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The Forth and Clyde Canal crosses Scotland, providing a route for sea-going vessels between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde at the narrowest part of the Scottish Lowlands.
The canal is 35 miles (56 km) long and its eastern end is connected to the River Forth by a short stretch of the River Carron near Grangemouth.
The highest section of the canal passes close to Kilsyth and is fed by an aqueduct which gathers water from (the purpose built) Birkenburn Reservoir in the Kilsyth Hills, stored in another purpose-built reservoir called Townhead near Banton, from where it feeds the canal via a feeder from the Shawend Burn near Craigmarloch. The canal continues past Twechar, through Kirkintilloch and Bishopbriggs to the Maryhill area north of Glasgow city centre.
A branch to Port Dundas was built to secure the agreement and financial support of Glasgow merchants who feared losing business if the canal bypassed them completely.
The western end of the canal connects to the River Clyde at Bowling.
In 1840, a short 0.5 mile (0.8 km) canal, the Forth and Cart Canal was built to link the Forth and Clyde canal, at Whitecrook, to the River Clyde, opposite the mouth of the River Cart.
It was designed by John Smeaton. Construction started in 1768 and after delays due to funding problems was completed in 1790.
The geologist James Hutton became very involved in the canal between 1767 and 1774; he contributed his geological knowledge, made extended site inspections, and acted both as a shareholder and as a member of the management committee.
The Union Canal was then constructed to link the eastern end of the canal to Edinburgh.
Between 1789 and 1803 the canal was used for trials of William Symington's steamboats, culminating in the Charlotte Dundas, the "first practical steamboat".
The canal subsequently became a major route for Clyde puffers, many of which were constructed at Bowling.
In 1842 an Act of Parliament was obtained authorising the Caledonian Railway to take over the Forth and Clyde Canal along with the Forth and Cart Canal; although this did not take effect until 1853.
The canal was nationalised in 1948, along with the railway companies, and control passed to the British Transport Commission. In 1962, the British Transport Commission was wound up, and control passed to the British Waterways Board.
In 1963 the canal was closed rather than construct a motorway crossing, and so it became disused and semi-derelict. Canal locks in the Falkirk area on the Union Canal near the connection to the Forth and Clyde canal had been filled in and built over in the 1930s.
As part of the Millennium celebrations in 2000, National Lottery funds were used to regenerate both canals. A boatlifting device, the Falkirk Wheel, was built to connect the two canals and once more allow boats to travel from the Clyde or Glasgow to Edinburgh, with a new canal connection to the River Carron and hence the River Forth.
The Falkirk Wheel opened on 27 May 2002 and is now a tourist attraction.
The Port Dundas branch has been re-connected to Pinkston Basin, which once formed the terminus of the Monkland Canal, by the construction of 330 yards (300 m) of new canal and two locks. The project cost £5.6 million, and the first lock and intermediate basin were opened on 29 September 2006. Opening of the second lock was delayed by a dispute over land ownership.
The overall ruling dimensions are length: 68 feet 7 inches (20.90 m); beam: 19 feet 9 inches (6.02 m); draught: 6 feet 0 inches (1.83 m); headroom: 9 feet 1 inch (2.77 m), but at the western end larger vessels may use the Bowling basin.