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The Telemark Canal was hewn out of the rocks by hand well over 100 years ago, and when completed in 1892. Europeans described it as the "eighth wonder of the world". 500 men had worked for five years to dynamite their way through the rocks.

The Telemark Canal stretches 105 kilometres from Skien to Dalen. The Canal consists of eight locks with a total of 18 lock chambers, and a difference in height of 72 metres. There are six municipalities which are known as Canal Municipalities: Skien, Nome, Kviteseid, Tokke, Sauherad and Notodden.


Experience the ancient cultural history, the bustling crowds and travel through the locks as people did over 100 years ago. Enjoy the journey from the deck of one of the nostalgic canal boats: M/S Victoria, M/S Henrik Ibsen or M/S Telemarken.

The Telemark Canal consists of two locks complexes. The Norsjø-Skien Canal, which was completed in 1861, is the first stage. The Bandak-Norsjø Canal, which was opened 31 years later, opens the connection between Norsjø and the Western Lakes to Dalen. The eight locks connect the sea to the inland.


With locks at Skien and Løveid is the elder of the two Telemark canals, built between 1854 and 1861. The idea of canalizing the Telemark watercourse was introduced as early as 1805, when political economist Christen Pram entertained the notion that to be able to sail up the waterfalls, Klostefossen and Skotfossen would be a most welcome convenience.


Also called the Bandak Canal, was built between 1887 and 1892. The idea of building a canal between Ulefoss and Strengen was the brainchild of Axel Borchgrevink, manager of the Norsjø-Skien Canal, and Sætren, one of the directors. Fourteen locks were built along the 17 kilometres of canal between Ulefoss and Strengen, giving a total ascent of 57 metres (over 150 feet). The locks at Vrangfoss Falls are most impressive and, in the words of Teknisk Ugeblad (Technical Magazine) in 1892: "a work of art which will bear perpetual witness to the skill of our engineers; it is this feat of engineering that will to the traveller be most fascinating and memorable". The construction of the locks at Vrangfoss Falls and Hogga was both difficult and dangerous, but by June 1891, the canal was navigable by steamboat. The official opening took place on September 20, 1892.


The lock has one chambre and a lift of five metres. The bridge is from 1980. The tongue of land at Smieøya was the landing stage for the Telemark boats from 1860 to 1900, when the quay at Hjellen was built and taken into use. At the old landing stage, there is a monument to the log drivers on the Telemark Canal, "Gjennom foss" (Through Waterfalls), created by the sculptor Trygve M. Barstad in 1993.

Hjelle quay has been the place of departure for the Telemark ships since 1900. On the quay, there is a warehouse with columns of cast-iron and offices of brick. There are daily departures from Hjellen to Dalen during the summer season. A whitewashed brick villa from 1909 visible on the strip of land south of the quay at Hjellen, houses the offices of the Skien Watercourse Log Floaters´.


The Løveid Canal and locks were built between 1854 and 1861. There are three locks, with a total lift of 10,3 metres. Deep holes were chiselled into the rock before it was mined with gunpowder. Chisels and mallets were used to make holes at the base of the construction for a distance of several kilometres before the rock was blasted with gunpowder. The first bridge over the canal was a swing-bridge built by Union Co. in 1898. The present bridge was built in 1956. The Løveid locks gained fame during a works dispute that took place there in 1931. At the end of the locks stands the lockkeeper´s Swiss-style house, built around 1860. The locks are surrounded by a beautiful park. The locks were modernized in the 1980´s. Original stonework was covered with cement and the old wooden lock gates were replaced by gates of steel.

The route from Ulefoss to Strengen

Nome Municipality is the result of a merger of the former municipalities of Holla and Lunde. The name Nome may have its origin in nauma (meaning narrow) from the root of the name for the River Nauma. Nomevatn, a reservoir lake, is located on the border between the two former municipalities. All the lock facilities in the Bandak Canal are located in Nome. The township hall is located in Ulefoss, although some administrative offices are located in Lunde. Manufacturing and construction are the most important industries here, employing about 1.200 persons, approximately 50% of the total eligible workforce.


