Despite the advent of the 21st century, the Canal de Castilla, a 18th century feat of hydraulic engineering, which was declared a Site of Cultural Interest by Royal Decree 154/91 of 13 June 1991, is still of great importance in the economy of Palencia, Valladolid, Burgos, and the towns it traverses. It is still used for irrigation, and supplies water to 200,000 people.
Although similar projects had been developed in the 16th/17th centuries, it was not until the reign of King Ferdinand VI, in 1751 when a planning committee was set up, at the request of the Marquis of Ensenada, to explore the feasibility of an inland navigation project. Antonio de Ulloa submitted two years later the "General Navigation and Irrigation Canal Project for the Kingdoms of Castile and Leon". The works were started in 1753 at Calahorra de Ribas, and were completed in 1849.
The total length of the watercourse is 207 km, divided into three main branches:
The North Branch from Alar del Rey (carrying water from the River Pisuerga) to Ribas de Campos (Calahorra de Ribas), with a total length of 75 km, is the branch with most changes in level, requiring 24 locks.
The Campos Branch from Ribas de Campos to Medina de Rioseco is the most level branch with only 7 locks, and runs 78 km.
The South Branch from El Serrón, in Grijota district, runs into Valladolid from Palencia, and is 54 km long with 18 locks. The construction of the canal involved building 49 locks to overcome a 150 m fall, and the creation of the "Transport Engineering" discipline. Some locks are oval-shaped (allowing two barges to pass simultaneously, but filling the lock chambers is more demanding), while others are rectangular (easier to build and fill, but allowing only one barge to pass at a time), depending on the period and person responsible for their construction. The Canal was transferred to private hands in 1822.
We invite you to explore this work of hydraulic engineering. You can travel along its banks on boat, bicycle, horse or on foot. You will have ample opportunity to enjoy the enjoy the scenery, wildlife and architectural elements, explore the artistic heritage of the towns through which it flows, and sample the local cuisine to recover your strength.