The Rhine-Main-Danube Canal runs between the German towns of Bamburg and Kelheim via the historic city of Nuremberg, transporting thousands of river cruise ship passengers every year between the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. While it may go largely unnoticed today, this technological marvel remains a surprisingly recent — and crucially important — addition to the German landscape. Although an early version of the canal existed prior to World War II, heavy damage during the war years destroyed many of the early locks that lined the river. To complicate matters, bridges had been destroyed and waterways were clogged, making resumption of river traffic at the end of World War II anything but easy.
Its official end to end length is This canal was constructed starting in the s and was opened along its full length in It was originally intended as a freight link, linking — as was said at the time, grandiosely but not inaccurately — the North and Black Seas via the river system of Main, Rhine and Danube. The canal reaches the highest point directly reachable via ocean going vessel in the world. Yet rail and trucking play vastly larger roles in the freight business along its entire stretch and the canal never earned enough in usage fees to pay for its upkeep and maintenance.
Completed in , the canal is km miles long and runs from Bamberg on the Main River a tributary of the Rhine River to Kelheim on the Danube River , permitting traffic to flow between the North Sea and the Black Sea. It thus creates a 3,km 2,mile waterway that runs through 15 countries and can accommodate barges carrying up to 2, tons of bulk cargo. The canal, one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken, has a total of 16 locks, each about metres feet long, 12 metres 40 feet wide, and up to 30 metres feet deep. Heavy rains caused the banks of the channel to collapse, however, and the project was abandoned. In , under Ludwig I of Bavaria, work began on a canal between Bamberg and Kelheim, following much the same route as the modern canal.