Panama Canal cruise

page 2 - Locks


Panama Canal locks

World's most impressive locks?

They were when I first visited Panama. But now that I've also seen China's relatively new Three Gorges Dam, I know its locks deserve the "most impressive" title. They dwarf the Panama Canal's locks.

Still, the overall Panama Canal system is remarkable and will thrill you.

Panama Canal lock layout

The 24 individual locks are built in parallel pairs to create two lanes for two-way traffic.


Each Panama Canal lock measures 35 meters (110 feet) wide and 305 meters (1000 feet) long.

Water volume

It takes 197,000 kiloliters (52,000 gallons) of water to fill a single lock chamber.


The Gatun Locks raise a ship from the Atlantic (Caribbean) side of the Isthmus of Panama to an altitude of 26 meters (85 feet) on Gatun Lake. Then the combined work of the Pedro Miguel Locks and Miraflores Locks lowers the ship back to sea level on the Pacific side of the isthmus. The reverse is true, too.

Tidal effect

The combined lifting and lowering of the three Panama Canal lock systems is about 170 feet, but not always. The exact figure varies because the difference between high and low tide can be as much as 5 meters (17 feet) greater on the Pacific than on he Atlantic (Caribbean) side. Tidal influencers include the moon and sea floor topography.

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Photo by Gailf548 - CC BY 2.0



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