about tolls meant that goods travelling through
to be portaged from boats in one canal to boats in the other.
Aqueduct over the Mohawk
River at Rexford, New York, one of 32
navigable aqueducts on the Erie Canal.
Canal companies were initially chartered by individual states in the
United States. These early canals were constructed, owned, and
operated by private joint-stock companies. Three were completed when
War of 1812
War of 1812 broke out; these were the
Santee Canal (opened 1800)
in South Carolina, the
Middlesex Canal (opened 1802) in Massachusetts
Dismal Swamp Canal
Dismal Swamp Canal (opened 1805) in Virginia. The Erie Canal
(opened 1825) was chartered and owned by the state of New York and
financed by bonds bought by private investors. The Erie canal runs
about 363 miles (584 km) from Albany, New York, on the Hudson
River to Buffalo, New York, at
Lake Erie. The Hudson
Albany to the Atlantic port of New York City and the Erie Canal
completed a navigable water route from the Atlantic
Ocean to the Great
Lakes. The canal contains 36 locks and encompasses a total elevation
differential of around 565 ft. (169 m). The
Erie Canal with its
easy connections to most of the U.S. mid-west and New York City soon
quickly paid back all its invested capital (US$7 million) and started
turning a profit. By cutting transportation costs in half or more it
became a large profit center for Albany and New York City as it
allowed the cheap transportation of many of the agricultural products
grown in the mid west of the
United States to the rest of the world.
From New York City these agricultural products could easily be shipped
to other U.S. states or overseas. Assured of a market for their farm
products the settlement of the U.S. mid-west was greatly accelerated
by the Erie Canal. The profits generated by the
Erie Canal project
started a canal building boom in the
United States that lasted until
about 1850 when railroads started becoming seriously competitive in
price and convenience. The
Blackstone Canal (finished in 1828) in
Rhode Island fulfilled a similar role in the early
industrial revolution between 1828 and 1848. The Blackstone
a major contributor of the American
Industrial Revolution where Samuel
Slater built his first textile mill.
Sluice in the canal of Gabčíkovo
Dam (Slovakia) - the canal is
conveying water to a hydroelectric power station.
See also: Power canal
A power canal refers to a canal used for hydraulic power generation,
rather than for transport. Nowadays power canals are built almost
exclusively as parts of hydroelectric power stations. Parts of the
United States, particularly in the Northeast, had enough fast-flowing
rivers that water power was the primary means of powering factories
(usually textile mills) until after the American Civil War. For
example, Lowell, Massachusetts, considered to be "The Cradle of the
American Industrial Revolution," has 6 miles (9.7 km) of canals,
built from around 1790 to 1850, that provided water power and a means
of transportation for the city. The output of the system is estimated
at 10,000 horsepower. Other cities with extensive power canal
systems include Lawrence, Massachusetts, Holyoke, Massachusetts,
Manchester, New Hampshire, and Augusta, Georgia. The most notable
power canal was built in 1862 for the
Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power
and Manufacturing Company.
American canals circa 1825.
Competition, from railways from the 1830s and roads in the 20th
century, made the smaller canals obsolete for most commercial
transport, and many of the British canals fell into decay. Only the
Manchester Ship Canal
Manchester Ship Canal and the
Aire and Calder Canal
Aire and Calder Canal bucked this trend.
Yet in other countries canals grew in size as construction techniques
improved. During the 19th century in the US, the length of canals grew
from 100 miles (161 km) to over 4,000, with a complex network
Great Lakes navigable, in conjunction with Canada, although
some canals were later drained and used as railroad rights-of-way.
In the United States, navigable canals reached into isolated areas and
brought them in touch with the world beyond. By 1825 the Erie Canal,
363 miles (584 km) long with 36 locks, opened up a connection
from the populated Northeast to the Great Lakes. Settlers flooded into
regions serviced by such canals, since access to markets was
Erie Canal (as well as other canals) was instrumental
in lowering the differences in commodity prices between these various
markets across America. The canals caused price convergence between
different regions because of their reduction in transportation costs,
which allowed Americans to ship and buy goods from farther distances
much cheaper. Ohio built many miles of canal, Indiana had working
canals for a few decades, and the Illinois and Michigan Canal
Great Lakes to the Mississippi
River system until
replaced by a channelized river waterway.
A family rides a boat in one of the canals of Amsterdam.
Three major canals with very different purposes were built in what is
now Canada. The first Welland Canal, which opened in 1829 between Lake
Lake Erie, bypassing
Niagara Falls and the Lachine Canal
(1825), which allowed ships to skirt the nearly impassable rapids on
the St. Lawrence
River at Montreal, were built for commerce. The
Rideau Canal, completed in 1832, connects
Ottawa on the
Kingston, Ontario on
Lake Ontario. The
Rideau Canal was built as a
result of the
War of 1812
War of 1812 to provide military transportation between
the British colonies of
Upper Canada and
Lower Canada as an
alternative to part of the St. Lawrence River, which was susceptible
to blockade by the United States.
