Welcome to Panama Canal
The canal has three sets of double locks: Miraflores and Pedro Miguel on the Pacific side and Gatún on the Atlantic. Between the locks, ships pass through a huge artificial lake, Lago Gatún, created by the Gatún Dam across the Río Chagres, and the Culebra Cut, a 14km cut through the rock and shale of the isthmian mountains. With the passage of each ship, a staggering 197 million L of fresh water is released into the ocean.
The canal annually brings in US$2 billion in revenue. Ships pay according to their weight. The highest toll currently paid by the largest ships reaches US$450,000; the lowest amount was US$0.36, paid in 1928 by Richard Halliburton, who swam through.
A planned expansion that's surpassed the US$17 billion mark is due to open mid-2016.