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The oldest projects of a canal enabling linking Oder basin and Vistula date from the 16th century, when the idea of water connection between Noteć and Brda probably was born. However, the project was not realised and the idea of linking Oder and Vistula did not come back until the reign of Władysław IV Vasa, who was one of few emperors who value the role of inland sailing. Obviously, the reign of one of the most outstanding rulers on the throne of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth did not bring the fulfilment of the project of construction of a link between water systems, due to frequent wars taking place in the middle of the 17th century.


The idea appeared again in the second half of the 18th century, when the economy on Polish land started to develop. The project was presented to Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski by Franciszek Florian Czaki – a royal cartographer of Hungarian origin. The project was not realised despite numerous attempts. Franciszek’s thought was not brought to life until the reign of Frederic the Great.

Bydgoszcz Canal is an outstanding monument of hydrotechnical thought on global scale. Therefore, the fact that this “Technological masterpiece of the 18th century” has become indifferent is surprising.  The canal, opened in 1774, was an awaited child of Prussian king Frederic II, who ordered construction of the canal in spring 1773. This decision resulted in  bringing about 8 thousand of settlers from German countries. Elementary works lasted till the 9th June 1774, when the first unsuccessful attempt of floating transport took place. Bydgoszcz Canal, which killed about 2 thousand human beings did not succeed due to rising river bed and the damage of Prądy lock. The next transport took place after the mid September 1774, when canal fathers, including the Prussian king and Franz Balthazar Schönberg von Brenkenhoff, celebrated their success. The glory did not last long, since Frederick the Great believed the project was completed, despite the fact that canal required constant investments and continuously there were no funds. This stagnation lasted until the turn of the 18th to the 19th century, when construction of brick locks started. As Walenty Winid writes before 1801 all locks were made of stone, later first sandstone locks were built. New locks had different size 68 x 9,3 metres with width equalling 6,6 metres. At the end of the 18th century works on installing hydrotechnical appliances, deepening and reinforcing canal took place. During that time Ernst Conrad Peterson brought lots of families to live at the canal, keep the given land tidy, plant trees and annually clean a section of Bydgoszcz Canal. Part of new settlers towed transports between locks for a living. Bydgoszcz Canal inspector started planting trees and it was thanks to him that unique commons park was created.

From 1811 to 1815, i.e. after cleaning Noteć bank (below Canal’s estuary) and thanks to construction of a weir and a dam on Brda, conditions for sailing on Bydgoszcz Canal significantly improved. About year 1800 – it is during the reconstruction of wooden locks for those made of stone, between II and III lock, a bridge linking Św. Trójcy and Grunwaldzka street was built. This bridge was initially wooden, but after Prussian authorities decided it should have had stronger construction due to traffic, they reinforced it. During the interwar period it was called Władysław IV Vasa Bridge. Nowadays, there is Grunwald Roundabout. In 1860 the lower reaches of Brda were leveled , while between 1877-1879 the river was modernized and the port used for floating wood was built in Brdyujście.

Years 1882-1884 brought construction of a new, unique ‘baggy’ lock in a shape of a trapezoid. The importance of Bydgoszcz Canal considerably increased after the first steamships appeared on the canal in the middle of the 19th century.

In the second half of the 19th  century in the German parliament first projects of rebuilding inland waterways appeared. Bydgoszcz inhabitants were active as far as reconstruction of waterways is concerned and they lobbied for it in the 19th century. Accordingly, the resolution of the German parliament about the Oder – Vistula waterway was a great success.Moreover, the lock was adjusted to the possibility of transporting ships about 400- 500 tons the whole way long the canal. Thanks to this solution locks could fit in barges of wrocław type or two finówka barges (a type of a barge). The redevelopment not only contributed to the improvement of  sailing standards, but also to melioration of meadows adjoining the waterway. The plan aimed at regulating Noteć and adjusting locks also on Bydgoszcz Canal. One hundred-year-old locks on a newly built canal were used as a reservoir, while the canal was widened to the size enabling passing two large barges, deepened to 2 m and new bridge crossings were adjusted. Plans of the new Bydgoszcz Canal  were inspired by the initial projects by Jawein and Dornstein, who planed moving canal north.  Accordingly, a bypass to VI lock should have been built and new Brda estuary should have been found. It was associated with a new, planned 2,23 km long excavation of Brda, but also adjusting present day Queen Jadwiga bridge and construction of modern and more expensive locks on a short fragment of the river. Despite lengthening of the waterway about 400 m, by means of closing  ‘Scylla and Charibdis’ in Bydgoszcz, the change was beneficial, as it saved time of transporting goods, as a result of limiting number of locks on this section (The old canal had locks located every 600 m).

Works on construction of a new canal took place between 1909 and 1910. In order to keep on traffic, town lock was moved north. Locks on new Bydgoszcz Canal were completed as early as 1913, however, due to problems with Okole lock the whole waterway was put into use two years later during an official opening, which took place on the 1st April 1915.

After World War I traffic on Bydgoszcz canal significantly decreased. Considerable part of goods, like before the war reached German border. After 1920 Bydgoszcz Canal was regarded to be a convenient communication artery. Unfortunately, it did not meet the expectations. The reason of reducing traffic were high duties on Polish goods dictated by the German side. The highest traffic on the canal took place during Nazi occupation, because railway transport was restricted to meeting the needs of army and all unmilitary loads were floated on waterways. After the World War II the importance of Bydgoszcz Canal as a water artery rose, but later transport capacity of the canal significantly decreased.Now, due to outdated appliances, Bydgoszcz Canal is classified as the second class waterway. For this reason it played the role of the regional artery for Bydgoszcz and Western Kujawy. This state of affairs resulted in many years of neglect in postwar time.

            It is worth to note that the old Bydgoszcz Canal was not covered up with sand after the new line was built, as a result of development of social life at the canal at the end of the 19th century. All inhabitants and tourists went to locks to relax in a peaceful and quiet place or to have a good time.  There were lots of attractions, such as restaurants or cafes and many others. The most popular were restaurants located west from old Bydgoszcz Canal near IV and V locks, where Kleiner’s garden, or Krüger’s restaurant were located, while nearby V lock there was Blumenschluse – Flower Lock, built in 1838. The oldest restaurant boasted of a dancing hall, where magnificent banquets took place. Further, at the end of the park, one could spent time on Światały pitch or in Otton Bucholz’s and Tadeusz Uliszewski’s restaurants. Holidays went with military bands. It was also a venue of painting in the open air, boat rides and dog training, while young Bydgoszcz inhabitants spent there great time playing on carousels. Unfortunately, after World War II the old Bydgoszcz Canal became an indifferent place in Bydgoszcz inhabitants’ mentality and in the 1970s it was filled with sand starting from Wrocławska street, through Grunwald Roundabout to the intake of Brda.

The break of the 20th to the 21st century was favourable for the magnificent park by the Bydgoszcz Canal, where cultural life slowly revived. Bydgoszcz inhabitants and local authorities have been slowly turning to water by organizing open air parties like ‘Śluzy’, ‘Wianki’, renovation works on canal in the 90s, putting Bydgoszcz Canal to Kuyavian- Pomeranian Voivodeship Register of monuments, as well as recent works within the REURIS project. In 2005 thanks to Bydgoszcz Canal Foundation it was registered on the list of monuments of the voivodeship, and a year later Museum of Bydgoszcz Canal was opened. 

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