Information about the 112km long Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre location map France

The Canal du Centre, one of the first watershed links to be built in central France, was opened to navigation in 1790. It rises from the Saône at Chalon-sur-Saône to a summit level at an altitude of just over 300m, in the former coal mining and industrial basin of Le Creusot/Montceau-les-Mines, and then drops more gently to connect with the Canal latéral à la Loire at Digoin, a distance of 112km. The original cut through Chalon, entering the Saône at the Port de la Chambre de Commerce, was filled in the 1950s and obliterated by a modern boulevard, and replaced by a new cut to the north of the town. This cut is 2.1km shorter than the original line, which explains the discrepancy between the distances in the table below and those which may be observed along the route. A 3km length of the old line was retained as a branch serving the Saint-Gobain factory, but is no longer accessible. It connects with the main line at PK 5.7 (3.7 in the revised distance table below).

There is little commercial traffic (there is some) and the canal, which is winding and passes through some thickly wooded countryside, has parts that are very beautiful – although the northern/western half is judged the better half.Canal du Centre region map

History – The Canal du Centre, one of the technical wonders of its times, was built by the engineer Gauthey concurrently with the Canal de Bourgogne. Started in 1784, it was inaugurated in 1793, 40 years before the Canal de Bourgogne was completed, and was the first link between the Loire (leading to the Seine through the Canal de Briare) and the Saône. Its locks were 28 by 4.75m. It was first enlarged in 1830 to Becquey dimensions (30 by 5.2m), then again to reach the present Freycinet size (38.5 by 5.2m) around 1890.


Key Waterway Dimensions

  • Max Beam: 5.20m
  • Max Height: 3.50m
  • Max Draught: 1.80m


Navigation

Locks – There are 61 locks, of which 35 (numbered 1 to 35M for Mediterranean) fall towards Chalon and 26 (numbered 1 to 26O for Océan) fall towards Digoin. Dimensions are 39.00 by 5.20m, except for lock 34b on the new cut at Chalon, which is 40.00 by 6.00m. This lock replaces three on the original line, hence its exceptional depth of 10.76m. All the locks on the Saône side are equipped for automatic operation, with the lock entrance controlled by lights and the actual locking cycle actuated by pulling on the blue cord set in a steel pillar at the lock side. Many of these locks are deep, with floating bollards, and operated by a pull-cord at the far end of the ecluse. If an accompanying éclusier is not present to pull the cord it can be tricky to bring the boat forward in the lock, pull the cord and then reverse to pick up the (probably single) bollard before the ecluse starts filling and life becomes exciting. Some locks fill ‘to the brim’, which makes fendering difficult. In case of emergency, the cycle is interrupted by pulling on the red cord (see also the section on automatic locks in the Introduction).

Some ‘automatic’ locks recognise the exit of a first boat when there are actually two in the lock, leaving only a short period of time for the second to exit before the gates start to close – be on your guard in these circumstances.

Some locks fill right ‘to the brim’ 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.

Draught – The maximum authorised draught is 1.80m.

Headroom – The bridges leave a nominal minimum headroom of 3.50m, but boats approaching this height must pay particular attention at Saint-Léger-sur-Dheune bridge (PK 31), which is reported to offer a few centimetres less headroom.

Towpath – There is a metalled towpath throughout, serving as a public road (D974) between Paray-le-Monial and Saint-Léger-sur-Dheune. Elsewhere, the towpath is in reasonable condition.

Authority – VNF – Direction territoriale Centre-Bourgogne
CEMI de Montceau
–    9ème écluse Océan, 71300 Montceau-les-Mines

Click to enlarge

Canal du centre waterway strip

Route description

PK 112.1    Bridge (Digoin ring road D979), junction with Canal latéral à la Loire
PK 112.0    Digoin basin, moorings r/b, boat harbour and Canalous Plaisance hire base l/b, 45 berths, night €6.20, fuel, water €2.10, electricity €3.20, showers €1.70, crane 35t, slipway, repairs, town centre 800m (boats up to 12m only, longer boats moor beyond bridge on Canal latéral à la Loire)
PK 111.1    Railway bridge
PK 110.9    Commercial quays
PK 110.4    Bridge (Blattiers)
PK 109.6    Junction with Arroux feeder canal (rigole de l’Arroux), formerly navigable 13km to Gueugnon (abandoned)Canal du Centre Digoin junction plan
PK 108.2    Bridge (Paradis), quay u/s r/b
PK 105.6    Lock 26 (Bessons)
PK 103.9    Bridge (Colaillot)
PK 103.5    Colaillot quay l/b (commercial)
PK 102.7    Bridges (N79)
PK 102.4    Lock 25 (Mont)
PK 101.8    Lock 24 (Quarrés), water
PK 101.3    Bridge (Quarrés)
PK 100.0    Bridge (Quatre-Chemins)
PK 99.7    Bridge (Faubourg), service station l/b, water
PK 99.3    Paray-le-Monial quays and turning basin r/b, capacity 8 boats, night €10, water, electricity, town centre 400m, serviced moorings r/b over the next 2 km

