A canal boat cruise on the Dalsland Canal is a unique holiday experience where you can feel the sense of history, and a perfect day out from Bengtsfors when you want to abandon the saddle and Unionsleden for a day. Or you could bring your bikes on the boat and head to Baldersnäs manor house.
A step back in time at the lock
The over 120-year old canal boat, the M/S Storholmen, casts off from the harbour in Bengtsfors and plies its way across the glittering waters of Lake Bengtsbrohöljen. The boat glides into the picturesque and lush Höljerud locks in the south of the lake that leads into Lake Laxsjön.
The lock gates are closed behind us, the water gushes out and the boat ever so slowly floats downwards. It then glides slowly through the narrow lock channel, where leafy tree branches hang over the boat and almost tickle our necks, as we head towards the next lock. The passengers onboard flock up on deck to take photographs as the M/S Storholmen glides past a picturesque lock keeper’s cottage. The Dalsland Canal was built between 1864–1868 to transport iron ore and steel to and from the many ironworks in the region. As you travel through the locks 150 years later, it feels as though you are stepping back in time.
“The Höljerud Locks are one of my favourite places on the trip. It is now a nature reserve and absolutely beautiful. And naturally, it is special when we approach the end of the canal cruise at the aqueduct in Håverud. Big crowds always gather there to watch us cross the aqueduct. It feels almost as though these spectators lift the boats over the locks,” says Annika Holmedahl.
Family business with the Canal in their blood
Annika Holmedahl and her husband Sture have run Dalslands Kanaltrafik since 2008. Their two canal boats, the beautiful turn of the century M/S Storholmen and the more recent M/S Dalslandia, ply the five-hour Bengtsfors-Håverud route and vice-versa, virtually every day in the summer season. Sture is the skipper of the M/S Storholmen and canal life is in his blood. His father was one of the last of the freight boat skippers before this traffic disappeared in the mid 1960s. Annika is responsible for the restaurant onboard, while their son and his partner Kitty do likewise on the M/S Dalslandia. A true family business in other words.
“It is a way of life, and I think our passengers sense this. Sture’s dad worked on boats along the Dalsland Canal and Sture knows this boat as well as his own family. We are proud of Dalsland and our waterways that are truly world class,” says Annika.
Rest along the canal
For cyclists along Unionsleden who want to rest their weary behind for a day or complete their bike adventure with something special, a canal boat cruise is a perfect day outing from Bengtsfors. Most passengers chose the Big Canal Trip, a five-hour voyage that passes through 16 locks (of the 31 in total on the canal) on the way to Håverud. The simplest way to return is by train. Departures by railbus on Dal Västra Värmland Järnväg, that only operates tourist services in summer, are timed to coincide with canal boat passengers. During the cruise, you have time to be fascinated by the locks in peace and quiet, the views of the verdant Dalsland landscape from the water, wave to passing leisure boats and canoes, and enjoy a delicious lunch in the restaurant below deck.
“It feels great to be able to serve locally produced food onboard. We offer hot smoked Håverud salmon and the beer comes from a small microbrewery in Torrskog, just north of Bengtsfors,” Annika explains.
The two canal boats can also take a limited number of bikes onboard (max four, they are stowed on the roof and must be pre-booked). This offers the opportunity for a perfect family outing combining boat and bikes. You take the boat to Långbron or Baldersnäs and then cycle to the wonderful estate grounds where you can enjoy a coffee or eat your picnic lunch on the grass. You then have a 17 km cycle ride back to Bengtsfors via Billingsfors on the west side of Lake Laxsjön, the route is mostly car free gravel roads, and right by the lakes where just a few hours earlier you had cruised through. You may even glimpse one of the canal boats you can wave to.