To provide you with the best experience, cookies are used on this site. Find out more here.

Allow cookies

Sign up - Contact

Nyhetsbrev - Kontakt

Other Websites

History of the canal

The waterway through Telemark


The waterway before the canals


Long before the Telemark canal was built, the locals used rivers and waterways to transport goods and people. The roads in Telemarks were nearly impassable. Carts with wheels were impossible to use several locations.

The waters made the traffic easier. Barges and boats were used until the waters froze over. During the winter season, the traffic went by horse over the ice. Whetstone - Norway’s oldest export product - was rowed from Dalen to Skien for several centuries before the lock systems were in place.

Farmers from the upper parts of Telemark traded and sold their wares in the city. There they also got hold of goods they needed back home. On their way from the upper parts of the county down to Skien and the harbours, the goods were loaded onto horse carts, and people had to walk on foot past waterfalls and rapids. One could be rowed over the waters or rent a barge, and there were guest houses where the travellers could stay.

Export of lumber made big fortunes with the sawmill owners in Skien. One of the biggiest issues was the ruination of the lumber. During the transport it often got stuck in the waterfalls along the canal and often had to lie a long time in large heaps before arrival. Simpler transport of people and goods and easier lumber floating were two of the main reasons the locks were built. The building of the canal also granted increased control over the waters. There were fewer floods and the damages from the floods decreased, and thus prosperity came to Telemark.

Norsjø-Skien canal (eastern side of the Telemark canal)

That which we call the Telemark canal today really consists of two canals. The Norsjø-Skien canal is the oldest. It was opened in 1861 after a long process where different plans were discussed to utilize the canal as well as possible. The Norsjø-Skien canal has two locking systems, Skien and Løveid.

By building these lock systems it created opportunities for founders. The founder of Norsk Hydro, Sam Eyde started fertilizer production in Rjukan and Notodden. Fertilizer was so transported in barges until the railroad took over the traffic.

The Norsjø-Skien canal has been modernized several times, latest in the 1980’s. Today the locking system gates are made of steel, and the labour is done by machine power. The modernizations was executed to increase the locking system capacity. It was necessary to meet the needs of the increasing traffic from industry and personal transport. The Norsjø-Skien canal had a status as an industrial canal up until as late as 2006 when the lumber transport in the waterway was shut down, but now solely is seen as one of the most impactful attractions in Telemark.

Bandak-Norsjø canal (western side of the Telemark canal)

The Bandak-Norsjø canal was finished in 1892 after five years of construction work. At the most, 500 men worked in the canal system. Most of the construction work was done by hand.

A total of 14 locking systems were built along the 17 kilometer long stretch between Ulefoss and Strengen with a total lifting height of 57 meters. The locks are divided into six different lock systems: Ulefoss, Eidsfoss, Vrangfoss, Lune, Kjeldal and Hogga - all situated in Nome municipality. The canal stretches into Flåvatn, Kviteseidvatn and Bandak to Dalen. When the Bandak-Norsjø canal came into operation, the lumber, whetstone and passengers could be transported from Dalen to Skien and out in the big world - much easier and faster than before. This resulted in prosperity in the western part of the canal, and opened up for trade with the foreign market. Culture in west Telemark is influenced by the transport goods from the mainland.

To ease the transport of lumber was one of the main reasons that the Bandak-Norsjø canal was built. Especially the two kilometers of waterfalls and rapids around Vrangfoss created difficulties. Now, Vrangfoss is the biggest locking system in the entire Telemark canal with its five locking chambers and a lift height of astouding 23 meters.

The Bandak-Norsjø canal has not been changed or modernized. It is operated manually - exactly the same way as in the opening in 1892. The canal is a technical cultural heritage, which now is preserved since 2017.

The Telemark Canal as of today

The Telemark canal stretches from Skien to Dalen, a total length of 105 kilometers with a total height difference of 72 meters. The eastern side of the canal has a waterway that goes up to Notodden.

The Telemark Canal isn't used any longer as a primary transport road for both export goods such as whetstone, iron and copper, but is today one of the most important tourist attractions in Telemark. 3 canal boats transport travelers between Skien and Dalen, Akkerhaugen and Lunde. The Telemark Canal is also important for the traffic of leisure boats, both for tourists and locals who seek to use the canal as a recreational territory.

The Telemark Canal is a treasure among the attractions here, both for paddlers on the canal and for cyclists that enjoy the beautiful landscape along the canal.

Accommodation

Explore Telemarkskanalen:

Type:
Location:

Things to Do

Explore Telemarkskanalen:

Type:
Location:
Name / Keyword:

What's On

Explore Telemarkskanalen:

Type:
Location:
Name / Keyword:
Dates

Food & Drink

Explore Telemarkskanalen:

Type:
Location:
Name / Keyword:

Accommodation

Explore Telemarkskanalen:

Type:
Location:

Sitemap