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Barging in France: Canal du Centre

Part 1: An Overview of Canal du Centre

The Canal du Centre is a French canal located in Southern Burgundy between the Saône and the Loire. This narrow, winding canal is a picturesque route of approximately 73 miles (112km) and has 61 locks. The Canal du Centre constituted the final link in the first inland-waterway route between the English Channel and the Mediterranean Sea.

map canal du centre
Cruise the beautiful Canal du Centre aboard French Hotel Barge Finesse

Originally known as the Canal du Charollais, it runs from Digoin, where it joins the Canal Latéral à la Loire, to the River Saône in Chalon-sur-Saône and marks the boundary between the Côte d'Or and the Saône-et-Loire. This canal constituted the first watershed canal allowing boats to pass from the north of France to the south.

map canal du centre
The Canal du Centre

The Canal du Centre was first suggested during the 16th century during the reign of King Francis I and a detailed plan was prepared by Adam de Craponne during the reign of Henry II. The Chief Engineer of Burgundy, Émiland Gauthey, selected the route which joined the valleys of the Loire and Saône that provided adequate water supplies at the summit. Work commenced with the first stone being laid in 1784 by Prince de Condé. Despite two major events, the catastrophic flooding of the Loire in 1790 and the French Revolution, the canal was completed and opened for navigation in 1792.

Originally the canal climbed approximately 255 feet (77.64 meters) from the Loire to the summit and dropped about 430 feet (131 meters) to the Saône, through a total of 80 locks. The locks were enlarged from 1880 to 1900 when they were all rebuilt to the Freycinet gauge causing the number of locks to be reduced. During the 1950s, the portion of the canal in the center of Chalon was replaced by a new cut upstream of the town with a single 35-foot (10.76 meters) deep lock which replaced three locks.

Learn more about the Canal du Centre:

French Hotel Barges Cruising the Canal du Centre


Hotel Barge FINESSE - Barging in France -

Southern Burgundy: River Saône and Canal du Centre
Up to 8 guests
Charters and Cabin cruises
Themed Cruises:
Bike, Family, Golf, Wine

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