Panama Canal, artificial waterway crossing the Isthmus of Panama, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The canal is 51 mi (82 km) long; traverses 2 natural lakes, one of which is 85 ft (26 m) above sea level; and has 6 locks. It was built by U.S. military engineers in 1904–14, after U.S. troops helped Panama secede from Colombia. The United States was granted rights in perpetuity to a zone 10 mi (16 km) wide across the isthmus. After World War II there was U.S.-Panamanian friction over canal sovereignty, and in 1977 U.S. and Panamanian representatives signed a new treaty ceding administration of the canal to Panama in 1979 and full control in 1999, with guarantees of its neutral operation.
See also: Clayton-Bulwer Treaty; Hay-Pauncefote Treaties.
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