Plauer Canal

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The Plauer Canal (formerly also Plauescher Canal ) was an artificial waterway between the Havel near Plaue near Brandenburg an der Havel and the Elbe near Parey . King Friedrich II of Prussia had the canal built from 1743 to 1745 to connect the Berlin area with the Elbe. The canal was about 20 miles long. After the end of the First World War , it was expanded into the Elbe-Havel Canal .


The Plauer Canal, published by Julius Klinkhardt

The Lower Havel from Plaue to the mouth at Havelberg flows almost parallel to the Elbe for 50 kilometers. Very early on there were considerations to create a connection on the waterway around 150 km shorter than the natural route for the developing shipping between the fortress city of Magdeburg and the residences on the Spree and Havel or further up the Elbe in the direction of Saxony and Bohemia . In 1709, the Prussian engineer Roulai drew attention to a possible shorter waterway connection including the Stremme tributary of the Haveln . Frederick II recognized the usefulness of such a waterway as early as 1741, the first year of his reign. On February 25, 1742, with the outbreak of the Silesian Wars , he stipulated that (quote) all monetary costs and suggestions for improving income should be suspended until better times , but that everything necessary for the construction of the proposed canals should be kept ready. Shortly thereafter, the king demanded a precise report on the purpose, costs, income, loss of customs duties and costs without a subsidy from the royal coffers and had it checked whether the canal was to be silted up. The minister Friedrich von Görne, who was commissioned with the construction planning, then submitted reports on the transport of salt from the royal saltworks Schönebeck in the direction of Berlin , which contained evidence of transport cost savings in the region of 25 percent, which convinced the king. Similar figures apply to the expected timber transport.

The channel

Location of the canal in 1905

After the first project, the canal was supposed to begin between the Elbe villages of Niegripp and Hohenwarthe , to the south past Ihleburg and to the east through the Parchener Feldmark to the Havel. This channel was only planned for small cargo ships. However, this route was rejected. In particular on the recommendation of the royal master builder Riese , a decision was made to route the route including the Stremme river from Parey via Genthin to Plaue. Three locks were planned , one on the Elbe in Parey, one in Kade (Chade) and one south of Woltersdorf almost on Wendsee near Plaue. This proposal was approved by King Friedrich II and the Magdeburg President of the Domain Chamber von Platen toured the planned route in the spring of 1743 and negotiated with the owners of the properties through which the canal was to run. Almost without exception, they made the land available free of charge in anticipation of economic benefits from the new canal. The canal construction began in the summer of 1743. 750 soldiers were deployed in support on the orders of the king. On June 10, 1743, the Prussian king handed over the construction management to Minister Friedrich von Görne and released the financial means. When construction work began, 130,000 thalers were available  , of which around 60,000 thalers were for the earthworks. From Parey to Plaue, the canal was to be 4.5  Prussian miles (approx. 32.5 km) long. The gradient to the east was 16.5 feet.

As was the case at that time, the earthworks were carried out exclusively by hand without dewatering. The result was a canal profile that was about 22 feet (6.90 m) wide at the bottom and 26 feet (8.20 m) wide at water level. Alternative points have been created. These were about 40 to 50 feet (up to about 16 m) wide. The average water depth was 3.5 to 4 feet (1.10 to 1.26 m). The canal profile remained essentially unchanged until the middle of the 19th century. Of the existing watercourses, an old Elbe arm was used from the Elbe to Parey and the Stremme river from Seedorf (Jerichow) to Roßdorf . The Stremme had many curves and partly spread like a lake. The sections from Parey to Seedorf and from Rossdorf to Plaue were completely re-dug. This corresponds to about three fifths of the entire route.

The work proceeded quickly and the excavation work caused hardly any difficulties. However, the fortification of the swampy banks of the Stremme and the embankment of the lakes caused major problems. The residents of the villages in the vicinity of which locks were to be built had to provide transport services for a daily wage. The following year, construction work stalled because of a flood. In addition, the king withdrew his soldiers and the journeyman masons refused to work because they were not paid enough. On April 5, 1745, by order of the king, the first building inspection was carried out and the construction work was completed. Except for a few deficiencies (a bridge at Altenplathow was built too low), the canal could be declared navigable. A test drive with a salt barge took place on April 26, 1745. This ship was 102 feet (32 m) long, 21 feet (6.5 m) wide, and had a draft of 4 feet (1.25 m).


