The Panama Canal is an engineering marvel and a must-see for any traveler visiting Panama. It's easy to visit the canal on your own, and you don't need to take a tour to experience it. This guide will provide you with all the information you need to plan your own trip to the Panama Canal, from the history of the canal to the best way to get there. The Panama Canal is a man-made waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
It was built over 100 years ago, and it is still one of the most impressive engineering feats in history. The canal is 85 feet (26 meters) above sea level, so engineers had to find a way to raise ships from sea level to the level of Lake Gatún, and then back down. This was accomplished by using locks, which are large gates that fill or empty with water in order to raise or lower ships. The first attempt to build a canal was made by the Spanish and Scots, as it would be beneficial for trade.
In 1881, the French started a project with funds raised by Ferdinand de Lesseps, who was responsible for building the Suez Canal. The Panama Canal was much more complex than the Suez Canal due to the thick rainforest, frequent rainy seasons, and the difference in sea level between the oceans and the land in between. Panama was under Colombian control at this time, and the leaders did not support the construction of the Panama Canal by the United States. President Teddy Roosevelt supported the independence of Panama from Colombia and a revolution lasted just one day.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter of the United States enacted a plan to hand over control of the Panama Canal to the Panamanian people. In 1999, a period of joint control ended and the Panama Canal passed into the hands of the Panamanian government. The Panama Canal has had a huge impact on Panama's economy. It has made Panama one of the strongest economies in Central America and one of the strongest in all of Latin America. Visiting the Panama Canal is easy and can be done on your own without taking a tour.
The Miraflores Visitor Center is located 15 minutes from downtown Panama City and is a great place to start your visit. Here you can watch ships pass through Miraflores Locks and learn about how they work. You can also take a boat cruise on Gatún Lake for an even closer look at how ships are raised and lowered through locks. The Agua Clara locks are located an hour away from Panama City near Colon City on the Atlantic side. You can easily visit both in one day if you plan ahead.
On your way to Miraflores Locks you'll notice many homes that have a military feel - these were built for Americans who were stationed in the area to work on building the canal. When you arrive at Miraflores Locks you may be lucky enough to see a ship passing through - it's really fascinating to watch as huge gates open and close, filling or emptying locks with water so that ships can be raised or lowered. You may also spot some wildlife such as tamarins, crocodiles, sloths, and cuties. The Panama Canal is an incredible feat of engineering that should not be missed when visiting Panama. Whether you're planning your trip around it or just want to experience it while you're there, this guide will help you plan your own visit to this amazing man-made wonder.