Strömsholms kanal

Strömsholm Canal, 100 kilometres and 26 locks.


Opening times:
Canal and locks open for leisure boats middle  of June to middle of August.
Bike and boat rental along the canal.
Info about the canal at
Tourist office +46 (0)220-241 86
Information: Hallstahammar tourism.


Canal, Locks, Rapids, Lakes, Biking, Walking paths, Canoeing


The Strömsholm canal follows the course of the Kolbäcksån river to Borgåsund. Today it is operated by a company, Kanalbolaget, which is owned by four municipalities—Hallstahammar, Surahammar, Fagersta and Smedjebacken. The canal was cut in 1772–1795, mainly to improve the transport of iron bar from Bergslagen to lake Mälaren and the harbour in Stockholm, from where it would be exported all over the world.


Apart from the Göta canal, which traverses Sweden from Gothenburg to lake Mälaren, the Strömsholm canal was the country’s principal waterway for shipping freight. The overall difference in height of the water level over the 100-km length of the canal is 100 metres, which means that boats navigating the canal have to pass through 26 locks. The rise or fall at Hallstahammar is an awesome 50 metres.


Johan Ullström was the man commissioned by the State mining authority (Bergskollegium) to plan the construction of the canal. He had concluded that he could use the existing waterways from Norra Barken and Smedjebacken to lake Mälaren in the south, which meant that a section of only 10 km would have to be excavated manually.


However, instead of an estimated six years, the project actually took eighteen years to complete. This was mainly due to a lack of investors. King Gustav III himself took an interest in the project and contributed to the funding out of his own pocket. In 1787 he was able to make a maiden voyage on the, as yet, unfinished canal.


The canal was partially rebuilt in 1842–1860, and several new locks were constructed in different locations. The army provided the manpower, in the form of soldiers undergoing punishment. About 15 lock-keepers were employed to “lock the vessels through”, and they were given free accommodation as part of their pay.


Sailing barges completed eight or nine sailings a year, each carrying a cargo of 60–70 tonnes. Many of the boats were locally built in one of the 15 boatyards along the canal. After conversion of the sailing barges to steam in 1860, the steamboats now started to take over. These vessels were capable of towing lighters or barges as well.


The importance of the canal diminished with the building of the StockholmWästerås-Bergslagen railway. The last cargo to be shipped by canal was in 1948. Since its renovation in 1962–70, the canal is now used by tour boats and private pleasure craft.