River Marne : Cruising in Detail

Information about the 178km of navigable and canalised river from Paris (Charenton) to Epernay. There are 18 locks.

The river is generally lush, wide and gentle flowing; the scenery is leafy even as it approaches Paris. Its character does alter at Meaux where the Canal de Challifert that by-passes the river marks a division between the obviously man-made and Parisian; and the predominately rural. The river carries commercial traffic and is also a significant leisure water sports resource for eastern Paris, particularly at weekends. Whilst upstream of La Ferte you may see very few other boats for hours at a time, downstream towards Paris this increases in both size and quantity and you will encounter a fair number of peniches and push-tows between Paris and Meaux. Places to fuel immediately alongside the river are few, but there are service stations within easy walk. There are plentiful places to moor, from the simple to the well-resourced. The upper reaches, above Meaux, feature many fallen trees and branches – on the banks and in the river itself. One can see some branches floating on the surfaces; there are also waterlogged ones just below. Keeping a good look-out is a good idea.

See also general notes (foot of page).

Basic Information

  • Approximate minimum depth 1.80m, headroom 4.30m, width 7.4m. These are the ‘book’ values and may vary according to conditions. Navigating the river should not present any difficulties to normal pleasure craft and it is one of the recommended routes from the Channel to the Mediterranean. It is usually reliably and well supplied with water.
  • Opening hours during the season vary but are predominately 08:00 to 12:30 then 13:30 to 18:00. Two ecluses near La Ferte (Courtaron #9 and Mery #8) shut at 17:00. Between Mery and Epernay the locks are automatic (you will be give a remote control) and don’t close at lunch-time. The ecluses in the 20km nearest Paris are very large, but not especially deep.
  • Non-automatic locks are not a problem if you don’t have or choose to use, VHF (not in our experience, anyway) but you can communicate with the lock-keepers using VHF. Channels have recently (2010) changed and are now: St Maurice Ch. 20 – St. Maur Ch. 20 – Neuilly Ch. 22 – Vaires to Méry: Ch. 69
  • Using a pilot-guide book is strongly recommended: Breil Guides or Fluviacarte (Navicarte) Guides.

East Paris – La Marne – PK178 Charenton

Eastwards beyond the Paris Arsenal port de plaisance one encounters a wide river busy with commercial traffic, the Bibliotheque Mitterand and then, at Charenton (after 5km) the divergence between the Seine and the Marne and then fairly soon after, a shallow (1.5m rise/fall) ecluse, Saint-Maurice. This is PK177 of the Marne, PK0 being at Vitry-le-Francois.

Then after 3km the shortcut branch Tunnel de Saint-Maur, preceeded by an ecluse. Traffic through the short (less than 1km) tunnel is controlled by lights – don’t come out of the ecluse full of anticipation for the tunnel and forget to see them! And make sure your navigation lights are operational.

PK173 Joinville-le-Pont

Opposite the tunnel exit (heading east), Joinville port de plaisance small but with good facilities and positive reports and an easy metro ride into Paris.

PK171 Nogent-sur-Marne

Nogent sur Marne, port de plaisance

This is a useful stopping place, about 12km from the Arsenal and central Paris. The Port de Nogent has good facilities, although getting to Nogent town itself involves a steep uphill walk. Capitainerie +33 148 71 41 65 / 05 or +33 607 62 94 01 (closed 12:00 to 14:00).

PK165-PK156 Neuilly / Canal de Chelles

Canal de Chelles

At PK165 Neuilly-sur-Marne there is a congested PdP, to one side of the (deep) ecluse, on the river branch. We have tried berthing there and found it to be shallow and subject to a strong downstream current passing through the pontoons, which are themselves difficult. Having tried, we didn’t like the experience and then had problems getting off, turning and getting out. Not recommended by us . . . [There are bollarded canalside moorings above the lock, no facilities – a campsite is adjacent but not available] [info: David Geeves]

East of Neuilly the canal de Chelles is relatively narrow and there is good chance of meeting commercial craft – the sides however, feature numerous instances of half-submerged and broken piling edges, so take care.