A proposal for the Nicaragua Canal, from around 1870.
In France, a steady linking of all the river systems — Rhine,
Seine — and the North Sea was boosted in 1879 by
the establishment of the Freycinet gauge, which specified the minimum
size of locks.
Canal traffic doubled in the first decades of the 20th
Many notable sea canals were completed in this period, starting with
Suez Canal (1869) - which carries tonnage many times that of most
other canals - and the
Kiel Canal (1897), though the
Panama Canal was
not opened until 1914.
In the 19th century, a number of canals were built in Japan including
Biwako canal and the Tone canal. These canals were partially built
with the help of engineers from the
Netherlands and other
Canals can disrupt water circulation in marsh systems.
Large-scale ship canals such as the
Panama Canal and Suez Canal
continue to operate for cargo transportation, as do European barge
canals. Due to globalization, they are becoming increasingly
important, resulting in expansion projects such as the
expansion project. The expanded canal began commercial operation on 26
June 2016. The new set of locks allow transit of larger, Post-Panamax
New Panamax ships.
The narrow early industrial canals, however, have ceased to carry
significant amounts of trade and many have been abandoned to
navigation, but may still be used as a system for transportation of
untreated water. In some cases railways have been built along the
canal route, an example being the Croydon Canal.
A movement that began in Britain and
France to use the early
industrial canals for pleasure boats, such as hotel barges, has
spurred rehabilitation of stretches of historic canals. In some cases,
abandoned canals such as the
Kennet and Avon Canal
Kennet and Avon Canal have been restored
and are now used by pleasure boaters. In Britain, canalside housing
has also proven popular in recent years.
Canal is being developed into a major
transportation waterway, linking
France with Belgium, Germany, and the
Canals have found another use in the 21st century, as easements for
the installation of fibre optic telecommunications network cabling,
avoiding having them buried in roadways while facilitating access and
reducing the hazard of being damaged from digging equipment.
Canals are still used to provide water for agriculture. An extensive
canal system exists within the Imperial
Valley in the Southern
California desert to provide irrigation to agriculture within the
Cities on water
A canal (Gracht) in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Griboyedov Canal in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Aerial view of the man-made canals of the Gold Coast, Queensland,
Canals are so deeply identified with
Venice that many canal cities
have been nicknamed "the
Venice of…". The city is built on marshy
islands, with wooden piles supporting the buildings, so that the land
is man-made rather than the waterways. The islands have a long history
of settlement; by the 12th century,
Venice was a powerful city state.
Amsterdam was built in a similar way, with buildings on wooden piles.
It became a city around 1300. Many
Amsterdam canals were built as part
of fortifications. They became grachten when the city was enlarged and
houses were built alongside the water.
Canal of La Peyrade in Sète, France.
Other cities with extensive canal networks include: Alkmaar,
Amersfoort, Bolsward, Brielle, Delft, Den Bosch, Dokkum, Dordrecht,
Enkhuizen, Franeker, Gouda, Haarlem, Harlingen, Leeuwarden, Leiden,
Utrecht in the Netherlands; Brugge and Gent in Flanders,
Birmingham in England;
Saint Petersburg in Russia; Aveiro in
Berlin in Germany; Fort Lauderdale and Cape
Coral in Florida,
United States and
Lahore in Pakistan.
Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City
Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City is a
UNESCO World Heritage Site
near the centre of Liverpool, England, where a system of intertwining
waterways and docks is now being developed for mainly residential and
Canal Estates (commonly known as bayous) are a form of subdivision
popular in cities like Miami, Florida,
Texas City, Texas
Texas City, Texas and the Gold
Coast, Queensland; the Gold
Coast has over 700 km of residential
Wetlands are difficult areas upon which to build housing
estates, so dredging part of the wetland down to a navigable channel
provides fill to build up another part of the wetland above the flood
level for houses. Land is built up in a finger pattern that provides a
suburban street layout of waterfront housing blocks.
Panamax ships in the Miraflores Locks on the
Panama Canal, Panama.
Inland canals have often had boats specifically built for them. An
example of this is the British narrowboat, which is up to 72 feet
(21.95 m) long and 7 feet (2.13 m) wide and was primarily
built for British Midland canals. In this case the limiting factor was
the size of the locks. This is also the limiting factor on the Panama
Panamax ships were limited to a length of 289.56 m
(950 ft) and a beam of 32.31 m (106 ft) until 26 June
2016 when the opening of larger locks allowed for the passage of
New Panamax ships. For the lockless
Suez Canal the limiting
Suezmax ships is generally draft, which is limited to
16 m (52.5 ft). At the other end of the scale, tub-boat
canals such as the
Bude Canal were limited to boats of under 10 tons
for much of their length due to the capacity of their inclined planes
or boat lifts. Most canals have a limit on height imposed either by
bridges or by tunnels.