Halte with water and electricity, noisy road nearby but attractive historic village with impressive basilica by the canal

PK 99.0    Lock 23 (L’Hyron), water
PK 97.7    Bridge (Romay)
PK 97.2    Railway bridge
PK 96.9    Quay l/b (Corneloup)
PK 95.8    Bridge (Bord), basin d/s r/b
PK 95.1    Bridge (N79)
PK 93.9    Lock 22 (Volesvres)
PK 93.7    Volesvres bridge, village 600m r/b
PK 92.3    Lock 21 (Haillers), bridge
PK 89.5    Lock 20 (Gravoine)
PK 89.1    Bridge (Gravoine), quay u/s l/b
PK 87.7    Bridge (Montceau)
PK 86.1    Lock 19 (Digoine), bridge, basin d/s l/b, moor­ings d/s r/b, auberge, Digoine château 1500m
PK 84.6    Lock 18 (Thiellay)
PK 83.8    Bridge (Corbary)
PK 83.0    Palinges bridge, quay u/s l/b, village l/b
PK 81.4    Bridge (Montet)
PK 80.4    Lock 17 (Montet), water
PK 79.5    Génelard bridge, basin d/s l/b, moorings for 12 boats, water, electricity, village 400m over level crossing
PK 79.4    Lock 16 (Génelard), moorings u/s l/b
PK 78.8    Bridge (over entrance to Génelard cutting), one-way traffic
PK 78.7    Quay l/b (Vernizy), service station r/b
PK 76.8    Lock 15 (Ciry), bridge
PK 73.5    Lock 14 (Ciry), bridge, quay d/s r/b
PK 72.7    Ciry-le-Noble bridge, basin d/s l/b, village r/b
PK 71.8    Lock 13 (Azy)
PK 70.5    Bridge (Four)
PK 69.9    Lock 12 (Four)
PK 69.3    Bridge (Pont des Vernes)
PK 68.0    Bridge (Maison Morin)
PK 66.6    Bridge (Galuzot), restaurant, service station d/s r/b
PK 66.1    Railway bridge
PK 65.6    Lock 11 (Vernois), turning basin d/s
PK 65.2    Lock 10 (Chavannes)
PK 65.0    Bridge (Chavannes)
PK 64.4    Railway bridge
PK 64.0    Lift bridge II (Lucie), service station r/b, basin d/s l/b
PK 63.1    Pipeline crossing
PK 62.7    Bridge
PK 62.5    Lift bridge I and parallel footbridge, quay d/s r/b, no services
PK 62.3    FootbridgeMontceau-les-Mines junction Plan Canal du Centre
PK 62.1    Montceau-les-Mines basin, boat harbour l/b, 35 berths, night €5.30, water and electricity €3.40, shower, restaurant, large town l/b
PK 62.0    Footbridge
PK 61.7    Lock 9 (Montceau), bridge, freight office, water
PK 59.9    Lock 8 (Mireaux)
PK 58.9    Blanzy bridge, quay u/s r/b, water, electricity, village r/b
PK 57.9    Railway bridge
PK 57.2    Lock 7 (Roche), bridge (Saint-Gelin)
PK 56.3    Lock 6 (Brûlard)
PK 55.7    Lock 5 (Planche-Calard), bridge
PK 53.3    Lock 4 (Parizenot), bridge
PK 51.7    Lock 3 (Favée)
PK 51.5    Turning basin
PK 51.3    Lock 2 (Brenots), bridge, private quay d/s l/b  auberge
PK 50.2    Lock 1 (Océan), end of summit level
PK 49.9    Boat moorings on short branch, east bank
PK 49.7    Montchanin bridge (D28), short quay d/s l/b, moorings to bank u/s, café-restaurant 400m, town centre 1800m
PK 47.5    Bridge (D18)
PK 47.2    Old railway bridge
PK 47.1    Overhead power lines
PK 46.9    Road bridge (N80)
PK 46.4    Railway viaduct (TGV Paris-Lyon)
PK 46.1    Lock 1 (Méditerranée), bridge, quay d/s r/b, beginning of summit level
PK 45.9    Lock 2 (Charmois)
PK 45.6    Lock 3 (Fourneau)
PK 45.3    Lock 4 (Ravin), bridge
PK 44.6    Lock 5 (Forge), bridge, Ecuisses, 1500m r/b
PK 43.7    Lock 6 (Motte)
PK 43.0    Lock 7 (Rocher)
PK 42.6    Lock 8 (Abbaye)
PK 42.3    Saint-Julien-sur-Dheune bridge, quay d/s r/b, water, restaurant
PK 41.7    Lock 9 (Moulin de Saint-Julien), shallow basin d/s r/b
PK 41.2    Lock 10 (Chez-le-Roi), bridge
PK 40.7    Lock 11 (Villeneuve)
PK 39.1    Lock 12, bridge
PK 38.5    Lock 13
PK 37.6    Lock 14, quay d/s l/b, Perreuil 1500m
PK 36.5    Bridge (Motte)
PK 36.2    Lock 15
PK 35.8    Lock 16
PK 34.8    Lock 17, bridge, turning basin u/s, Saint-Bérain- sur-Dheune r/b
PK 33.6    Lock 18, bridge, quay u/s l/b
PK 32.4    Bridge (Lochères)
PK 31.9    Lock 19
PK 31.6    Footbridge
PK 30.8    Saint-Léger-sur-Dheune harbour and Locaboat hire base in basin r/b, mooring for 12 boats, night €13.50, water €3, electricity €2, shower €2.50, restaurant, village r/b

