Canal lateral a la Loire (Route Bourbonnais) : Cruising in Detail

Information about the 196km Canal lateral a la Loire (completed 1838) from Briare to Digoin. The canal is relatively level, with 38 locks (ecluses) along its length.

See also general notes (foot of page).

Basic Information

  • Approximate minimum depth 1.80m, headroom 3.5m, width 5m. These are the ‘book’ values and may vary according to conditions. Navigating the canal should not present insurmountable difficulties to normal pleasure craft and the Bourbonnais (Seine-Loing-Briare-Loire-Centre canals) it is one of the recommended routes from the Channel to the Mediterranean. It is usually reliably and well supplied with water. This may alter during and after long hot summers – the route is then not as dependable as the eastern (Champagne) route.
  • Speed limit 8kph. Reckon on 3-4kph overall for a day’s travel including ecluses, or count ecluses and times by half-an-hour each.
  • Some locks fill right ‘to the brim’ and beyond and this means you must have protection down at the waterline and into the water. Fenders must ‘paddle’ and/or use fender boards to keep from floating up and/or use tyres. See Protection.
  • Check your engine cooling water filter frequently – weed, leaves and boué in the water and on the bed can get stirred up as you pass and especially as you go up or down in the lock. See Clogged.
  • VNF sub-division contact telephone numbers: 02 38 31 26 20 (Briare), 03 86 77 39 40 (Decize).
  • Using a pilot-guide book is strongly recommended: Breil Guides or Fluviacarte (Navicarte) Guides.

PK199 Briare Aqueduct (1896)

A great feature of the French Waterways, the aqueduct was designed by the canal engineer Abel Mazoyer and the fourteen masonry supports were constructed by the Eiffel company. The paired obelisks at each end reflect the same feature on the Pont Alexandre on the Seine in Paris and the aqueduct is lit by a chain of Art Nouveau style lamp standards. It followed the introduction of the nationwide Freycinet gauge for canal peniches and replaced a crossing over the River Loire that was susceptible to flooding, currents and droughts. Until recently it was the longest canal aqueduct in the world. The short by-passed canal sections on either side of the river are still navigable, however there are significant draft and headroom restrictions, particularly on the southern/western branch. For details of the ports de plaisance at Briare, see Canal de Briare page.

PK192 Chatillon-sur-Loire

PdP 02 38 31 08 37 – water, electricity and services

PK184 Beaulieu

Halte – water and electricity 02 38 35 80 48

PK179 Belleville sur Loire

PdP 02 48 78 20 50 water, electr and services. -Belleville is an especially good stop.  Access to free water and electricity is by means of connector/adapter obtainable from the Tourist Office, which also has wi-fi and is immediately adjacent to excellent, tree-shaded moorings lying below the lock. The key to immaculately maintained services, including hot shower, is held by the eclusier.  There is a supermarket within 200/300 metres, with diesel pump. – [info: David Geeves]

PK175 Lere

Halte – (free) water and electricity 02 48 72 54 32 – a good small silo mooring. Tourist Office (this usually means WiFi and/or internet connection available)


A very pleasant canal section.

PK159 St Thibault – Saint-Satur

PdP – water and electricity 02 48 54 14 17. Moorings in a side branch down to the River Loire

PK157 Menetreol-sous-Sancerre

Halte – water, electricity and services
PK152 St Bouize – Halte (bankside)
PK149 Champalay
– Halte (bankside)

PK143 Herry

Halte 02 48 79 54 24 – water only, quiet

PK137 La Chapelle-Montlinard

Former boatyard with dry dock – but may have closed. Halte 02 48 79 54 40 water+electricity. Reports are not positive. Possible excursion to La Charité-sur-Loire with a Cluniac monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the pilgrim’s route to Santiago de Compestela in northern Spain.

PK129 Beffes – pleasant bankside mooring.

PK126 Marseilles-les-Aubigny

PdP 02 48 76 44 99 – water, electricity and services in a large quiet basin. Quayside mooring and pontoons. Nigel Orr (www.canaux.info) has now moved from PK122 “Waterman’s” to 5 Quai Auguste Mahaut at Marseilles-les-Aubigny [02 48 76 16 07] but his hospitable invitation to visiting boaters still applies in the new location.

Near PK125 Canal de Berry

Constructed in 1840 and at its height 141km long, because of water limitations the canal and its ecluses were made narrow-gauge (on the British model) and was then never upgraded to the Freycinet standard. It closed in 1954 but sections have been restored.

[PK122 “Waterman’s”– see above]

PK120 Cours-les-Barres

Halte 02 48 76 49 86 (free) water and electricity

Near PK109 – Ecluse des Lorraines

This noteworthy but now disused circular lock enabled peniches coming from the Loire canal (via the side branch seen ‘head on’ in the above photograph) having entered the ecluse, to be lowered to river level, rotated so as to exit onto the river and do so at two alternative points, above or below a barrage. Or vice-versa.

PK110 Le Guetin pont canal

PK103 Plagny

Halte. Water may require a non-standard fitting.

PK101 Nevers

PdP 03 86 37 54 79 or 06 74 54 81 77 – Along a 3km side branch (formerly led down to the river). Good moorings and possible over-wintering. – Nevers itself lies on the other side of the Loire – within walking distance of the PdP and there is also an excellent bus service from Plagny, on the canal,  which is just as quick. Tourist Office (this usually means WiFi and/or internet connection available) – [info: David Geeves]

PK81 Fleury-sur-Loire

Halte – quai, water and electricity

PK68 Decize (Saint-Maurice)

Good new PdP (water, electricity, etc.) 03 73 15 00 00 in a basin off the canal, through lock. Intermarche supermarket close-by with fuel.

Water also at the lock.



River Loire Passage – Canal du Nivernais

Through a second lock onto the Loire and along/across the Loire to the Canal du Nivernais

PK52 Gannay

Halte 04 70 43 48 11- water, electricity, services, in a little bassin.

PK40 Garnat-sur-Engievre

Halte 04 70 42 73 26

PK38 Beaulon

PdP 06 77 13 47 76 – (free) water, electricity, services.

PK29 Dompierre-sur-Besbre

PdP with water, electricity and services, managed by the Locaboat hire base 04 70 48 27 27 and reached along a spur canal

PK26 Diou

Halte, water only

PK19 Pierrefitte-sur-Loire

Halte, water only

PK15 Coulanges

(photo: www.letabatha.net)

PK8 Molinet

Halte, possibly not electricity. Pont canal

PK6 Junction of the Canal de Roanne a Digoin

56km and with 10 locks – a good PdP at the end (incl. for overwintering). This canal, known as the “tranquil canal”, has suffered serious breaches twice during the last two or three years leading to prolonged summer closures and great inconvenience to boaters with long contract moorings at Roanne (many of whom come over for the summer from USA, Canada, and Australia). (Thanks to David Geeves for this information)

Some reports that the Loire canal is shallow in this vicinity.

PK0 Digoin

See Canal du Centre page.