Nicaragua Canal

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The Inter-Oceanic Nicaragua Canal is a proposed waterway through Nicaragua to connect the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. Such a canal would follow rivers up to Lake Nicaragua and then be constructed to cut through the isthmus of Rivas to reach the Pacific.

Such construction of a canal along the route using the San Juan River was proposed in the early colonial era. Louis Napoleon wrote an article about its feasibility in the early 19th century. Plans by the United States to build such a canal were abandoned in the early 20th century, after it purchased the French interests in the Panama Canal at a reasonable cost.

Speculation on a new canal continues, however; the steady increase in world shipping, together with the possibility of establishing shorter shipping routes, may make this an economically viable project. Alternatively, a railway, or a combined railway and oil pipeline, could be built to link ports on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Nicaragua has let contracts to Korean developers to construct a deepwater port and facilities at Monkey Point on the Atlantic coast to improve capacity there.



Several possible routes have been proposed for a canal in Nicaragua, all making use of Lake Nicaragua, the second largest lake in Latin America. Three routes have been discussed to carry traffic from the Atlantic up to the lake, which is at an elevation of 32 m (105 ft) above sea level:

  • from Bluefields, up the Rio Escondido and then an artificial canal to the lake
  • from Punta Gorda, up the Rio Punta Gorda and then an artificial canal to the lake

An artificial canal would then be cut across the narrow isthmus of Rivas (its lowest point is 56 m (184 ft) above sea level) to reach the Pacific Ocean at San Juan del Sur.


The idea of building a canal through Central America is a very old one. The colonial administration of New Spain conducted preliminary surveys. The routes usually suggested ran across Nicaragua, Panama, or the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico.

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