A lock is a device for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways. The distinguishing feature of a lock is a fixed chamber in which the water level can be varied; whereas in a caisson lock, a boat lift, or on a canal inclined plane, it is the chamber itself (usually then called a caisson) that rises and falls.
Locks are used to make a river more easily navigable, or to allow a canal to take a reasonably direct line across land that is not level. (Wikipedia)
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