PK151-PK134 Lagny / Canal de Chalifert

Canal de Chalifert

At PK151 Lagny-sur-Marne there is a small boat PdP but also a new long pontoon by the bridge (above left), with water and electricity. Looks good and has recently won an award. Tel. 01 60 36 08 04 maisonfluviale©marneetgondoire,fr  (maisonfluviale©marneetgondoire,fr)  

The 11km long Canal de Chalifert (1846) is leafy and fairly scenic. There are two ecluses at the west end, each side of a short tunnel. There are various opportunities to moor along its length, including to visit the nature reserve along the disused Grand Morin canal.

PK134 Meaux

Meaux, port de plaisance

Home of ‘Brie de Meaux’ the town has a good PdP with pontoons for 17 boats, all with water and electricity. The port is on the river proper, downstream of Meaux ecluse and under two bridges. There are also numerous moorings and boatyards in the vicinity of PK133.

PK125 Poincy

Sheltered pontoons with water and electricity, tucked behind a small island. The site of France’s first hire boat base in 1958.

PK90 La Ferte-sous-Jouarre

La Ferte sous Jouarre
La Ferte sous Jouarre, port de plaisance La Ferte sous Jouarre, River Marne

La Ferteis a favourite of ours. There are a number of possible places to moor, including on the town’s quays by the Leader supermarket PK91 which is also near a service station (west of the very large and salutory war memorial to 3,000 unknown soldiers killed there in WW1). The best place is behind the island at PK90 (watch for shallows immediately off the end of the island, buoyed marks; the channel inside the island is fully navigable). Good pontoons, water and electricity. The town (both sides of the river) is good, with a fine Hotel de Ville.

PK74 Nanteuil-sur-Marne

Village quayside – boulangerie, epicerie and restaurant. Pretty.

PK63 Nogent-l’Artaud

Village pontoon, apparently with water and electricity (?). Shallow approach.

PK56 Azy-sur-Marne

Azy sur Marne

We spent a very pleasant quiet early evening and night’s stay, moored on the stretch of good pontoon above the ecluse. Water and electricity, although we couldn’t get the electricity to work and the eclusier had gone home. The bief immediately above Azy is a favourite water sports place and can be busy (but not at PK56 itself).

PK51 Chateau-Thierry

A small town with a full range of facilities. Service station nearby. The hire boat base has closed. Mooring is to a quay alongside a narrow park, north bank, west of the bridge. The quay has room for many boats, but no water or electricity or other facilities which for a town of this size is short-sighted. The park is popular and can become lively and noisy at weekends. The last time we tied up there we lasted half-an-hour, then moved on (to Azy).

PK42 Mont-St-Pere

Courcelles, River Marne

PK42 Mont-St-Pere
has various bankside moorings, including the quay pictured above right. The upper photograph is of the ecluse at PK30 Courcelles, showing the typical scenery. Lower left shows a typical riverside fallen branch.

PK26 Dormans     –     PK12 Reuil

Dormans, River Marne

PK26 Dormans (left) has excellent pontoons with water and electricity by a (quiet, not too close) camp-site that has showers, etc.

PK12 Reuil (right) – village pontoon. Very similar pontoon at PK3 – Cumieres.

PK0 (-5km) Epernay

Epernay, River Marne, port de plaisance

Epernay, the ‘capital of Champagne’ lies at the head of a 5km river branch beyond the PK0 junction of the Marne with the Canal lateral a la Marne and has two PdPs. The first, at PK-3 is the town’s port, is well equipped but is somewhat out of town. The second, pictured above at PK-5, is operated by the Societe Nautique (Tel: 03 26 54 90 47 or 06 76 66 37 48) is secure and with good services; and is by the town centre immediately adjacent one of the Champagne houses – Castellane. It is also near the railway.

Epernay is a recommended place to visit and a visit to a Champagne house is enjoyable and even educational. Quite apart from the large houses such as Mercier and Moet et Chandon, for a really memorable experience visit one of the numerous small growers/makers at their village vineyard – such as Domi Moreau– Tel: 03 26 59 45 85 and very much recommended.