Visiting the New Locks of the Panama Canal

Last Sunday we had a fantastic opportunity! The ACP (Panama Canal Authority) opened the new locks to the public for one day only, and anyone who wanted to visit was welcome. I had seen photos and read articles, but to actually go to the construction site was too exciting to pass up. Next month they are going to start filling the locks with water so this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

It all started when someone posted this article on Facebook  All we needed to do was show up at the designated parking area wearing long pants and proper footwear for a construction zone.

So, we took the bus to Panama City on Saturday, booked the Allbrook Inn for a couple nights, and contacted Luis Arce to pick us up and drive us to the site.

We made it to the parking area, and then made our way to the main parking area where there was a long line around the parking lot and down the street.

We were in this line about two hours before we made it to the bus, most of it in light to heavy rain. People were upbeat and cheerful though and didn’t seem to mind getting wet. Here though the rain is warm and getting wet is a common occurrence.

The bus took us on a short ride, and then let us off in another parking lot where there was a huge line!

And, then, we were THERE!


I believe I have identified the director in the white hat and black shirt as Guillermo O Chapman, Jr.  and clicking on his name will take you to some information about him.

We boarded the next bus and headed to the “mirador” or look out spot. Every bus had someone in a lime green t-shirt cheerfully telling us where we were going, what we were going to see, and any other information that would be helpful.

At first I thought we must be at different locks, until I looked way down in the distance in one of these photos and saw we were actually at the other end of these same locks. The size and scope of all this is pretty incredible.

This was an all day event, but an excellent experience! I heard later that 45,000 people visited. A lot of credit goes to the people who organized all this, the personnel, the buses, the parking and waiting areas, the water, the bathrooms, the little flags that were handed out to everyone, music, drones, security, and I’m sure a lot more things than we realize. They did an excellent job of handling this many people and making it a great day for everyone.

Here is some more information on this construction project

Plans are for the canal to be open and operational in 2016. I definitely want to go back then, and that will be even more interesting after seeing it before the water!




About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
This entry was posted in Exploring Panama, Miscellaneous, Panama and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Visiting the New Locks of the Panama Canal

  1. oldsalt1942 says:

    Fantastic, Kris. Thanks for the pics. Some of them, like 415Canal16 really show the tremendous size of those locks. I don’t think I could have handled the waiting time. I don’t have that kind of patience, but glad YOU DO so we could see this.


    • We knew it was going to be a lot of waiting, so we just hung out and talked with those around us and it didn’t seem bad at all. And, we got wet but it was an overcast day, much better than hot with the sun beating down. I’m really glad we went because it was fantastic to see! Glad you enjoyed the pics 🙂


  2. What a grand opportunity, wish we would have done the same. Going to Panama this weekend to meet some friends from California that have been here all week for a conference.


  3. Sunni Morris says:

    Kris ,

    What a nice opportunity and so good you have a patient husband who doesn’t mind waiting all that long in a very long line. Mine would NEVER do that – once-in-a-lifetime opportunity or not.



  4. kjscapper says:

    Great that you took advantage of the opportunity. Thanks again for share of the trip.


  5. schuttzie says:

    Wow, how very exciting for you to have been there! I may have given up after seeing the crowds. It is just amazing the technology and this massive project! Thank you, so much for hanging in there to be a part of history and show us your fantastic photos, Kris 😉


  6. 4sarge says:

    Now, YOU are a part of History


  7. Kathy McKay says:

    Kris, Thanks do much for this wonderful post. My friend and I were there on Saturday and debated whether to stay over an additional day to have this experience. Now I feel like I have been there with you. We decided to head back to Boquete on Sunday. A good choice for us I think. The crowds look pretty daunting . Hope to see you around Boquete or on the trail.

    Kat McKay

    Sent from my iPad



    • The crowds were big, but we figured this was our only chance so we went for it. I’m glad to share the photos and glad you enjoyed them. We come up to Boquete once in a while so who knows, our paths might cross. We’re going up tonight in fact to check out the new roller skating rink.


  8. It definitely looks like every long line was worth the wait. This was a tremendous opportunity. Thanks for sharing your historic experience with us, Kris.


  9. Carole says:

    Thanks for the photos, what an experience you had. We saw the original locks when we were last in Panama, it is very impressive what they built. Seems like it was well planned, not problems at all. I don’t think my husband would wait, but it would have been nice to see also. Maybe we can go to Panama next year and see it when it opens. You certainly are enjoying your adopted country, can’t wait to begin our journey there. I plan on taking Spanish classes in the University here, it is free for Seniors. Next semester is full, I plan on signing for the next one.


    • They did an amazing job on the canal in the past. 100 years of continuous operation! It will be interesting to see the new locks in operation and I am looking forward to that too.
      There are places on line where you can study Spanish too, like duolingo that is popular with many people. It’s hard to learn another language so every little bit helps!


  10. Great pics Kris you captured the moment very well.
    Just a curious question… in some pics it looks like the bottom ( floor) of the locks is gravel and the rest mostly cement. Is that just some area not cemented in yet?

    Looking forward to seeing Joel play tonight!


  11. Great post! Being able to see the construction site was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Thanks for going and sharing with us!


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