The Miraflores Locks Visitor Center was a great place to see how the world famous Panama Canal works. While visiting Panama during our winter snow bird escape we enjoyed visiting Panama City. The canal contributes to 40% of Panama’s GDP, and 6% of the worlds maritime commerce. The visitor center is one of the stops with the hop on hop off bus tour, plus there are public transit buses that stop there as well.
Hop on / Hop off bus Tour stop. Open air with sun canopy, or air conditioned comfort below.
Some cruise ships actually include trips through the 12 hour passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and there are also some shorter boat trips that just go in through a few locks to the lake, then turn around and return. Most of the big ship traffic goes through the “new” canal (2016) which is about 1 km away and runs parallel to the old canal at Miraflores. In our case the next boat through would have been a few hours later, so we didn’t wait, so we didn’t get to see the “mule” trains in operation.
Red line is the NEW wide canal, Black line is the original route through Miraflores Locks, where the Visitor Center is located.
The Visitor Center was an ideal way to see one of the 7 engineering wonders of the world, and we highly recommend you include the IMAX-3D movie there entitled “A Land Divided – A World United” with Morgan Freeman narrating, about the history and evolution of the Canal. (YouTube Trailer here) and Wikipedia
The canal is one of the 7 engineering wonders of the world. The canal system at each end (Atlantic and Pacific Oceans) essentially lift the vessels up into a series of lakes through the inland mountains. Amazingly there are NO WATER PUMPS involved. The lake water flows downhill through each of the various lock systems. The need to accommodate the much larger (both wider and deeper) modern ships required a major expansion, which runs parallel to the original canals, effectively doubling the overall capacity of the system. The new canals use a double sliding gate instead of the original swinging type. This is also better from a service and maintenance perspective. But the new canal has only a single lane, so the bigger boats need to queue up and take turns for east vs west traffic flow, which can sometimes take a few days to access.
Up and down
New larger ship beside older smaller sized ships, in the river of the upper lake.
On board ship perspective. Thanks to Frank Calo.
Photo Gallery (click image to see full sized version in a slide show):
Very worthwhile stop if you are in Panama City. See more in Wipedia’s voyage
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