The impressive Gatún Locks, 10km south of Colón, raise southbound ships 30m from Caribbean waters to Lago Gatún. Just the size of them is mind-boggling: three sets of double lock chambers stretch on for 3km. Each chamber could have accommodated the Titanic with room to spare. With the opening of the Agua Clara Visitors Center, the viewing stand opposite the control tower has unfortunately now been closed.
Workers poured a record-setting 1.82 million cu meters of concrete to construct the Gatún Locks. The concrete was brought from a giant mixing plant to the construction site by railroad cars that ran on a circular track. Huge buckets maneuvered by cranes carried the wet concrete from the railroad cars and poured it into enormous steel forms. Locomotives moved the forms into place. This protracted process continued virtually uninterrupted for four years until the locks were completed.
Once the ships pass through the locks, they travel 37km to the Pedro Miguel Locks, which lower southbound ships 9.3m to Lago Miraflores, a small body of water between two sets of Pacific locks. Ships are then lowered to sea level at the Miraflores Locks.