The first known attempt to create a navigable connection between the North Sea and Black Sea was more than 1200 years ago. In the year 793 a first canal was dug near Treuchtlingen on behalf of Charlemagne (Charles the Great). This canal, today known as Charles' Ditch or Fossa Carolina, ran between Frankish Rezat and Altmühl river over the European watershed. Because of bad weather and unfavourable soil conditions this canal was probably never finished. But some historians however assume, that the Charles' Ditch nevertheless was usable. Since locks were not known at that time, the difference in altitude was overcome by strung together ponds. The boats were transported from pond to pond simply over chutes and rollers.
During the following centuries again and again plans were made to get this connection usable. However only in 1825 began the finally successful attempt with the Ludwig-Danube-Main Canal as the result. Ludwig I., King of Bavaria assigned Baron Henry von Pechmann with the planning of the canal. Pechmann himself was engaged in the project already since 1818. In 1836 the canal construction began and it was completed within 10 years. A 172 km long canal between Kelheim and Bamberg was built. To overcome the differences in altitude from Kelheim (338 m over sea level) over the Voralb (summit at about 417 m) to Bamberg (230 m over sea level) exactly 100 locks were built.
Already 4 years after completion, the canal reached its highest handling of goods. But since 1860 however the railway network in Bavaria was completed so far, that the canal could not longer withstand its competition. The volume of cargo decreased steadily and the canal became economically insignificant.
In 1945 the canal suffered heavy damage by bomb hits and was officially shut down as a waterway in 1950. Starting 1955 the length between Nuremberg and Bamberg was nearly completely destroyed by the building the motorway A73 (the Frankenschnellweg). After 1980 further sections between Kelheim and Berching fell victim to the Main-Danube Canal, also called Europe Canal.