In the first two years, 1,432 barges passed the canal. Due to damage to the Parey and Kade locks, the canal had to be closed from July to October 1746. The boatmen also complained that the water was too shallow. The reason was dike breaches and the resulting lack of water in the canal. This should be remedied by draining the Fiener Bruch and introducing the recovered water into the canal. As a side effect, the area was used for agriculture. The peat found there in large quantities could be extracted and transported inexpensively by ship as fuel to the developing cities. A lack of maintenance work meant that the immersion depths in the canal were getting smaller and smaller until 1862. Extensive construction work was only carried out in the period from 1862 to 1865, and sections of the canal were straightened and deepened. The construction work on this waterway was continued from 1865 to 1872 with the construction of the Ihle Canal , which began in Niegripp and flowed into the Plauer Canal near Seedorf.

Just a few years later it was found that the canal no longer met the requirements and that the increasingly larger ships could only use the canal to a limited extent. In the years 1883 to 1893, extensive extensions of the canals took place again. Both canals were widened to 32 meters and brought to an average water depth of two meters. At the same time, the towpaths were paved on both sides. Several bridges were renewed. A new lock was built at the entrance from the Elbe in Parey to the Plauer Canal. The Elbe dykes were renewed and the new lock received iron protective gates to protect against flooding. This second expansion, deepening and straightening, including the construction of the new bridge and lock, cost nine million marks.

In the course of the expansion of the Mittelland Canal , then often called the Weser-Elbe Canal, it was decided after the First World War to expand the Plauer Canal together with the Ihle Canal to form the Elbe-Havel Canal .

The locks

Parey lock

The old Parey lock in August 1892

The old Parey lock ( 52 ° 23 ′ 31 ″  N , 11 ° 59 ′ 31 ″  E ) sometimes had to withstand water level fluctuations of more than seven meters when the Elbe floods. It was built as a massive brick lock when it was first built in 1745. It was 130 feet (41 m) long and 26 feet (8.16 m) wide. Their height of fall was always dependent on the water level of the Elbe. Right from the start, this lock was criticized for its insufficient depth. In low water situations on the Elbe, many ships could only pass through the lock or not at all. In the course of the canal expansion in 1883/93 the confluence of the canal into the Elbe was relocated about three kilometers upstream, the old lock was demolished and a new lock Parey ( 52 ° 24 ′ 13 ″  N , 11 ° 58 ′ 40 ″  O ) built. By relocating the estuary, the back arm of the Baggerelbe , the former estuary rod , was created.

Lock Kade (Chade)

The Kade lock , also called Kader lock ( 52 ° 23 ′ 50 ″  N , 12 ° 16 ′ 46 ″  E ), was a so-called bush lock near the village of Kade. The gates of the lock were made of wood and the side walls were made of bundles of brushwood, called fascines . These fascines were compacted with clay to make them impervious to water. The lock had a usable length of 130 feet and was trough-shaped. Several barges could be funneled at the same time. However, this type of construction was not very durable and in 1793/94 a massive chamber lock with a drop height of about two meters was built in the same place . With the expansion to the Elbe-Havel Canal in the early 1920s, this canal step was saved and the lock demolished. The last visible remains of the wall of the old lock did not finally disappear until 2006 when the canal was expanded as part of the transport project number 17 .

Plaue lock

The Plaue lock , also called Plauer lock ( 52 ° 24 ′ 11 ″  N , 12 ° 23 ′ 37 ″  E ), was originally also a bush lock with dimensions similar to the Kader lock. Since it was not very durable, it was rebuilt in 1771. A wooden double-chamber lock was built and the confluence with the lake-like widening of the Havel near Plaue was straightened. In 1820/21 this wooden lock was so worn out that it was replaced by a massive brick building measuring 49 meters long and around 8.20 meters wide. The height of fall was around two meters, depending on the water level of the Havel. In the years 1884/86, the larger 2nd Plauer lock was built north of the previous lock , so that Plauer-Maß ships with a length of 65 meters could also pass the canal area. This building was also made of bricks. The two old lock chambers are well preserved to this day, but are no longer used.

