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Leeds & Liverpool Canal

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is the longest canal in Britain built by a single company. The canal runs from the Aire & Calder Navigation in Leeds to the River Mersey in Liverpool, via Stanley Dock and the Liverpool Link.

Map of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and surrounding waterways

Boats at Liverpool Docks on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Facts & Stats

127 miles


The length of the main line Leeds & Liverpool Canal that is navigable.

91 locks

Main Line

The 91 locks are found on the main line of the Canal. There are also locks on the five branches.


Year Opened

After taking 40 years to complete.

From Leeds to the River Mersey, Liverpool

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal took forty years to complete and was opened in 1816. The building of this canal between Leeds and Liverpool connected these cities with Hull via an inland route and formed part of a passage between the Irish and North seas.  The Leeds & Liverpool is a broad canal and allows access for Yorkshire keels to travel over the Pennines.  Yorkshire merchants were keen to obtain lime and limestone from the Craven District to fertilise agricultural land and to produce a mortar to increase the size and height of buildings used for weaving.  The canal also provided access to export routes to markets in Africa and America, via Liverpool and enabled a supply of coal from Wigan to Liverpool.

There are five branches:

  • Rufford Branch – 7.25 miles (11.7 km) and 8 locks – runs to the River Douglas Navigation.
  • Leigh Branch – 7.5 miles (12.1 km) and 2 locks – runs to the Leigh Branch of the Bridgewater Canal.
  • Springs Branch – 0.5 miles (0.8 km) – in Skipton
  • Stanley Docks Branch – 0.3 miles (0.5 km) and 4 locks – runs to the River Mersey via the Liverpool Link.
  • Walton Summit Branch – now closed and filled in – near Wheelton.


The Leeds & Liverpool Canal today

Investment in the canal has continued into this century with the opening of the Ribble Link, which opened in 2002.  This short waterway connects the Leeds & Liverpool canal with the Lancaster Canal.

In 2009 the 1.4 mile long Liverpool Canal Link was opened connecting the Leeds and Liverpool canal to the city’s South Docks. The link cost £22m and extends right into the heart of Liverpool to its Royal Albert Dock.

Closer to Leeds the town of Saltaire and the magnificent Bingley Five Rise flight of locks are popular visitor attractions.


Campaign Plaques

IWA Lancashire & Cumbria Branch has commissioned two brass plaques for boaters.

The Trans-Pennine plaque is available to boaters who have travelled the full length of the Leeds &Liverpool Canal (Office Lock, Leeds to the Eldonian Village, Liverpool) or vice versa within a calendar year.

The Liverpool Link plaque is available to boaters who have travelled from the Eldonian Village, Liverpool in to Salthouse Dock via the Liverpool Link.

Each plaque costs £10.00 including post and packing. To enquire about a plaque, please contact Ruth Symonds at  [email protected]

Waterway notes

Maximum boat sizes

  • Length: 62′ 0″ (18.9 metres) – Lock 4 (Leeds)
  • Beam: 14′ 3″ (4.34 metres) – Lock 1 (Leeds)
  • Height: 7′ 9″ (2.38 metres) – Foulridge Tunnel
  • Draught: 3′ 9″ (1.14 metres) – cill of Lock 73 (Wigan Flight)

Navigation authority


Useful info

  • Numerous locks and swing bridges require a handcuff-key.
  • Passages into the Liverpool Link and Ribble Link should be booked with Canal & River Trust.
  • A Sanitary Station key is required for padlocks at either end of the Rufford Branch.
  • Bridge 7 (Plank Lane) is operated by a bridge-keeper (restricted hours).
  • A Sanitary Station key is required for Bridge 43 (Finch Mill Swing Bridge, near Appley Bridge).
  • A Sanitary Station key is required for bridges 177, 182A and 187 (between Skipton and Silsden).
  • A Sanitary Station key is required for bridges 197, 197A and 198A (near Riddlesden).
  • Bingley 3-rise and 5-rise locks are operated by a lockkeeper (restricted hours – to be booked in winter).
  • Bridge 200 is operated by the Bingley Locks lockkeeper only (restricted hours).
  • A Sanitary Station key is required for bridges 209 (Shipley) and 214 (Apperley Bridge)
  • Passage of locks 2 to 13 requires a Sanitary Station key and a handcuff key, and are usually assisted by Canal & River Trust staff.  Hours of operation are restricted and need to be booked with Canal & River Trust in the winter.
  • A Sanitary Station key is required to operate lock 1 (River Lock in Leeds)

Waterway underfunding

Hundreds of miles of waterways – along with their unique heritage and habitats – are currently starved of funding and rely on constant lobbying by us to safeguard their future.

Sustainable Boating

We want boating on canals and rivers to be more sustainable and – even though the current overall contribution to UK carbon emissions is very small – we want to help reduce emissions on the waterways.

Waterways Heritage at Risk

Britain’s canals and rivers are a unique, living heritage. But that heritage is at risk – from urban development, lack of protection, loss of skills and knowledge and climate change.

You can help Save Waterways Heritage.

Waterway restoration

Restoring the UK’s blue infrastructure – our inherited network of navigable canals and rivers – is good for people and places.

Local activities