Panama Canal, a ship canal across the Isthmus of Panama joining the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It runs generally southeastward from Cristobal on the Caribbean Sea (an arm of the Atlantic) to Balboa on the Pacific Ocean. The canal is operated by the Republic of Panama.

The Panama CanalThe Panama Canal created a shortcut from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.

The canal cuts across the lowest point in the continental divide, and through one of the narrowest points between the oceans. An impressive engineering feat, it was built 190414 at an initial cost of $366,650,000. Although it is only half the length of the Suez Canal, it took the same amount of time to build and cost more than three times as much. Unlike the Suez, which is at sea level for its entire length, the Panama Canal has locks to raise and lower ships. Dams hold back two artificial lakes, Gatun and Madden, that supply water for the locks.

The canal was built by the Isthmian Canal Company under the provisions of the Spooner Act, and it was opened in 1914. It was operated by the Panama Canal Commission, a joint United States-Panamanian body until 1999.