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The Telemark canal

The Telemark canal has two parts: The Norsjø-Skien-canal that connects Norsjø to the sea via locks at Løveid/Skotfoss and Skien, and the Bandak-Norsjø-canal or Bandak canal as it is usually called, that connects Norsjø til the lakes Nomevatn, Flåtvatn, Kvideseidvatn and Bandak.
From Norsjø there is a fairway through Sauerelva to Heddalsvatnet.
From Skien to Dalen furthest up in Bandak it is just about 100 kilometers, close to 60 nautical miles and from Skien to Notodden in Heddalsvatnet is just above 40 kilometers, close to 30 nautical miles.



Within Porsgrunn town there is another canal for small crafts, 2,5 meters high, 3,3 meters wide and with a draft of 2,2 meters. This is between the mainland and Herøy, across Gunnekleivfjorden and through a tunnel.



Canalport in Skien




Canalport in Skien


SS Henrik Ibsen is nowadays cruising in The Telemark canal. It used to traffic different routes in the Göteborg archipelago called Styrsö.
© Picture by Martin Johansson 2005


Ovanför Skotfoss




The canal upstreams Skotfoss
© Picture by
Jahn Børe Jahnsen, 1993







The port in Dalen
© Picture by Jahn Børe Jahnsen, 1993

Høynesodden lighthouse close to Dalen in lake Bandak is the highest positioned lighthouse in Norway.
The lighthouse is still there, but it is not in use.

© Picture Jahn Børe Jahnsen, 1993

Total length

Total elevation

Number of locks

Max boatlength

Max boatwidth

Max draught

Max free height

Max speed

105 km

72 m


31,4 m

6,6 m

3,1 / 2,5 m

16,0 / 12,8 m

5 knots


Whetstone has been quarried since centuries around Lake Banddak. The stone was taken across the seas on rowboats and between the lakes by horse and carriage until the Bandak canal was built and the transports were more comfortable and much faster.
It was Engebret Soot, canal manager for Norway, that made the plans for the Norsjø-Skien canal and the works were performed during the years between 1854 and 1861. The work was supervised by engineer lieutenant Johan Tullin Thams.
During the years between 1887 and 1892 the Bandak canal was built, supervised by Axel Borchgrevinck.

The last journey:
Another chapter of European industrial history has come to an end. The closing of Union Fabrikker in Skien also means that no more timber will be freighted across Norsjø, or in Norway.
At one knot the tug Triset takes 5 500 ton timber across Norsjø from Notodden to Skien. That is 360 bundles of spruce. The same cargo would need 180 lorries. The transport starts at Notodden and is aimed to the Union Fabrikker in Skien, were it will be transformed to paper for books. This is the last time timber will be hauled across Norsjø.
Last year The owner Norske Skog, decided to close the papermill Union in Skien. 400 workers lose their jobs, including those working with the floating.
And those are the last "floaters" in the last on the last active floating river in Europe. The haul is divided up as the Løveid lock in Skotfoss not can take all in one go. The last years between 12 and 15 hauls have been done from Notodden to Skien. Hauls with 400 bundles of timber correspond to 100 000 cubic meter.
Very seldom the bundles are ripped so the workers have to collect all loose timber again. Skien is 10 meters lower then Norsjø, so the timber has to go through the three locks. The locks are big enough for five bundles at a time and the capacity is 80 bundles every day.
Downstreams the lock the tug Maar takes the bundles to the Union factory.
When all timber has arrived in Skien the crew of floaters will work all spring in 2006 to collect timber in the lakes och to remove all floating equipments. When that is done the floating tools will be set up on the wall for the a last time and the 300 years old floating traditions in Telemark has come to the end.
(Rewritten photoreport by Rein Borgen in Aftenposten Magazin Feb. 10 2006.)

The Telemark canal company have a website here.

Do send comments or further information to Bosse Arnholm!


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This page was modified at 12-08-06