As early as the 1620s Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden diverted the River Don to drain land at Hatfield, and leading the Don into the River Ouse at Goole.
Navigation improvements, such as the Stainforth and Keadby Canal which links to the River Trent, were especially important for the coal industry using large barges to transport their cargo.
Nowadays it is a place to escape city life, enjoy a barging holiday or spot of fishing. We have dug out some great pictures from the archive showing the people who give the canals its character.
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1. An oar for everyone
Doncaster sea cadets regatta. The Doncaster sea cadets who beat Thorne sea cadets in the 12-18 year old category. The teams raced from the lock on the Doncaster canal to the sea cadets HQ as part of their annual regatta back in 1999
Photo: Andrew Partridge
2. Taking the wheel
In 1999 Doncaster Central MP Rosie Winterton in the wheel house of the South Yorkshire Navigation Canal with British Waterways Mallard skipper Pete Stubbs.
Photo: Steve Taylor
3. Cash boost
In 2000 Doncaster Town Moor Golf Club presented £1,400 to Conisbrough Social Education centre, to put towards the re-fit of its canal boat Andromeda. Our picture shows Neil Cooper (front), with Jim Pickersgill (back, left), Chairman of the Conisbrough SEC Boat Support Group, receiving the cheque from Lol Sanderson (back, right), president of the Golf Club and the rest of the presentation party. The boat is moored at the Blue Water Marina, Thorne.
Photo: Steve Taylor (staff)
4. Life saver
In 2004 Fullerton House School support worker Dave Jackson jumped into the canal at Sprotbrough to save a pupil from drowning.
Photo: Steve Taylor