BY: CAROLINE ROLF
Navigable aqueducts, or water bridges, are structures that carry traversable waterway canals over rivers, roads, railways or gorges. Many small ships can use these bridge-type structures.
Aqueducts have been used to supply cities with water for centuries, dating back to early Egypt and Babylon. The first aqueducts entailed only an open canal between the river and the city in which the water moved by gravity alone. It wasn’t until the 17th century that these bridges became the modern canal systems for traffic that we know today.
We can thank the Romans for turning this necessity into the engineering masterpieces we see presently. Here are three of the most spectacular water bridges to ever exist:
1. Magdeburg Water Bridge
The most popular water bridge in the world is located in Germany that connects the Elbe-Havel Canal to the Mittelland Canal, allowing ships to cross the Elbe. This aqueduct holds the title as the longest in the world at 918 metres.
Before the bridge was constructed, the two canals met on opposite sites of the Elbe, which was at a considerably lower elevation than the canals. This required ships to make a 12-kilometre detour and off-load cargo before crossing low water levels. After 500 million euros and six years of construction, this water bridge connects Berlin’s inland harbor with several ports down the Rhine River, saving time for large commercial ships that travel between Berlin and the Rhineland everyday.
2. Veluwemeer Aqueduct
This unique water bridge can be found in Harderwijk in the Eastern Netherlands. It is much shorter than the Magdeburg, measuring only 25 metres. It is constructed over a road that 28,000 vehicles travel every day. The Veluwemeer is a mere 3 metres deep, only allowing small boats to pass through, and walkways line each side of the bridge for pedestrians. Because this bridge requires no swing, the flow of traffic remains constant on the road and the water.
The street underneath this water bridge connects the mainland to the province of Flevoland.
Flevoland is surrounded by three local man-made lakes. This island is actually made up of two drained sections, Flevopolder and Noordoostpolder, which come together to make up the 970 square kilometre province.
3. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
Constructed before 1805, this 18-km-long water bridge can be crossed in Wrexham Country Borough in Wales by foot or boat. Originally built to connect the Denbighshire coalmines to the national canal system during the Industrial Revolution, it was hailed as one of the world’s greatest civil engineering accomplishments for the time. Held up by 18 ashlar stone piers, reaching a height of 126 feet, it still stands as the largest aqueduct in Britain and has become a World Heritage Site.
The canal had a great economic influence on the region during the beginning of the 19th century as it allowed for the rapid development of coal extraction, metal working, lime production and limestone quarries.
The water bridge is no longer used to transport coal and limestone, but is still a wildly popular tourist destination and haven for a community of otters. The canal remains navigable and maintained by the British Waterways since 1954.