Information about the 59km long canalised river Escaut
The canalized river Escaut begins at Cambrai, where it connects with the Canal de Saint-Quentin, and runs through the industrial towns of Denain and Valenciennes before crossing the Belgian border at Mortagne, a distance of 59km. The river subsequently flows past Ghent and Antwerp before debouching in the North Sea. (In Dutch, Escaut becomes Schelde). The river has always carried heavy barge traffic, since it forms part of the route from the Paris region to Northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and its importance as a commercial waterway increased after it was widened to European waterway standards (1350-tonne barges) from its junction with the Dunkerque-Escaut waterway to the Belgian border. The Escaut connects with the Canal de Pommeroeul à Condé (replacing the former Canal de Mons à Condé) on the right bank at km 31.6 (although this useful link has been closed since only a few years after it was built in the late 1970s) and with the canalised river Scarpe on the left bank at km 44.4 (also currently closed to through navigation).
The straightening of the river left numerous minor arms, most of which were subsequently filled in. Despite its importance for commercial navigation, the Escaut is an attractive waterway. Many of the factories which used to line its banks have been demolished, and the river is pleasantly rural throughout much of its length.
In view of the completely different characteristics upstream and downstream of the junction with the Dunkerque-Escaut waterway, the Escaut is divided into two sections, with separate distance tables: the section open to péniches, from Cambrai to Étrun (13km), then the high-capacity waterway from Pont-Malin to the Belgian border (46km).
History – The Escaut was developed first in Belgium from Antwerp to Tournai, then extended to Valenciennes. Canalisation upstream from Valenciennes to Cambrai was completed in 1788 with locks 44 by 5.20m and a draught of 1.20m. Napoleon saw the benefits of linking Paris to Belgium and promoted the Canal de Saint-Quentin to the south. The locks were deepened and doubled, as coal became the essential commodity of the industrial revolution. Upgrading downstream from Bouchain was started in the 1960s, but the waterway is still not fully compliant with international standards. For many centuries, Belgian traffic from Mons to Tournai used the Haine and Escaut rivers through France, paying a high toll, hence the idea of the Nimy-Blaton-Péronnes canal, a short cut in Belgian territory, built in the late 19th century.
Key Waterway Dimensions
- Max Beam: 6.00m
- Max Height: 3.80m
- Max Draught: 2.20m
Locks – There are 5 locks on the first section, each with twin chambers measuring 40.50 by 6.00m. In the second section there are 6 locks, all of 3000-tonne push-tow dimensions (144.60 by 12.00m).
Draught – The maximum authorised draught is 2.20m in the first section, 3.00m in the second section down to Trith-Saint-Léger (PK 16.5), and 2.50m thereafter to the Belgian border.
Headroom – In the first section the headroom under fixed bridges is 3.80m at normal water level. Throughout the second section this is being increased to offer a minimum of 5.25m above the highest navigable water level (5.55m above normal level). The lowest bridge at present is 4.80m (5.10m).
The target headroom for the Seine-Escaut waterway is 7.00 m, but 5.25m is likely to remain the maximum available for at least 15 years. The Pont Jacob in Valenciennes is the principal difficulty, since it carries the Valenciennes tramway.
Towpath – There is a good towpath throughout the first section and a metalled service road along the high-capacity waterway.
Authority – VNF – Direction Territoriale du Nord-Pas de Calais
– Place Marcellin Berthelot, BP 371, 59407 Cambrai Cedex (1st section),
– 22 chemin du halage, BP 2025, 59321 Valenciennes cedex (2nd section)
Cambrai to junction with high-capacity (grand gabarit) waterway
N.B. This section is also given in the reverse order under the Canal de Saint-Quentin, for the convenience of boaters taking this route southbound through France.
PK 0.0 Cambrai bridge (Pont de Marquion) and footbridge, connection with Canal de Saint-Quentin
PK 0.1 Cambrai Cantimpré basin, boat harbour l/b, 20 berths, night €7.00-17, diesel, water, electricity, showers, slipway, restaurant
A popular port de plaisance, but with limited capacity; it is recommended to book in advance. The town is delightful, and famous for its sweets called bêtises. The town centre is only a short walk from the basin.
