Cross-Country Routes icon.

Gyeongin Ara Waterway

Bike a quick canal along Korea's Cross-Country Route.

The Ara Bicycle Path borrows its name from the Gyeongin Ara Waterway (경인 아라뱃길; a.k.a. Ara Waterway.)

Let’s take that name apart

  • “Gyeong” (경) comes from an old name for Seoul.
  • “In” (인) refers to the city of Incheon.
  • “Ara” (아라) derives from Arirang, an ancient Korean folk song.

The Ara Waterway is Korea’s first people-produced canal. Eighteen kilometers long. Eighty meters wide. Six meters deep. The canal starts at the Han River in Seoul and flows into the Yellow Sea.

King Gojong of Goryeo first explored its construction in the 13th century. However, limited technology scrapped the project. Today’s canal didn’t break ground until 2009, with its completion coming in 2012.

A birds-eye view of the Ara Bike Path in Incheon, South Korea.
 The Ara Waterway connects the Han River with the Yellow Sea and absorbs flood waters.

Purpose of the Ara Waterway

The Ara Waterway serves three purposes. It prevents flooding, provides recreational parks, and allows passage for cargo and cruise chips.

Flood Prevention

Engineers built the Ara Waterway to stop frequent flooding from the Han River and nearby streams.

Swaths of Incheon and neighboring Gimpo and Bucheon Cities lie in the Gulpo Basin, where the Gulpo Stream (굴포천) flows. This land depression rests just four meters above sea level.

That’s good, right? Well… Gulpo Stream rests six meters above sea level. And the Han River courses ten meters above. So when the skies opened, river waters breached their banks and washed over the Gulpo Basin and all its inhabitants.

The Ara Waterway drains excess flood waters from the local rivers and dumps it into the Yellow Sea.

Recreation

When constructing the canal, civil engineers installed waterside parks. While riding the Ara Waterway, you’ll see art installations, conveniently spaced bathrooms, and observation decks for park goers to enjoy.

Towards the end of the path, you’ll find the Ara Marina (김포마리나), where weekend sailors dock their leisure boats.

Cargo and Cruise Ships

The Ara Waterway also provides passage for cargo and cruise ships. The Ara West and Hangang Sea Locks sport chambers which raise and lower passing vessels to the relative water levels of the Ara Waterway, Yellow Sea, and Han River.

Cargo ship traffic has not yet picked up along the waterway. Leisure boats and sightseeing cruise ships dominate the calm canal’s waters.