Panama Canal, Panama Vacation Guide
The Panama Canal is both an engineering marvel and one of the most significant waterways on earth. Stretching 50 miles (80 km) from Panama City on the Pacific coast to Colon on the Caribbean coast, the Canal of Panama provides passage for over 12,000 oceangoing vessels and panama canal cruises per year. Seeing a huge ship nudge its way through the narrow Canal, with vast tracts of virgin jungle on both sides, is an unforgettable experience. The easiest and best way to visit the Canal is to go on one of our Canal Tours to the Panama Canal Zone and Miraflores Locks. The Canal locks at Miraflores are on the northeastern fringe of Panama City, where a platform offers visitors a good view of the locks in operation. There is also a museum which documents the Panama Canal History and other pertinent Panama Canal facts including a model of the on-going canal expansion and a movie. Canal cruises leave from Balboa, a western suburb of Panama City, for a five-hour partial transit tour through the locks of Pedro Miguel and Miraflores, and ending in Gamboa. A full day transit through all 3 Panama Canal locks is also available and runs once per month.
Travelers from the United States are especially interested in the Panama Canal history since most of you probably know that President Teddy Roosevelt played a major part in its construction, and the independence of Panama from Columbia in 1903. Construction started in 1904 and the Canal of Panama was inaugurated in 1914. Since then, millions of travelers have passed from ocean to ocean for a shortcut to countless destinations. The Panama Canal uses a system of locks - compartments with entrance and exit gates. The locks function as water lifts: they raise ships from sea level (on the Pacific or the Atlantic) to the level of Gatun Lake which lays 81 ft. (26 meters) above sea level; ships then sail the Canal of Panama through the Continental Divide. Each set of locks bears the name of the town where it was built: Gatun on the Atlantic side, and Pedro Miguel and Miraflores on the Pacific side.
The narrowest portion of the Panama Canal is the Culebra Cut, which extends from the north end of the Pedro Miguel Locks to the south edge of Gatun Lake at Gamboa. This segment which is approximately 8 miles (14 km) long, and is carved through the rock and shale of the Continental Divide. Ships from all parts of the world transit daily through the Panama Canal. Some 13 to 14 thousand vessels use the Canal every year. In fact, commercial transportation activities through the Canal represent approximately 5% of the world trade. Panama has just recently started an expansion of the canal to allow even larger vessels to pass through the isthmus through a 3rd set of locks - works are progressing quickly and the capacity will double by 2014.
Location and Map