Lists of canals
Main article: Lists of canals
Canals of France
Canals of Amsterdam
Canals of Germany
Canals of Ireland
Canals of Russia
Canals of the United Kingdom
Great Bačka Canal
Great Bačka Canal (Serbia)
Canals of Canada
Canals of the United States
UK Waterways portal
Barges of all types
Beaver, a non-human animal also known for canal building
History of the British canal system
Lists of canals
List of navigation authorities in the United Kingdom
List of waterways
List of waterway societies in the United Kingdom
Roman canals - (Torksey)
Volumetric flow rate
Waterways in the United Kingdom
^ Thompson, Kristi. "Glossary". www.usbr.gov. US Bureau of
Reclamation. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
^ Hadfield 1986, p. 22.
^ a b c d e f "Works of Man", Ronald W. Clark, ISBN 0-670-80483-5
(1985) 352 pages, Viking Penguin, Inc, NYC, NY,
quotation page 87: "There was little experience moving bulk loads by
carts, while a packhorse would [sic, meaning 'could' or 'can only']
carry only an eighth of a ton. On a soft road a horse might be able to
draw 5/8ths of a ton. But if the load were carried by a barge on a
waterway, then up to 30 tons could be drawn by the same horse."
^ Rodda 2004, p. 161.
^ Hadfield 1986, p. 16.
^ Needham 1971, p. 269.
^ Donald Langmead. Encyclopedia of Architectural and Engineering
Feats. ABC-CLIO. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-57607-112-0. Retrieved 15
February 2013. the world's largest artificial waterway and oldest
canal still in existence
^ Moore, Frank Gardner (1950): "Three
Canal Projects, Roman and
Byzantine", American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 54, No. 2, pp.
^ Froriep, Siegfried (1986): "Ein Wasserweg in Bithynien. Bemühungen
der Römer, Byzantiner und Osmanen", Antike Welt, 2nd
pp. 39–50 (46)
^ Schörner, Hadwiga (2000): "Künstliche Schiffahrtskanäle in der
Antike. Der sogenannte antike Suez-Kanal", Skyllis, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp.
^ specifically from (51°08′18″N 2°44′09″W / 51.1384°N
2.7358°W / 51.1384; -2.7358 (Start point at
River Brue)), Start
^ Details text and data with cites from Glastonbury
^ Gathercole, Clare (2003). An archaeological assessment of
Glastonbury (PDF). English Heritage Extensive Urban Survey. Taunton:
Somerset County Council. pp. 19–20. Archived from the original
(PDF) on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
^ Calvert 1963, p. .
^ The International
Canal Monuments List (PDF), retrieved 8 October
^ def lede: Early modern period
^ David Cornforth (February 2012). "
Exeter Canal and Quayside - a
short history". www.exetermemories.co.uk. Retrieved 14 September
^ Exeter history by www.exeter.gov.uk, .pdf file Exeter Ship Canal,
The First Four Hundred Years Archived 19 September 2015 at the Wayback
Machine., accessdate=13 September 2013
^ a b c d Burton, (1995). Chapter 3: Building the Canals
^ a b c Rolt, Inland Waterways
^ a b c Reader's Digest Library of Modern Knowledge. London: Readers
Digest. 1978. p. 990.
^ Hadfield, Charles (1981). The
Canal Age (Second ed.). David &
Charles. ISBN 0-7153-8079-6.
^ Hadfield, Charles (1966). The Canals of the West Midlands. David
& Charles. ISBN 0-7153-4660-1.
^ Lowell National Historical Park — Lowell History Prologue,
retrieved 8 October 2008
^ Edwards 2002, p. .
^ Hadfield 1986, p. 191.
The Associated Press
The Associated Press (26 June 2016). "
Panama Canal Opens $5B Locks,
Bullish Despite Shipping Woes". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 June
Burton, Anthony (1995) , The Great Days of the Canals,
Twickenham: Tiger Books, ISBN 1-85501-695-8
Calvert, Roger (1963), Inland Waterways of Europe, George Allen and
Edwards-May, David (2008), European Waterways - map and concise
directory, 3rd edition, Euromapping
Hadfield, Charles (1986), World Canals: Inland Navigation Past and
Present, David and Charles, ISBN 0-7153-8555-0
Needham, J (1971), Science and Civilisation in China, C.U.P.
Rodda, J. C. (2004), The Basis of Civilization - Water Science?,
International Association of Hydrological Sciences
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Canal.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
British Waterways' leisure website - Britain's official guide to
canals, rivers and lakes
Canal Photographic Guide
Information and Boater's Guide to the New York State
"Canals and Navigable Rivers" by James S. Aber, Emporia State
Canal Museum (USA)
Canal Museum (UK)
Canals in Amsterdam
Canal du Midi
Canal des Deux Mers
Canal flow measurement using a sensor.
"Canal". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
See also: Architecture
Hydrology of Hampshire
River Blackwater (
River Blackwater (
Canals and Navigations
Portsmouth and Arundel Canal
Salisbury and Southampton Canal
West End Brook
Lakes, ponds and wetlands
Keyhaven, Pennington, Oxey and Normandy Marshes
Lakeside Country Park
Manor Farm duck pond
Categories: Rivers, Canals