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Public-images-osm logo.svg waterway = canal
Grand Union Canal Walk by the canal - geograph.org.uk - 3135952.jpg
An artificial open flow waterway used to carry useful water for transportation, waterpower, or irrigation. Edit this description in the wiki page. Edit this description in the data item.
Rendering in OSM Carto
Group: waterways
Used on these elements
should not be used on nodesmay be used on waysshould not be used on areasmay be used on relations
Useful combination
See also
Status: de facto

Use waterway=canal for man-made open flow (free flow vs pipe flow) waterways used to carry useful water for transportation, hydro-power generation or irrigation purposes. The tag can also be used for underground free flow (with tunnel=*), not just above ground.

For a natural watercourse use waterway=river or waterway=stream. For water carried in pipes use man_made=pipeline. For small artificial waterways used for drainage see waterway=drain and waterway=ditch. For navigable route marked by buoys in large water bodies like a lake or a sea that are not canals or rivers use waterway=fairway.

How to Map

See also: Waterways

Create a simple way in the direction of flow of the canal and tag it with waterway=canal. In order to allow routing, do ensure that the ends of the way connect correctly with and other related waterway features, including other canals, rivers, streams, lakes etc.

Just like a stream or river, ensure that the way points downhill. Although each 'pound' between locks seems perfectly flat, in reality streams will enter the canal at the uphill end and exit via weirs at the downhill end. The water is not stagnant, it is always slowly moving. Mapping the way direction in OSM, from high to low, helps to model this.

Sections with a lock should be tagged with lock=*, with nodes marked with waterway=lock_gate at each end.

Access for navigation by different vessels can be given using a variety of tags. Use boat=* to indicate that it can be used for a rowing-boat, motorboat=* for a motorboat, and canoe=* for access by canoes and kayaks. For more commercial navigation use CEMT=* in Europe and ship=* elsewhere.

Engineering features can be shown using cutting=*, embankment=*, bridge=aqueduct and tunnel=* as appropriate.

Consider adding width=* to indicate the width in metres, for example width=5.

You may also natural=water + water=canal to create an area for the canal in addition to the linear 'canal' feature along the centreline.

Use name=* and name:xx, for example name:fr=* for the name in the local language and also optionally in other languages.


Different usage=* values can be used to distinguish between transportation, water power, or irrigation.

LOADING TAG LIST... (If you do not see this tag list, you need to enable JavaScript)
This table is auto-generated. See Template:Taglist for a documentation on it.


  • Canals are drawn as blue lines on the standard Openstreetmap-Carto rendering style.
  • They are rendered in dark green on the OpenRiverBoat tiles when they are navigable.

Waterway canal.png


See also

Common Tagging Mistakes

If you know places with this tag, verify if it could be tagged with another tag.
Automated edits are strongly discouraged unless you really know what you are doing!
If you know places with this tag, verify if it could be tagged with another tag.
Automated edits are strongly discouraged unless you really know what you are doing!