Canals and navigations are human-made channels for water. In the vernacular both are referred to as 'canals'. The main difference between them is that a navigation parallels a river and shares its drainage basin, while a canal cuts across a drainage divide.

Types of artificial waterways

A navigation is a series of channels that run roughly parallel to the valley and stream bed of an unimproved river. A navigation always shares the drainage basin of the river. A vessel uses the calm parts of the river itself as well as improvements, traversing the same changes in height.

A true canal is a channel that cuts across a drainage divide, making a navigable channel connecting two different drainage basins.

Most commercially important canals of the first half of the 19th-century were a little of each, using rivers in long stretches, and divide crossing canals in others. This is true for many canals still in use.

Structures used in artificial waterways

Both navigations and canals use engineered structures to improve navigation:

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