Information about the 37km long embranchement de La Nouvelle

La Nouvelle Branch France Map

This important waterway is officially a branch of the Canal du Midi. Often referred to as ‘La Robine’, it leaves the main canal at Cesse, north of Sallèles-d’Aude (PK168), and is made up of three sections. The Canal de Jonction, leading down to the river Aude, is 5km long. The second section is a short length (600m) of the river Aude, whence boats enter the Canal de la Robine (32km long) to reach Narbonne and the Mediterranean at Port-la-Nouvelle. The entire branch was upgraded to the 250-tonne barge standard in the 1980s, in an attempt to maintain the competitiveness of water transport, especially for wine unloaded at Port-la-Nouvelle or produced in the region. However, this policy was ill-founded, and commercial transport disappeared on this 37km waterway, as on the Canal du Midi throughout.

La Nouvelle Branch Region Map

History – The earliest part of this canal was prefigured by the ship channel built under the Roman governor Agrippa across the Sigean lagoon which was then the outflow of the river Aude. After the Aude changed its course, bypassing Narbonne to the north, a feeder canal (‘La Robine’) was built to bring drinking water to Narbonne. After the Canal du Midi opened in 1681, this feeder was enlarged for navigation, but it was not until 1787 that the missing link, the ‘Canal de Jonction’, was opened. This followed pressure from the Archbishop of Narbonne on Pierre-Paul Riquet’s successors to add the link to the Canal du Midi, thereby increasing its traffic, but also its water consumption, hence the additional reservoir, the Lampy, in the Montagne Noire.


Key Waterway Dimensions

  • Max Beam: 5.85m
  • Max Height: 3.30m
  • Max Draught: 1.80m


Local Waterway Links


Embranchement La Nouvelle

Conditions are similar to those on the Canal du Midi itself, but are varied throughout the 37km by the nature of the terrain and the canal’s unusual configuration. The Aude crossing may be tricky if the river is in flood, and care is required negotiating the tight twisting channel in Narbonne above and below the lock. Wind may be a problem in the section passing through the lagoons south of Narbonne, and the outflow from Sigean lagoon can cause a treacherous current in the right-angle bend in Port-la-Nouvelle. Speed limit is 8km/h, and 3 km/h when passing moored boats.

Locks – There are seven locks on the Canal de Jonction (including a deep lock replacing the former staircase at Sallèles) and six on the Canal de la Robine. Their dimensions are 40.50 by 5.85m.

Draught – The maximum authorised draught has been increased from 1.60m to 1.80m. However, in periods of exceptional drought this depth may not be available on the crossing of the river Aude.

Headroom – The fixed bridges leave a minimum headroom of 3.30m. The two lowest bridges are downstream of Gailhousty lock and the Pont des Marchands covered bridge in Narbonne. There is a retracting footbridge across Sainte-Lucie lock.

Towpath – There is a towpath throughout, except for the crossing of the river Aude. The only practical solution here for walkers is to scramble up to the railway viaduct (see plan). This is no doubt illegal, and we cannot accept any responsibility, but it is a tourist railway (Autorail Touristique du Minervois) and sees very few trains (and none at all on weekdays).

Click to enlarge

La Nouvelle waterway strip

Route description

PK 0.0     Junction with main line of Canal du Midi at PK 168.7

Lock and footbridge at the junction with the Canal du Midi. See under Canal du Midi for moorings and services.

PK 0.1     Footbridge (Cesse), quay d/s r/b
PK 0.3     Lock (Cesse)
PK 1.0     Lock (Truilhas), bridge
PK 1.6     Lock (Empare)
PK 2.3     Lock (Argeliers), bridge
PK 3.0     Lock (Saint-Cyr)
PK 3.4     Sallèles-d’Aude footbridge, quays d/s, village r/b

Pretty village with quayside moorings and a range of facilities. There is also the European patchwork centre and Amphoralis, a museum of ancient pottery that holds regular firings in the traditional manner.

PK 3.7     Deep lock (Sallèles), pizzeria r/b

The écluse is deep and tricky, coming up (‘slidey poles’ at extreme ends).

