A Canal at the Coast
For the Portuguese and Dutch colonial rulers, Negombo was an ideal collection point and export harbor for cinnamon. Inland, and parallel to the coast, they built a canal from Kelani Ganga to the lagoon in Negombo (called the Hamilton Canal, or Dutch Canal) and then continued it northwards to the lagoon at Puttalam. This 100-kilometer waterway not only provided access to the cinnamon gardens, but also meant that shipping was not affected by the weather during the southwest monsoon period, which normally jeopardized coastal shipping. Today, the canals are hardly used any longer for inland shipping; it’s mainly tourist boats which from time to time venture into their calm waters to drift by the coconut groves, lush private gardens, marshlands and small towns.