From Leeds to the Summit
Leeds - the start of the canal in the east. Here the locks to the River Aire are at the redeveloped Granary Wharf. From Leeds the route to Liverpool climbs to a height of 488 feet (148.7 metres) above sea level and extends for 127 miles - through open countryside and industrial heritage - providing a coast to coast connection between Lancashire and Yorkshire.
After a series of locks the canal enters the Armley Pool, at a height of around 122 feet (37.2 metres). This runs for 2 miles or so before the next climb starting at Kirkstall Lock. Apperley Bridge Pool follows (178 feet, 54.2 metres) and runs for around 4 miles before another series of locks lead up to the Shipley Pool at 226 feet (68.9 metres) . In this section was the former Bradford Canal branch.
Past Saltaire there are two locks up to the short Bingley section before the total of 8 rises to the Skipton Pool and a clear run of about 17 miles. At Skipton the short Springs Branch goes towards the castle. The cut is now at a height of 345 feet (105.2 metres) above sea-level and some 98 miles from Liverpool.
A series of locks over 2 to 3 miles take the canal through Gargrave and on up to the Marton Pool (458 feet, 139.6 metres). This runs for around 5 miles before the 3 rises to the Summit Pool. This runs for about 6 miles and includes the 1,600 yard (1,463 metres) Foulridge Tunnel.
From the Summit to Liverpool
About 47 miles from Leeds the descent to the sea starts with the Barrowford Locks, followed by the 24 miles of the Burnley Pool (418 feet, 127.4 metres) - passing through Nelson, across the Burnley Embankment, through Gannow Tunnel and on to Hapton, and then Church before reaching Blackburn Locks.
The next section, Riley Green Pool (364 feet, 110.9 metres), runs for over 7 miles before the descent through Johnson's Hill Locks at Wheelton to the junction with the Walton Summit Branch and the 10 mile run past Chorley to Heath Charnock and on to Aspull.
The descent to Wigan involves a drop of over 200 feet (61.0 metres) and near the end meets the Leigh Branch with its link to the Bridgewater Canal. Over the next 5 or 6 miles there are a number of locks before reaching Appley and the start of the Liverpool Pool (54 feet (16.5 metres) above sea level and around 29 miles in length). This section passes through the canal town of Burscough at the junction with the Rufford Branch. This is a 7 mile canal running to Tarleton Lock and its link to the River Douglas.
The final 24 miles run through Pinfold, Halsall, Haskayne, Lydiate, Maghull, Melling, Aintree and Bootle before reaching the Stanley Dock Branch and the western terminus in Liverpool.
Traversing the Pennines as it does, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal is one of the most challenging canals on the British waterway system. Reaching 488 feet (148.7 metres) above sea level at its highest point, achieved using a system of 91 locks, it is an extremely demanding canal in terms of water supply.
Before the Canal was fully opened end to end, it was supplied by the River Douglas at the Liverpool end, and the Eshton Brook at the Leeds end (with water being drawn from the East Beck for the spur into Bradford). Subsequently four reservoirs were opened, at Rishton, Foulridge, Barrowford and Winterburn.
All are naturally fed by rainwater from their respective catchment areas, making the Canal highly susceptible to the extreme variations in rainfall that have characterised recent years.
The only pumping of water that has taken place on the Canal was the short period, from 1872 to 1922, when the terminus of the Bradford Canal was relocated and water was supplied mechanically from Shipley.
The most popular printed guides are the Nicholson Waterways Guide 5 North West & the Pennines and the Pearson Leeds & Liverpool Canal Companion
Information on all aspects of the canal is available on line on the Canal & River Trust website