The emptied lock chamber of the 2nd Plauer lock on June 23, 2009

In June 2009, the lower head of the lock began to be closed. The lock chamber was emptied and cleaning work began on the completely muddy floor of the lock. After completing this work, a turbine was installed in the head of the lock to generate electricity.

Economical meaning

As a result of the fast and inexpensive freight transport, trade between the cities on the Elbe and on the Havel and Spree developed briskly and traffic on the canal increased. In 1840 2500 ships passed the canal. Numerous companies, such as brickworks, cement factories, lime kilns, sawmills, shipyards and a starch factory were established in the towns on the canal.

Examples of traffic development (selection)

Development of ship passages (selection)
1840 1872 1876 1881 1886 1891 1896 1899
year Number of ships Load capacity
1840 2500 60 to 80 tons each
1872 4546 60 to 100 tons each
1876 6135 60 to 100 tons each
1881 7171 100 to 250 tons each
1886 8509 100 to 250 tons each
1891 11825 180 to 350 tons each
1896 11168 180 to 350 tons each
1899 13240 200 to 550 tons each

A considerable increase in traffic can be seen from these figures. The commissioning of the Berlin-Potsdam-Magdeburg Railway in 1845 led to temporary competitive disadvantages for shipping on the canal. In order to survive on the market, the waterway had to be expanded further and made accessible to the operation of tugboats. However, this construction work did not begin until 1862.

Remains of the Plauer Canal

The situation of the waterways in 2020 with the Elbe-Havel Canal and the old courses of the Plauer Canal marked in green
The Roßdorfer Canal flows into the Elbe-Havel Canal in the east of Genthin

The remnants of the Plauer Canal left over from the construction and further expansion of the Elbe-Havel Canal are:

  • Altarm Baggerelbe Derben (ABElD)
  • Baggerelbe (BEl)
  • Neuderbeer Altarm (NeuA)
  • Altarm Alter Elbarm (AAEl)
  • Old line Seedorf (ASe)
  • Altenplathower Altkanal (AAK) with a length of almost 2 km at EHK km 359.92
  • Roßdorfer Altkanal (RAK) with a length of 6.6 km at EHK-km 363.71
  • Side arm bird protection island (NVSI)
  • Woltersdorfer Altkanal (WAK) with a length of 3.4 km at EHK km 373.42

The 0.8 km branch of the Roßdorfer Altkanal and the Woltersdorfer Altkanal belong to the federal waterway Elbe-Havel Canal, the rest of the Roßdorfer Altkanals and the Altenplathower Altkanal are among the so-called other inland waterways of the federal government. The Brandenburg Waterways and Shipping Office is responsible.

More channels



  • Folke Stender: Editorial team Sportschifffahrtskarten Binnen 1 Nautical publication Verlagsgesellschaft ISBN 3-926376-10-4 .

Web links

Commons : Plauer Kanal  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Pestalozziverein der Provinz Sachsen: Die Provinz Sachsen in words and pictures I. Volume, published by Julius Klinkhardt 1902, page 95
  2. Klein, Thomas:  Görne, Hans Friedrich Christoph von. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 6, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1964, ISBN 3-428-00187-7 , p. 531 ( digitized version ). accessed on December 29, 2015
  3. Elbe-Havel Canal. Historical development. In: Retrieved April 24, 2020 .
  4. ^ Reichs-Verkehrs-Blatt A 1938, page 191
  5. a b Lengths (in km) of the main shipping lanes (main routes and certain secondary routes) of the federal inland waterways ( Memento of the original from January 21, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. Directory E, serial no. 10 der Chronik ( Memento of the original from July 22, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. Directory F of the Chronicle ( Memento of the original from July 22, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /


The given coordinate refers to the Roßdorfer Altkanal, a remnant of the former Plauer Canal near Roßdorf .

Coordinates: 52 ° 25 '24.69 "  N , 12 ° 12' 7.04"  E