Today the old Bargeman’s Path – the Towpath – along Gudenåen is a hiking path. The towpath is a total of 80 km long, and it runs from Silkeborg to Randers. The barge service on Gudenåen probably started already in the 1400s, but it culminated in the last half of the 1800s, when up to 200 barges carried goods between Silkeborg and Randers.
For many hundred years Gudenåen was the most important means of transportation from Randers to central Jutland. The transportation took place by means of flat-bottomed barges, the so-called “kåge”. The barges were loaded with up to 25 tons of paper, bricks, peats, lime, rope, etc.
Against the current on the way into Jutland the barges were drawn by hired men – the bargemen – or horses, which went along the bank. The bargemen drew the barges by means of ropes over the shoulder. With the current the water and the wind helped the transportation. To control the barge and add extra speed the bargemen used long stays. The use of the barges grew heavily in the mid-1800s. But in the end of the century the barges were overtaken by the development of the railway.
From Randers the bargemen went along the bank against the current to Bjerringbro. Here horses took over because of the strong current. The barge service along Gudenåen declined, when the railway came to Silkeborg in 1871. However, the barge service continued until approx. 1920, when the new power station, Tangeværket, became too large an impediment with its damming of the river. Today it is especially tourist sailing with canoes which creates the traffic on the river.
The path follows, by and large, the towpath used by bargemen and horses in the old days to draw the barges with goods from the harbour in Randers to Silkeborg. The path goes through a varied landscape with forests and fields with grazing animals. The old towpath is secured by nature preservation, and the whole stretch is open for pedestrians. In many places the path is close to the water, and consequently some stretches may be closed owing to flooding in the course of the year.
The towpath is a nature/trampling path. In many places the path is close to the river, and in some periods some of the stretches may be closed owing to flooding. As the path often goes through cultivated fields, changes on the path may often take place for instance owing to stops of grazing so that the grass will be very high. Dogs are not allowed on the path.