With its three locks Ulefoss is the first of the lock facilities on the Bandak Canal, and raises boats past the 10,7 metre-high waterfall. Along the locks are buildings related to the canal. At the intersection south of the canal there is housing for the lockkeeper, foreman and lock-gate man; on the north side of the canal there is an old smithy. One of the former centres of Ulefoss once at this intersection, "Coal Square", as originally a storage place for charcoal for the iron works. There was an old store here, "Ulefoss Forbrugsforening", which was said to have had Norway´s longest counter, 20 to 30 metres long. Coal Square is also the location of the old corner post office building known as "New York" which features elements of German art nouveau.

Ulefoss Bridge, dating from 1933, is a steel girder bridge with a sailing clearance of 12,9 metres. Ulefoss power station from 1963 was built following the enlargement of Tokke with a mountain reservoir to give a more constant supply of water. The present dam is from 1960-61. Half the earlier workers´ barracks at Aall´s sawmill are still standing on the north side of the river above the locks. The canal exhibit and the iron industry exhibit in the old building of Holla Savings Bank on the south side of the locks, shows the history of the Telemark canals with pictures and models. The iron industry exhibit displays objects from the iron industry at Ulefoss.


There were two locks here with a lift elevation of ten metres. It is still possible to disembark at Eidsfoss and follow the road on foot to Vrangfoss one kilometre further up and then go back on board. The walk takes about 20 minutes. The old lockkeeper´s residence is located on the hillside north of the locks.


Vrangfoss is the largest lock complex on the Bandak Canal with five locks and a lift of 23 metres. Before canalization, Vrangfoss was about two kilometres long with a fall of 25 metres through a narrow rock passage flanked by high overhanging walls. Vrangfoss was the cause of nearly insurmountable problems for loggers and takes its name from this (vrang = contrary, troublesome). It was said that logs could remain stuck in Vrangfoss for several years, that it was often not possible to loosen the old logs before new ones were brought in, and that up to 14 persons were employed year round to loosen the tangled logs. The friction sometimes caused fires. During the construction of the canal between 1887-1892, a 32-metre high dam with a 21-metre wide base was added to the five locks. This dam held back water as far as Lunde, raising the water level about two metres.

The lower Vrangfoss Canal is shielded from the falls and lined with a stone breakwater, sheltering the entrance into the canal. Chiseled into the rock wall up above the lower canal is the monogram of King Oscar II, and athere is a full-scale replica of the old wooden bridge across Eiebekken. For years, tourists have enjoyed stopping at the lookout point on the lower canal. The canal saw is still in place and is used to cut the custom-sized timber needed for maintenance of the lock gates. Made after the last war, the saw is positioned so that timber can be drawn directly either from the lower canal or from land. Vrangfoss Bridge is a simple-span beam bridge built in 1958. Close to the locks there is a distinctive and very beautiful park with large deciduous trees and conifers, footpaths, lookout points, and a smithy and guardroom built during the early days of the canal.

At the upper part of the Vrangfoss locks we see the lockkeeper´s residence with its distinctive long veranda. Located at the upper lock chambre is the little guardroom in Swiss style with slate shingles. Traffic was monitored from this little building. On a rock at the upper end, the names of King Oscar II and Prince Eugen are inscribed as a memento of their visit to Vrangfoss on October 29, 1893. Vrangfoss power station is located inside the mountain near the dam.


The lift of this lock is three metres. There is a quay for private boats. Part of an old needle dam has been preserved here, a typical example of the original dams used throughout the watercourse. Needle dams regulate openings for the water with wooden "needles", roughly 8 x 8 square cm. in diameter. The amount of water allowed to flow through the dam was regulated by raising or lowering these needles.

In the larger needle dams, as at Hogga, which dammed up all of Vestvannene, there were also ground beams of about 13,5 sq. cm. to withstand heavy pressure. There were needle dams at Lunde, Kjeldal and Hogga.

The lock at Lunde is now the permanent home of the canal´s old steam-powered dredging machine, Mudder´n, supposedly Norway´s oldest construction machine. It was restored by the Friends of the Telemark Canals. The dam at Lunde lock is an air-filled "rubber sausage" mounted on a concrete foundation.

