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What are the Longest Canals in the World?

4th January 2022

Man-made waterways have long been central to many communities throughout history. Whether they are being used for trade, flood control, irrigation, transport or tourism – some impressive canals have been built all over the world. In our blog, we explore the origins of the largest man-made canals in the world…

Grand Canal – China

This impressive canal is 1,800 km in length and is considered the world’s largest man-made canal that links Hangzhou with Beijing. The Grand Canal was originally built to transport surplus food from Yangzte and Huai river valleys to feed capital cities and grand armies in northern China. It is thought that the oldest section of the canal started in the south and dates back to the 4th century BCE. Today, the canal is still in full use – although now it is mainly used for shopping and irrigation. 

Grand Union Canal – England

With a staggering 127 miles and 158 locks, the Grand Union Canal is the longest merged canal in Britain. This waterway was never constructed as an entity - the canal is much rather an amalgamation of several different canals. The canal stretches from Birmingham right down to the capital city. Today, this canal is a lively tourist spot – you can visit museums, embark on walking routes, canoe, kayak, there are just so many places for the family to visit. 

Suez Canal – Egypt

Known as the ‘Canal of Crisis’, The Suez has had its fair share of drama – this historic canal links the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. Separating the African continent from Asia, whilst providing a route between Europe and the Indian ocean. This canal is 193km and is still one of the most used shipping lanes today. The canal was intentionally built for international trade, took 10 years to excavate and an estimated 1.5million people worked on the project. Ismail Pasha, Khedive of Egypt and Sudan, formally opened the Suez Canal on 17th November 1869.

Karakum Canal – Turkmenistan

The Karakum Canal is one of the most extensive water-supply canals in the world. Construction began in 1954 and wasn’t completed until 1967 – in the 1980s, the waterways were extended to the Caspian Sea and totalled an impressive 840km. This canal occupies around 70% of Turkmenistan. The Murghab and Tejen Rivers flow from mountains in the Hindu Kush and empty into the riverbeds, this then allows water for irrigation. 

Erie Canal – USA

Once upon a time, the Erie Canal was one of the greatest public work projects in North America – this canal was built between 1817-1825 and, stretched from Albany to Buffalo. The Erie Canal was thought to establish New York as the Empire State – a leader in the industry and economic prosperity. When it first opened, this canal was considered an economic marvel and historians now believe it to be responsible for commercial and agricultural development. The Erie Canal was also fundamental in encouraging migration to Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and the west. Though the Erie Canal is no longer central in trade, the canal is now known as a National Heritage Corridor. 

Now that you are all clued up about the longest canals in the world, you may want to embark on your very own canal adventure! Explore our amazing offers on our range of narrowboats, and do not hesitate to contact our specialist team for more. 

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