Canal de Castilla
This impressive piece of hydraulic engineering was
built in the 18th and 19th century to get rid of surplus grain.
150 years later, this artificial river which flows 205km along the Meseta between the province of Palencia and Valladolid, has become an interesting cultural trail, offering the architectural diversity of its three branch roads which take tourists along the Ramal del Norte, the Ramal del Sur and the Ramal de Campos. The route combines the natural environment found along the riverbanks with the history and tradition of the towns.
The unusual attraction of this canal is the system used to solve the problem of uneven ground. This system consists of 49 sluices, constructed to form waterfalls which, on occasions, manage to even off gaps of up to 87m. Some are made up of 2, 3 and even 4 sluices joined together.
Such a spectacular system of sluices does not however
take away from the architectural ensemble of bridges, aqueducts,
dams, irrigation channels, factories, milestones, docks and buildings
which the three branch roads of the Canal de Castilla offer tourists,
despite activity having ceased.
The nature of this artificial river makes hiking, canoeing, cycling and boat trips along different sections of the river, some of the activities available to tourists. These activities do not however prevent the old canal from irrigating the crops in the area.
Tourists following the route along the Canal will be reminded of the coming and going of vessels, the constant activity in the mills and the hustle and bustle of people and animals along the towpaths in days of old.
The Ramal del Norte begins in Alar del Rey and ends 74.5km away in Ribas de Campos. With 24 sluices to solve the problem of unevenness along this section of the route, it is probably one of the Canal de Castilla's most beautiful sections.
All along the route, the canal covers over 87m of unlevelled ground which calls for waterfalls of 2,3 or even 4 sluices joined together. Such a rare sight can be seen by tourists in Frómista for example, where this artificial river's largest waterfall can be found and where, a small part of the Canal route and the Camino de Santiago route, meet.
The Ramal de Campos is the continuation of the Ramal del Norte. It begins its course in Ribas de Campos, in the province of Palencia with the river Carrión.
Some metres before El Serrón, near Grijota and by-passing the Laguna de la Nava, tourists continue in the direction of Abarca and Capillas until reaching Medina de Rioseco where one of the Canal's biggest and most impressive docks is found.
The Ramal del Sur also begins in El Serrón and ends in Valladolid.
78km of canal flow along this section of the route. This section takes in the largest extension of the three sections along this route, yet it has the least number of sluices, as it is the flattest area and therefore does not require as much levelling (21.8m).
In total, tourists will come across 7 sluices, 3
aqueducts and 10 bridges.
The 1st sluice was constructed in Abarca de Campos and the 7th and last one is found a few metres from the Canal de Macías Picavea which begins in Medina de Rioseco.
The Ramal del Sur is the shortest of the Canal de Castilla's three branch routes.
18 sluices cover the 54.2m slope. The section taking in El Serrón in the province of Palencia to the dock in Valladolid, was built in two stages.
The first stage (from El Serrón to Dueñas) took from 1792 to 1804 to build. The person in charge of this section of the route was Juan de Homar. The remainder of this section of the route was undertaken by Epifanio Esteban and took from 1831 to 1835 to construct.
The dock in Palencia and the one in Valladolid were the main departure and arrival points for the numerous barges using the Canal.
At one time over 300 vessels travelled up
and down the Canal. These vessels were drawn along from the banks
of the canal by work mules and crossed the towpaths along the