By pumping more or less air into the "rubber sausage", its height is automatically adjusted to the amount of water in the river, making the water level constant above the dam. This construction has a number of advantages compared with steel hatches, e.g. lower construction costs, simpler operation, lower maintenance costs, and it is a better solution in terms of the environment and aesthetics. This type of dam is produced by a Japanese company. The dam at Lunde is one of the first of its kind in Europe.


There is also a rubber dam at Kjeldal lock. The lock here has a lift of three metres. There is an old lock-keeper"s house here as well. To the north there is a "needle house", a storage facility for the needles used in the dam which once stood here.


Due to difficult ground conditions, Hogga was second only to Vrangfoss in terms of being a demanding construction site. Eight metres of loose soil had to be excavated by hand. The dam at Hogga holds back water from the west lakes Flåvatn, Kviteseidvatn and Bandak, a reservoir covering roughly 15 million square metres. At Stormoen near Hogga, the river cuts through gravel deposited by glacial ice at the end of the Ice Age.

Moen, with an elevation of 134 metres above sea level, is located at what was sea level during the Ice Age. The Hogga power plant was started in 1984, taking water from Straumane above Hogga dam. The power station is inside the mountain east of the river. The water, which flows through a tunnel several kilometres long, comes out below Lunde lock.

The Lower Hogga Canal has beautiful stonework and a forested man-made island between the canal and the river.

One of the oldest devices for maneuvering the lock gates can be seen at Hogga locks, a wrought iron cylinder with a crank that has a beautiful wrought iron rosette on top. This was the original mechanism on the locks in the Norsjø-Skien Canal opened in 1861. The lockkeeper´s residence is south of the locks.

Above Hogga, the water traveller sees the old road along the watercourse. This idyllic stretch of road, which was in bad condition, was restored by the Public Road Administration and Nome Municipality. The road was finished in time for the canal´s centenary in 1992.


Throughout the summer season there are a number of large and small cultural arrangements along the Canal. Music, theatre and sculptures are in focus. Summer starts with Folksongs on the Canal, which offers concerts from stages set in the waterway from Dalen to Skien. Throughout the summer there are a number of art exhibitions, and in Skien we celebrate the 175th anniversary of Henrik Ibsen´s birth. In many ways you could say that the Notodden Blues festival rounds off the summer.

All festivals, concerts and art exhibitions that are arranged along the waterway are part of a long and important cultural tradition in Telemark.

The rich cultural traditions of Telemark, combined with a considerable interest in national matters, have attracted hoards of artists and folklore collectors from the middle of the last century up to the present day. Among them were the greatest artists of their time.

For several years, world famous Edvard Munch gained inspiration for some of his paintings from Kragerø, which he characterised as the pearl among the coastal towns. These rich traditions were upheld to the last by Henrik Sørensen and Harald Kihle, who for many decades found infinite inspiration in Vinje in particular.


The Telemark Canal invites you to an active holiday. Here you can enjoy long or short cycle routes, which offer fantastic countryside and plenty of exercise. Of course you can also enjoy the Canal by canoe or kayak.

Beside or on the Canal, you will find peace. The holiday can be enjoyed at your own pace. There is no need to stress. On the contrary - an active holiday will help you to unwind. There is plenty of accommodation on route. Campsites and hotels are ready to accept cyclists. There are also beautiful places where you can put up tents beside the waterway. Spending the night in the open air is best suited to those who are taking a trip on the water.


For those who wish to experience more of the canal we recommend a tour where you can treat yourself to a night in one of our comfortable hotels. The canal bus will take you safely back to where your car is parked.


Morgedal Hotel, Transport from the quay to the hotel takes approximately 15 minutes.
Quality Hotel & Resort Straand, Transport from the quay to the hotel takes approximately 15 minutes.
Vrådal Hotel, Transport from the quay to the hotel takes approximately 15 minutes.


Thon Hotel Høyers, Transport from the quay to the hotel takes approximately 10 minutes.
Clarion Collection Hotel Bryggeparken, Transport from the quay to the hotel takes approximately 5 minutes.


Dalen Hotel, Traditional hotel in classic original style, with historic environment and atmosphere. Approximately 1 km from Dalen quay.


Norsjø Hotel, Transport from the quay to the hotel takes approximately 5 minutes.