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Augustow Canal

Grodno, Belarus

Augustow Canal is an outstanding hydraulic engineering installation of the 19th century, one of Europe’s largest canals, which has been included onto the preliminary UNESCO World Heritage List.

There are only three canals like this in the world: Caledonian Canal in the UK, Gota Canal in Sweden, and Augustow Canal, which is located in Poland and Belarus.

The waterway with the total length of 102km starts at Lake Serwy near Polish Augustow and stretches virtually to Belarusian Grodno. The artificial canals 45km long have connected 11 rivers (35km).

The Canal has a rich history. The idea to build the canal was born in the 1760-1770s in the age of King Stanislaw August Poniatowski. However, the construction began only in the 19th century after Prussia introduced high customs duties on cargo transportation to Baltic Sea ports.

The project was initiated by Finance Minister Franciszek Ksawery Drucki-Lubeckiwhile army engineers led by Ignacy Pradzynski took care of designing the canal.

In 1824 the Augustow Canal project was approved by Emperor Alexander I. The construction took 15 years. As many as 29 flow-through dams were built in addition to 18 sluices, 21 chambers, 14 bridges, and 24 auxiliary facilities.

The canal stayed an important transport waterway for transporting wood and merchandise for a short time. In 1825 an agreement with Prussia took care of the problem of customs duties while the development of railroads in the second half of the 19th century trashed demand for the canal as a means of transportation.

However, since the canal is located in most picturesque places it has become a tourist attraction. The first hiking tour along the canal took place in 1909. Later on a horse-riding tour became available.

During World War One the canal was greatly damaged, partially due to the defense installations built in the late 19th – early 20th century.

In 1920-1939 the canal was reopened for travelers: two paddled steamers serviced the canal, kayaking tourism was popular, yacht clubs were opened, and the Festival of the Sea took place near the Dombrovka sluice. The first guidebook for Augustow Canalwas published back then.

During the Great Patriotic War the hydraulic engineering installations of the canal, along which fortified emplacements had been built, suffered greatly while the bifurcation gate Chertok was completely destroyed.

In 2004-2006 the Belarusian section (22km) of the canal was completely restored. Specialists restored the waterway, which had not been used since the 1950s, fixed washed-out and caved areas, ancient hydraulic engineering installations.

Many components – sluices and commemorative tablets bearing names of the designers, wooden columns, and draw bridges – were restored manually and now look authentic.

In 2005 the international seasonal Belarusian-Polish border checkpoint Lesnaya-Rudawka was opened for tourists on boats and kayaks. In 2017 it is supposed to be opened to hikers and bicyclists.

Nowadays the Belarusian part of the ancient canal has five regulator sluices, two dams, and four shipping sluices  Nemnovo, Dombrovka, Volkushek, and Kuzhinets.

Augustow Canal’s largest sluice is the four-chamber sluice Nemnovo, which is 9.6m long. The water differential is nearly 10m, while sluicing takes about an hour.

Augustow Canal is an excellent place for active recreation, water, hiking and bicycle tourism. The picturesque places attract thousands of visitors.

The canal crosses the territory of the Belarusian landscape reserve Grodnenskaya Pushcha. It is one of the most environmentally pristine places of Belarus and the continent and a standard of plains in Central Europe.

In the center of the reserve is the Augustovskaya Pushcha, which is one of Europe’s largest forests located in Belarus, Poland, and Lithuania and contending for the status of a UNESCO transboundary biosphere reserve.

In the Belarusian land (10% of the forest) one can find about 800 varieties of plants, which is comparable to the Belovezhskaya Pushcha and the Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve. Some trees are 250-300 years old.

In 2011 a tourism and recreation park Avgustovsky Kanal as large as 5,750ha was created in the area adjacent to the famous waterway and the Neman River.

The place offers a lot to fans of active recreation:

  • tours on board of motor ships and on board of boats with and without sluicing;
  • catamaran ships and boats for rent;
  • kayaking (groups are made up in Grodno to go on a captivating tour along the canal);
  • hiking and bicycle tours (an eco-friendly cycling track is available along the canal);
  • well-furnished places for recreation, a caretaker house, and a compact hotel.

Since Augustow Canal is located at the borders of Belarus, Poland, and Lithuania it has became a venue for interesting cultural and sport events for many years.

The festival Augustow Canal in the Culture of Three Nations takes place near the sluice Dombrovka in August every year. It gathers original folk music collectives, musicians and masters, who represent their national arts.

If you attend the folk art festival Augustow Canal Invites Friends in May you will be able to get familiar with Belarusian culture, master crafts and sample dishes of the national cuisine.

Since the mid-1990s the canal has been used every year to host kayaking and catamaraning competitions under the title of Neman Spring in April. The international cycling marathon Neighbors takes place along the banks of the canal in July. It gathers participants from Belarus, Poland, and Lithuania.

We shall be glad to arrange unforgettable tours to Augustow Canal for you!

The tour duration depends on the scope of your activities.

The distance from Minsk to Augustow Canal is 327km.


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