PK 3.8     Bridge (Sallèles)
PK 4.9     Lock (Gailhousty), bridge, dry dock

A beautiful écluse and building group, classified as being of historic and architectural importance and built in 1780 not only as a lock, lock-keeper’s house and administrative offices, but also as a spillway or sluice in connection with the Étang de Capestang, works not completed before the Revolution forced a halt. To one side is a dry dock, available for hire. Contact the VNF office by the lock at Salleles. The cost is €15 per day including water and electricity (€25 per day beyond 15 days), plus €180 to drain the dock; it is popular and booked many months ahead.

midi-lanouvelle-5-gailhousty

Gailhousty Lock and dry dock, PK 5

PK 5.1     End of junction canal, navigation enters river Aude

The photo is taken looking upstream, from the Robine junction; the Jonction enters from the right beyond the bridge. It is important not to ‘cut the corner’ to/from the Jonction – there are shallows.

PK 5.4     Railway bridge
PK 5.7     End of Aude crossing, navigation enters Canal de la Robine r/b
PK 5.8     Lock (Moussoulens), bridge
PK 6.4     Bridge (Pont Vieux, Moussoulens)
PK 9.8     Lock (Raonel), bridge, Cuxac d’Aude 1800m l/b
PK 13.0     Bridge (D6009, Narbonne bypass)
PK 14.2     Lock (Gua), footbridge, quay d/s r/b

Below the lock there is a long stretch of (quiet and safe) quayside moorings with water and electricity. Hire boat base. Although slightly out of town (5-10 minute walk), this is a more comfortable location than along the busy town quays 1.5km further on.

PK 14.6     Footbridge, quay d/s l/b
PK 14.9     Footbridge, quay d/s r/b
PK 15.1     Railway bridge
PK 15.1     Bridge (Escoute)
PK 15.2     Bridge (Carmes)
PK 15.2     Bridge (Voltaire)
PK 15.3     Lock (Narbonne), footbridge and weir

From this lock quaintly squeezed into the town centre the canal passes under a unique bridge (Pont des Marchands) with buildings on top – the arch looks smaller than it actually is (3.30m air draught).

Midi La Nouvelle PK 16 Narbonne

Early morning light on the calm waters of the Robine, with the Pont des Marchands and Narbonne cathedral in the background. © SB

PK 15.5     Bridge (Marchands), with buildings
PK 15.6     Footbridge, Le Boat hire base l/b
PK 15.7     Narbonne quays both banks in town centre, night €21.20, water, electricity

Narbonne has an ancient history and was an important sea-port until silting effectively pushed the coastline ever further away. It has long had river and/or canal access to the sea, since the 17thC this has meant the Canal de la Robine (the canal’s Roman name). It is a very pleasant and significant town, with all facilities including a main-line railway station. We recommend a visit to the Archbishop’s palace and its Donjon tower. It is consequently a popular place for plaisanciers to visit and stay at, especially over the winter; temperatures remain warm although the occasional strong winds can be less pleasant.

PK 15.8     Bridge (pont de la Liberté)
PK 16.1     Footbridge
PK 16.4     Bridge (pont de l’Avenir)
PK 17.7     Motorway bridge (A9, Languedocienne)
PK 24.1     Lock (Mandirac), bridge, quay d/s r/b
PK 25.4     Quay (Gruissan) r/b
PK 34.3     Lock (Sainte-Lucie), moving bridge, quay d/s l/b
PK 36.9     Railway bridge and pipeline crossing

Canal du Midi La Nouvelle PK 32

The stunning landscape of the coastal lagoons skirted by the canal north of Sainte-Lucie island and nature reserve. © DEM

PK 37.3     Port-la-Nouvelle, bridge (D6139), canal enters harbour basins, night €10.72, fuel, water, showers, Mediterranean 2500m down entrance channel, town r/b

Entering the canals from the Mediterranean
Port-la-Nouvelle is the most south-westerly of the possible exit points from the waterways into the Mediterranean (or vice versa), the closest to the Spanish border. Its use is restricted by the depths both of the canals; the officially available depth of 1.50m is by experience somewhat optimistic (until dredging is completed).
An un-masting/re-masting service is available from the chandlery/mechanic along the southern quayside.