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Western Gota Canal

Lake Vattern

Lake Vattern's surface is at 88 meters above sea level, and at some points is nearly 100 meters deep. The lake, which runs mostly North-South, is about 75 miles long. The distance from Motala to Karslborg - almost straight across the lake, is about 18 miles.

This bit of water shouldn't be underestimated, it's a simiar size to the English Channel, and a stiff blow can still make the lake unpleasant.

There is a small archipelago of about 50 islands in the north of the lake near Askersund, and marinas nearby. In mid June Askersund holds a Jazz festival. It is a fair old trot down to Jonkoping at the southern tip of the lake, but there is also a fine nature harbour 6 miles north of Motala at Kyrkögardson.

Locking Down
From the map, we expected a town, but Karlsborg is surprisingly green and it is difficult to determine any development at all from the canal. The bridge here opens on the hour and half hour and the marina is just to the north. Karlsborg has a famous castle
Forsvik Lock Forskvik Marina

We thought Forsvik was the surprise of the Gota. Tucked away at the head of Lake Botten, Forsvik lock comes with a reputation. The lock is reached by a short, narrow canal section, which has one way traffic. The sides of the lock are hewn out of pure rock, and are consequently rather rough. You need large fenders and preferably a board.

Apart from the Tea shop by the lock, which sells home made bread and cakes, there is little civilisation, but that is Forsvik's charm. There is the most perfect picnic/barbeque spot on a rock behind the mooring stage to Port on entry.

Just up the road is Forsvik Works, famous for making large control valves for water mains. However the works also ground flour, sawed wood and smithed iron and is a late example of a complete engineering community. It is now open as a museum. Being restored (or rather being built) here is a massive traditional padddle steamer - the Eric Nordevall II

The Spetsaskanal Lake Viken

Immediately leaving Forsvik, you have to traverse a narrow canal section. This was originally controlled by a semaphore system by the lock, but traffic lights have now taken over. You then have to traverse a further narrow canal section, which is operated as a one-way system governed by sound signals. Some spice is added by the fact that one bank has underwater hazards and the other has overhanging trees. You then enter the sublimely beautiful Lake Viken

Viken is shallow and wide, but bizarrely, half way up, in the middle of the lake, is a narrow channel, with a wall, just awash, which you have to follow. Viken, early in the morning, was, for me, the epitome of Sweden, with its still water, and banks of dense pine forests. This part of the canal is much more wild than the earlier part, and the wildlife is exceptional. At the end of the lake, the lock at Tatorp merely corrects for water levels.

Sjotorp Locks

Although Toreboda is on the main railway line from Stockholm to Gothenburg, frankly, it has little else going for it. Admittedly, we visited on a Sunday when everything was closed, but we thought it had little character, and if it wasn't for the supermarket, we might not have stopped.

From Toreboda, it only takes a day to lock down the 19 locks (most of which are doubles or triples) to Sjötorp

The Entrance to the Gota Canal at Sjotorp

The end (or beginning) of the Canal, and the gateway to Lake Vanern. There are a number of stopping places at Sjötorp, but probably the best is the marina opening onto the lake. It is included in the Canal price, and has all facilities.

There are a few shops by the locks, and a canal museum. The museum has the largest collection of outboard motors we've ever seen, but probably the most interesting was the collection of items retrieved form the canal. (including an early cellphone)

Useful resources

NV8 Gota Canal Chart Book

Gota Canal Booklet
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