Canal Cruises in France
Canals in France were the primary means of shipping bulk goods across France during the Industrial Revolution about 200 years ago. Canal Cruises are very popular in France and allow vistors to take their time and see the country at a slower pace than they might ordinarily. There can be locks every mile (1.5 km) or so that allow boats to ascend hills to cross over to higher terrain. These locks are operated either by an attendant, automatically, or must be opened and closed by the boat operator manually. There are several companies that cater to tourists and residents alike.
Canal du MidiThe Canal du Midi runs 149 miles (240 km) from the city of Toulouse to Sète on the Mediterranean. It was completed in 1681 and was built under the reign of King Louis the XIVth, being supervised by the engineer and salt tax collector Pierre-Paul de Riquet over a fourteen-year period. It tranquilly winds its way through plane trees, vineyards, and relaxed villages. Originally, the canal helped trade to and from the Languedoc region and provided a vital link, via the Garonne river, between the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean sea. There is a complex system of locks, aqueducts, and bridges that compensate for differences in depth and regulate holiday vessels from one area to another. Many of the original houses for the lock-keepers are still present, but many of the 103 locks are operated automatically now. It was classed as a wonder of the world by UNESCO in 1996.
Total number of locks : 124
Total navigable distance : 496 km (308 miles)
Canal de BourgogneThe Burgundy Canal was built in 1775 and completed in 1832. It connects to two rivers: the Yonne to the northwest at the town of Migennes and the Saône river to the southeast at Saint-Jean-de-Losne. Via the two rivers, the canal connects to the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Other canals in the Bourgogne region include the Nivernais (see below), Central, Marne-Saône, Canal latéral à la Loire, Roanne-Digoin, Briare, and the Loing canals.
Total number of locks : 189
Total navigable distance : 242 km (150 miles)
Canal du CentreThe Canal du Centre, formerly the Canal du Charollais, runs from Digoin, where it joins the Canal latéral à la Loire, to the River Saône in Chalon-sur-Saône. It was opened in 1792 and made it possible for boat traffic to pass from the north of France to the south.
Total number of locks : 61
Total navigable distance : 112 km (70 miles)
Canal du NivernaisThe Canal du Nivernais was begun in 1784 and starts on the river Yonne near Auxerre then follows the Yonne. It crosses the country side in a north-south direction joining the Seine river to the Loire river and ends up in the town of Saint-Léger-des-Vignes.
Total number of locks : 110
Total navigable distance : 180 km (110 miles)
Canal de Roanne à DigionOpened in 1838, with the locks resized in 1905, there used to be much commercial traffic on the canal which dwindled in the 1970s. It connects the Canal latéral à la Loire and Canal du Centre at Digoin to Roanne.
Total number of locks : 10
Total navigable distance : 56 km (35 miles)