The Cape Cod Canal connection

A tugboat and barge pass through the Cape Cod Canal. photo by Walter Brooks.

Construction of the Cape Cod Canal began in June 1909. It opened on July 29, 1914 as a privately-operated toll canal.

The creation of this man-made waterway provided a safe alternative to the often dangerous rip tides and currents at the Cape's tip. The canal also shaved an average of 135 miles off a coastal voyage.

In 1928 the United States Army Corps of Engineers took over operation of the canal. Over the next twelve years, improvements were made including deepening the canal and construction of the vertical lift railroad bridge. Work on the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges began in 1933 and they opened to traiffic simultaneously in 1935.

In 1940, the Cape Cod Canal became the widest sea level canal in the world. 

The Cape Cod Canal connects Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod Bay. It is 17.4 miles long, 480 feet wide and 32 feet deep.

All three bridges (the Sagamore, the Bourne and the Railroad Bridge) have a vertical vessel clearance of 135 feet. The Railroad Bridge has a center span of 544 feet. The Bourne Bridge is 2,384 feet long and the Sagamore Bridge is 1,408 feet long. 

To this day, the United States Army Corps of Engineers operates the Cape Cod Canal as a safe waterway for commercial, government and recreational vessels. Everything from power boats to tugboats, barges and cruise ships pass through the canal. The Mayflower II even makes a biannual journey through the canal from her summer home in Plymouth Harbor to her winter home at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut.

There are several recreation facilities along the canal. Paved service roads, perfect for walking and biking, run parallel to the canal on both sides. Pack a picnic and spend an afternoon watching the activity on the canal's waters.

About the Author

The CapeCodTravel staff aims to bring you the best of Cape Cod including tips from hospitality experts about the best places to eat, the best places to stay and how to make the most of your Cape Cod vacation.