Inland waterways are best developed in two continents, Europe and North America.
A number of countries in Europe, e.g. France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and the erstwhile USSR, have very extensive inland waterways including both rivers and canals.
i. The second largest country in Europe after the CIS has 5600 km (3,500 miles) of navigable rivers and another 4800 km (3,000 miles) of canals.
ii. The major French rivers, e.g. Loire, Garonne, Seine, Rhone, Meuse and Moselle have been modified and improved and are linked by canal systems such as the Canal du Midi, Canal du Centre, Burgundy Canal, Maine and Rhine Canal and Rhone Rhine Canal.
iii. Though France has a great length of waterways the traffic is not as great as in Germany or the Netherlands because many of the older canals are only capable of taking small barges with a low carrying capacity.
iv. Germany and other central European countries have many canals.
(a) The Rhine Waterways.
i. The Rhine flows through Switzerland, West Germany and the Netherlands and forms the eastern border of France.
ii. It is navigable as far as Basel and is the most important waterway in Europe.
iii. It is linked to the River Rhone and the Mediterranean by the Rhone-Rhine Canal and is joined by many tributaries, some of which, including the Main and Moselle, have been canalized.
iv. The river has been dredged, straightened and improved over much of its navigable length; it suffers little seasonal fluctuation, seldom floods and is rarely frozen.
v. The Rhine and the Rhone, to which it is linked by a large modern canal, are so important for transport that they have become the axis on which trade hinges in the whole of the Common Market.
(b) Waterways of the Germanic-Baltic Lowlands
i. An extensive network of waterways consisting of east-west canals joining the north-south flowing rivers crosses the North German Plain.
ii. The Mittelland Canal, joins the three major rivers of Ems, Weser and Elbe, and continues eastwards to Berlin and into Poland.
iii. Near Hamburg another canal the Kiel Canal, 96 km (60 miles) long and 14 metres (45 ft) deep, links the Elbe estuary to the Baltic Sea, improving access to the Scandinavian countries.
iv. The Dortmund-Ems Canal runs north-south and links the Rhine with the ports of Bremen and Emden.
(c) Waterways of Southern Germany
i. The region is served mainly by the Danube which flows through seven different countries- Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania and Bulgaria-before draining into the Black Sea.
ii. The Ludwig Canal links the Main, a tributary of the Rhine, to the Danube and allows waterborne traffic from the Black Sea to reach the Mediterranean Sea through the Rhone- Rhine Canal or the Atlantic via the Rhine.
Waterways in Netherland
The low-lying Netherlands, at the mouth of the Rhine, is criss-crossed by its distributaries and also has extensive man-made waterways.
The densest network is at the Rhine delta, where the Lek and Waal distributaries meet the Maas (or Meuse).
Rotterdam, linked to the North Sea by the deep New Waterway, serves a vast hinterland stretching up the Rhine to Germany, Switzerland, France and Belgium.
Amsterdam is joined by the North Sea Canal to the port of Ijmuiden.
i. The CIS has immense systems of navigable waterways the most important of which are in European Russia.
ii. More outstanding canals are the Baltic and White Sea Canal, the Moscow-Volga Canal and the Volga-Don Shipping Canal.
iii. The vast Volga system links five seas: the Baltic, White, Caspian, Black and the Sea of Azov, Inland Waterways North America
Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Waterways
i. In North America, the most important waterways is the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Waterways shared by Canada and the U.S.A.
ii. It stretches from Duluth on Lake Superior to the estuary of the St. Lawrence below Quebec.
iii. Its natural barriers such as rapids, waterfalls, gradient differences and shallow stretches of rivers have been overcome by the construction of locks and canals and by constant dredging to maintain a depth of over 7.5 metres the U.S. and Canadian governments constructed the St. Lawrence Seaway which (27 ft), has many locks and dams which, apart from improving navigation, generate H.E.P.
iv. Below Montreal the St. Lawrence is sufficiently deep for navigation all the way to the Atlantic.
v. Silting is tackled by constant dredging, but in winter from December to March the St. Lawrence is frozen and navigation comes to a standstill.
vi. The main traffic on the waterways includes trade in iron ore, coal, grains (in particular whet from the Prairies), timber, furs, dairy products, metallic ores (nickel, copper, gold) and a whole range of manufactured goods.
vii. Important cities linked to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence waterways by smaller canals are-Carillion and Grenville Canals from Montreal to Ottawa.
viii. By the Rideau Canal to Kingston; and
ix. By the Erie Canal from Buffalo via the Mohawk Gap and the Hudson River to New York.
x. Despite the fact that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Waterway is ice-bound for three to four months in a year, the amount of traffic it handless is greater than any other commercial waterway.
This is partly because of the brisk trade on the waterway an the large number of vessels engaged, and partly because the ships are large and can carry huge quantities of goods.
xi. In Canada, many of the north-bound rivers are navigable in summer, Examples
(a) The River Mackenzie from the Great Slave Lake to the Arctic,
(b) The Yukon from Whitehorse in
(c) The Yukon Territory through Alaska to the Bering Sea
(d) The Nelson and Albany rivers.
These rivers have little commercial importance, however, because of their northerly position. U.S.A.
The most important inland waterway is formed by the Mississippi and its many tributaries.