At the Carrapatelo Dam is the highest lifting lock on the Douro. It lifts the vessels a full 35m. It took 7 years to build and is almost 100m in length.

This is what you see as you enter.

In the Carrapatelo lock

Look how narrow it is. The crew are all along the side helping the helmsman steer a straight course. We were not allowed to move in front of the wheelhouse. Note the fingers extending upwards. Inside there are some dramatic cascades as the water flushes down. This is a selection of ‘lock shots’.

Carrapatelo Lock


The Lock

The Lock Opens

The Lock


A lock on the Douro River

A lock on the Douro River

It is a strange experience being confined like this. Gradually you start to rise with the boat and suddenly the sunlight drapes itself over you. You look back and realise the enormous feat of engineering that has made this river navigable so far.

Carrapatelo Dam elevation

Carrapatelo Dam elevation

Beyond Carrapatelo

We are flanked by groves of Olive trees, vineyards and sometimes plantations for the oak bark that provide us with our corks. The energy of the lock subsides and the afternoon slumber sets in. Hot, arid landscapes, where there is little to do but play games with the reflections in the water, muse about your fellow travellers and wonder, what the next bend in the Douro brings. I retired to our cabin and sat out on our private mini balcony. Mrs. Ha doubtless took a nap. All was well with the world. Not a tourist guide in sight. Luxury.


22 thoughts on “Carrapatelo

  1. What a fabulous experience! Sounds very peaceful and relaxing, esp with no tour guide. I hope my husband and I have the opportunity to experience boating through this dam/lock system. Magnificent images/blog, Andrew!

  2. Love the headline photo; for a mini-second I thought it was threads on a loom. In my childhood our family canoed down big rivers such as the Loire and the Danube (and smaller ones). I loved that sense of calm, mixed with events such as bridges, bends, wildlife, always something new, but plenty of space, and very little noise, around.

    • Calm??? I canoed on the Loire once. First and last time. The wind whipped up and I nearly drowned. Shank’s pony is much safer 🙂

      • We were in folding canoes built by my father; my mother (5′ 2″), my 18 years old brother, then me, 11, and two bothers 9 and 7. One of the three adults hopped with the car and the rest of us canoed in one double and two or three singles. There were a few hairy moments (actually barges on the Elbe were the scariest), but mostly good, clean fun.

  3. How wonderful, what a fabulous experience. I do envy you. Boats and rivers, a perfect combination. Did you ever see the Rick Stein series where he went on a barge on the Canal du Midi, from Bordeaux all the way to the Mediterranean? So many locks and aquaducts – it made compelling viewing, not least the wide-eyed wonder at the impressive engineering involved to get boats from A-B. Oh, and talking of boats and rivers, my boy was rowing at Henley today!….and they won! YAY 😀

    • Wow! Congrats Theo. Well done that man. I have not seen the Rick Stein series, Lottie. But boats and rivers, well its Ratty & Mole again, I guess. Bags I be Ratty 🙂

  4. As you said the water on the lock looks like a hand, the first thing I thought was that it was a hand pulling the water level up. Looks like quite an interesting experience.

      • I sometimes wish when traveling my wife had a camcorder to film everything while I am taking pictures, so I can have my cake (being there) and eat it (photographing it).

  5. Wow oh wow! That is a impressive behemoth modern day technological feat. At the same time it looks frightening and no amount of money could have coaxed to me to get on a boat to go through those lock/s.

    Your photos are impressive as well but I’ll settle for the placid waters of the river as you and Ms. Ha drifted past olive groves.

    • Yvonne, I don’t think you would be bothered by it. You don’t realise how big the lift is to be honest as the movement is quite slow.

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