The Frisian Peat Course

On the track of peat bosses, peat cutters and -skippers

Turfroute Copyright Friesland Holland
 Frisian Peat Course (Click here to download the map)

 The Frisian Peat Course is throughout the world a unique historical course. It’s an extensive system of canals with sluices and bridges in the southeast of the province of Friesland (Netherlands), excavated between 1630 and 1830 for the transport of peat. Peat, dried bog, represented until 1900, when coal was coming on, an important fuel in The Netherlands.

The so-called associates, the cooperating peat bosses, handled the extraction of peat in the vast Frisian low and high moor all around Heerenveen, Gorredijk and Appelscha. The most important – and also most widely known – waterway they excavated is the Opsterlandse Compagnonsvaart (Opsterlandse Associates Course): from Gorredijk up to Appelscha at the Drenthe border, 34 km. Also the partly canalised river Tjonger, flowing from Oosterwolde in westerly direction to Schoterzijl and Kuinre to the former Zuiderzee, constituted and constitutes a part of the Peat Couse. Subsequently smaller unlocking channels were developed, Dutch “wijken” (make ways), Frisian “wiken”.

Sailing and cycling
Thanks to the Foundation De Nije Kompanjons of Friesland, cruisers can follow the ancient track of the peat skippers on waterways, wijken and small rivers, all the way up to Drenthe and Overijssel. If you want to lose yourself in the turbulent and contrasty past, the world of moor and peat, you are welcome in the peat museums of Nij Beets, Gorredijk or Heerenveen. Golden hint: Take your bicycles on board or rent them in one of the villages along the course. Every meaningful place of interest is within cycling or walking distance from the course.

Welcome to East Friesland!

Important information for navigation on the Frisian Peat Course

Turfroute Copyright Friesland Holland

Frisian Peat Course (Click to download the map)

Dimensions of the boat
For sailing the Frisian Peat Course, some restrictions apply with regard of the pleasure craft.
Maximum dimensions
Length: 28 meters
Width: 5 meters
Maximum draught: 1,10 meters (New: 1,30 meters on the route Oosterwolde-Smilde)
Max. vertical clearance:
3,25 m, 3,70 m, 4 m
(see below “Trajectories and vertical clearances”)
The permitted maximum cruising speed is 6 km/h.
Opening hours course
16 May to 15 September 2017.
Free operating and self-operating
The bridges and locks of the Frisian Peat Course are operated free, except for a number of swing bridges. These should be self-opened and closed.
Operating times
Monday to Saturday from 09.30-16.30 hours. Closed on Sundays and holidays.
During July and August also on Sundays.

Turfroute Copyright Friesland Holland

Legend of the map Frisian Peat Course (Click to download the legend)

The entrance to the Torf route is free. At some places a dockage fee is due to be paid, like in the marina “De Uutwiek” in Oldeberkoop. In Appel­scha and Donkerbroek, a small fee has to be paid for the use of the sanitarian facilities there, as well as for the electric connections.
Route map
On page 20-21 in this magazine you will find a map showing the route on which all locks and bridges are indicated.
Tracks and vertical clearances
1. Opsterlandse Compagnonsvaart
From Gorredijk through Donkerbroek to Sluis III (at the Tsjonger) is 20 km with 4 locks, 22 movable bridges and 1 fixed bridge (max. height 4 m)
2. Sluis III-Smilde (Drenthe)
From Sluis III through Appelscha to the Drentse Hoofdvaart at Smilde is 14 km with 5 locks. 12 movable bridges and 1 fixed bridge (max. 3.70 m)
3. Tjongerkanaal Heerenveen-Mildam-Sluis III
From Mildam to the Opsterlandse Compagnonsvaart at Sluis III is 20 km with 3 locks, 3 movable and 4 fixed bridges (max. height 3.70 m)
Caution! The railway bridge at Heerenveen is 3,25 m high.
Please make sure that other people will not be inconvenienced by your pet(s). Keep dogs on a leash at mooring places and harbours and clear out droppings immediately.
Visitors to the Peat Course are searching for peace. Please prevent other people experiencing your sound system or other audio sources.
Complaints, tips
If you have any questions, comments or complaints about the operation of locks and bridges or on the navigability of the channels, please inform the lockkeeper or the harbour master of a marina.
You can also send a message to ­This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call the Province of Fryslân,
tel. +31 (0)58-292 86 66.

Detailed information about the Peat Course and the region can be found on the websites:

Peat Course deserves  place on World Heritage List

Foundation “De Nije Kompanjons”
In 1974 there were voices in Gorredijk to fill up the Opsterlandse Compagnonsvaart, leading straight across the village, and to dig a drainage canal around the village. The waterway had to give way to  parking facilities. Fortunately, father Leo van Ulden, representing the local catholic church, initiated the preventing of such. He feared destruction of identity, destroying of cultural historical heritage. The Foundation De Nije Kompanjons had been established.

From the year of establishment, 1974, the foundation made every effort to keep open the water ways and to increase the embankment facilities constantly. Several times they threated to close down the course; even some time back. The foundation managed to prevent this.

The Friese Turfroute which is very worth seeing, nowadays represents a section of a much bigger net of waterways  in Friesland, Drenthe and Overijssel. Those waterways were also excavated ages ago for the transport of peat by vessels. The Peat Course deserves, considered closer, the status of world heritage and an entry in the UNESCO list of culture and national history. Actually it’s a miracle that the Peat Course has been saved from doom.