Germany » Main-Donau-Kanal | Germany

Stage two of the trip from River Rhine to the Black Sea  

Main-Donau-Kanal | Germany: Characteristics & Overview

Rating of waterway

Length of waterway: 171 km
Number of locks: 16
Lock dimensions: 190.00 x 12.00
Max. depth: 2.70
Max. headroom: 6.00
Degree of difficulty: Demanding
Requirements: Boating license essential
Character of waterway: no rating
Profile of waterway: Main waterway
Facilities groundside: Sufficiant

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Waterway has access to:

Danube River | Germany
Main River | Germany

The main link for commercial vessels Rhein-Main-Donau-Kanal
The youngest canal in German history is one of the oldest as well. Connecting Rhine and Danube occupied politicians for hundreds of years already (they were called Emperors first).

Karlsgraben (Fossa Carolina)
First of all Karl der Grosse tried in 793 to connect the Main branch, Rezat with the Danube branch Altmühl with a canal, the Karlsgraben. There are still different opinions about the use and the reason for this canal. Some say that it was in use and some that it was never finished. Rests of it however can be seen at Graben, near Treuchtlingen.

At the beginning of the 19th century, sincere planning for a canal started again. Even though the first lock of Germany was built in 1398 (Stecknitz-Kanal) and great pioneer work like the Canal du Midi dated 200 years back, there was a real canal constructing euphoria at the beginning of 1900. In 1825, Heinrich Freiherr von Pechmann, was assigned to make plans for a new connection between Main and Donau. Works started in 1836 and in 1840 it was almost completed. The first coal vessel passed in 1843 and two years later followed the first tow-boats. After quite some problems (intrigues, dam failures etc.) the canal was finally inaugurated after 10 years of construction in 1846.
Later it had the same problem as many others; rail way took over. After it got damaged during Second World War, it was closed down in 1950. In our opinion the best site to this canal is the one by Hans Gruener. 

After Ludwigskanal had closed down there was no navigable connection between Rhein-Main and Donau. With the construction of big waterways, commercial navigation on inland waters seemed to become interesting again and therefore one decided to build a new, modern connection. Already 1960 one started with the construction of the stretch between Bamberg/Main and Nürnberg. This was terminated in 1972 but didn’t have a connection to the Danube yet. One began with the stretch from Bamberg/Main to Nürnberg in 1960 which was terminated in 1972. The last part from Nürnberg to Kelheim especially the 34 km through the Altmühltal were politically very controversial. Finally canal builders and ecologists found a
way to protect the interests in nature conservation. Nearly 20% of the budget of 2.3 milliards was invested in environment protection.

these investments make the canal a favored place for wanderers, bikers and other nature lovers. For the skipper however, it is not that comfortable. Outside the mentioned tie-up-possibilities (see under infrastructure) there is no way to leave the boat at all. A stop in the lay-by basins is only allowed with permission of lock authorities.