PK 0.2 Lock 1 (Cantimpré), two chambers, bridge, water, town centre 500m r/b
PK 0.6 Cambrai-Selles basin l/b
PK 1.0 Lock 2 (Selles), two chambers, bridge
PK 1.4 Bridge (Pont Rouge)
PK 1.5 Railway bridge (Cambrai)
PK 3.6 Lock 3 (Erre), two chambers, bridge, water, boatyard u/s r/b
PK 6.6 Eswars bridge, quay u/s l/b, village 600m l/b
PK 7.9 Lock 4 (Thun-l’Evèque), two chambers, bridge, village 300m l/b
PK 8.3 Quay r/b
PK 10.0 Lock 5 (Iwuy), two chambers, water, quays u/s r/b, village 1000m r/b
PK 10.8 Motorway bridge (A2)
PK 12.0 Estrun bridge, village 800m l/b
PK 12.2 Junction with original line of Canal de la Sensée , l/b
PK 12.2 Bridge
PK 13.0 Junction with liaison Dunkerque-Escaut
Escaut (Pont Malin to Belgian border)
PK 0.0 Lock (Pont Malin), VHF 18
PK 2.3 Bouchain bridge, quay d/s r/b, village l/b
PK 4.7 Railway bridge
PK 5.4 Neuville-sur-Escaut bridge, village r/b
PK 6.2 Turning Basin
PK 6.9 Lourches bridge, town 1200m l/b
PK 7.2 Bridge (N455 motorway access)
PK 8.1 Junction with Rivière des Moulins l/b, boat moorings 760m down this branch on r/b
PK 8.7 Lock (Denain), two chambers, VHF 22, water
PK 9.2 Denain bridge (Pont de l’Enclos), town 1000m l/b
PK 9.6 Footbridge
PK 10.2 Bridge (Abattoir), quay d/s l/b
PK 11.5 Railway bridge
PK 11.7 Motorway viaduct (Rouvignies), A2
PK 12.0 Bridge (Pont de l’Escaut), D630
PK 13.5 Private footbridge and quay l/b PK 13.6 Railway bridge (Prouvy)
PK 13.7 Thiant bridge, village 1000m r/b
PK 15.4 Lock (Trith), VHF 18
PK 15.6 Gas pipeline crossing
PK 15.9 Trith-Saint-Léger footbridge, town 700m l/b
PK 17.1 Bridge (Pont de la Fontenelle), D59, turning basin u/s
PK 18.8 Motorway viaduct (Trith), A2
PK 18.9 Railway bridge (Vert Gazon), turning basin d/s
PK 19.5 Boat moorings l/b level with dinghy sailing centre on adjacent lake (Étang du Vignoble)
PK 20.6 Bridge (Notre Dame)
PK 21.3 Valenciennes bridge (Pont Saint-Waast), quay u/s r/b
PK 22.0 Bridge (Pont Jacob)
PK 22.1 Valenciennes port de plaisance in left-bank arm, tariffs for a boat 10-15m: night €13, week €65, month €130, year €780. shower €1.50, water and electricity metered and charged at cost, town centre 500m (tram stop at Pont Jacob).
Splendid port de plaisance opened in early June 2015 in the weir arm of the Escaut in Valenciennes (PK 22). Planned for more than 15 years, it is a very welcome addition to the facilities in Nord-Pas-de-Calais. This is fancy ‘pretending-to-be-a-barge’ architecture, with a guide wall to protect the capitainerie against ramming by barges. The photo is looking south towards the main line and the approach to Folien lock (on the other side of this island). When we visited after only a week in operation , the moorings were already being used by about a dozen boats.
The pontoon on the far side is open, but on this side (to the north) it has been fenced it off for boaters’ security. Larger craft (more than 18 m long) will be invited to moor on the opposite bank where dolphins are available, and the mooring charges are reduced.
PK 22.1 Lock (Folien), VHF 22, water
PK 23.1 Railway bridge (Bleuse-Borne)
PK 24.0 Overhead power lines
PK 24.7 Railway bridge (Saint-Guillaume)
PK 24.9 Lock (Bruay) in new cut, l/b, VHF 18
PK 25.4 Bridge (Pont des Vaches), Bruay-sur-l’Escaut 500m l/b
PK 28.7 Bridge (Marais), D50n
PK 30.2 Bridge (Bellevue), D50, boat moorings d/s r/b, Fresnes-sur-Escaut 1000m l/b
PK 31.1 Lock (Fresnes), VHF 22
PK 31.6 Junction with Canal Pommeroeul-Condé , r/b (currently abandoned, to be restored)
PK 32.0 Bridge (Masys)
PK 32.1 Disused railway bridge (Moulin)
PK 34.2 Bridge (Sarteau), Vieux-Condé 700m r/b
PK 36.7 Boat moorings r/b
PK 37.8 Hergnies bridge, village r/b
PK 44.1 Mortagne-du-Nord bridge, village r/b
PK 44.3 Boat moorings and public park, l/b
PK 44.4 Confluence with canalised river Scarpe, l/b
PK 45.7 Belgian border