Port de plaisance operated by Locaboat – Inner harbour shallow 0.8-1.1m and possibly limited in space. Pleasant village. ‘Au P’tit Kir’ restaurant by the canal is recommended.

PK 30.7    Bridge (Saint-Léger-sur-Dheune), caution low bridge
PK 29.9    Lock 20
PK 29.6    Bridge (Planche-Tapois, D148)
PK 28.7    Lock 21
PK 28.3    Dennevy bridge, quay l/b, village r/b
PK 27.4    Lock 22
PK 26.9    Lock 23
PK 26.3    Saint-Gilles bridge, quay and village r/b
PK 24.3    Cheilly-lès-Maranges bridge, quay for 3 boats u/s l/b, water, village 1000m
PK 22.8    Bridge (Corchanut)
PK 22.5    Santenay halte for 4 boats l/b, water, village 1000m

Halte – water only. Many opportunities to taste and buy excellent Pinot Noir Burgundy wines…

PK 21.4    Bridges (Fontaine Beaunoise and D974)
PK 20.3    Remigny bridge, village below canal
PK 18.0    Bridge (Bouzeron), L’Escarg’eau hire base and mooring for 4 boats d/s l/b, night €4.60, water, electricity
PK 17.4    Bridge (Chagny) and aqueduct over main-line railway
PK 17.3    Chagny basin, boat harbour, mooring for 11 boats, night €15, water, electricity, showers, capitainerie, town and station l/b
PK 15.7    Lock 24
PK 15.1    Lock 25
PK 14.5    Lock 26, bridge, quay d/s r/b, Rully 2000m
PK 14.1    Lock 27
PK 13.6    Lock 28
PK 13.1    Lock 29
PK 12.4    Lock 30
PK 11.7    Lock 31 (2.50m)  bridge (Gué de Niffette)
PK 10.8    Fontaine bridge, quay d/s l/b, village 2000m
PK 9.3    Lock 32 (5.12m)  the first of many equipped with floating bollards
PK 9.1    Bridge (Gauchard), trunk road N6
PK 7.5    Lock 33 (3.17m) bridge, La Loyère l/b
PK 6.3    Motorway bridge (A6)

Canal du Centre Fragnes

Mooring at Fragnes

PK 5.9    Lock 34 (1.83m) bridge, water
PK 5.7    Fragnes boat harbour and cycle service station, 20 berths, night €7.20, water (all seasons), electricity, shower €1. restaurant, wifi, shops
Well serviced moorings beside a small village shopping arcade at Fragnes
PK 4.5    Quay l/b, industrial zone, no services
PK 3.7    Junction with Saint Gobain factory branch (former main line, heavily silted, no access)
PK 3.2    Bridge (D19), mooring
PK 2.4    Bridge (D5)

The restaurant l’Embarcadère spans the canal just downstream of this bridge. Fuel from the adjacent Centre Leclerc, but jerrycans required.

PK 2.3    Supermarket cafeteria built across the canal, potential mooring for provisions
PK 2.1    Railway bridgeChalon-sur-Saône junction plan canal du centre
PK 1.7    Bridge
PK 1.5    Lock 34b (10.76m) floating bollards
PK 1.2    Turning basin and industrial quays
PK 0.0    Chalon-sur-Saône, junction with Saône

Canal du Centre Chalon sur Saone

Approaching the deep lock in Chalon.

Cruises, holidays and vacations on the Canal du Centre

hotel barges france

HOTEL BARGE CRUISES

Hotel barges are elegant and supremely comfortable, converted from traditional vessels or created as cruising boutique hotels from new. You’ll experience the smoothest of relaxing week-long vacations in high style looked after by an expert captain, professional masterchef, knowledgeable local excursions guide and attentive English-speaking cabin staff.

self-drive canal boat rental france

SELF-DRIVE CANAL BOAT VACATIONS

Hiring your own cruising boat is an ideal way to explore and experience the pleasures and treasures that the French waterways have to offer. Hire boats come in different sizes, to suit a couple, a family or you and your friends, and your ‘hands on the wheel’ holiday can be arranged from start to finish by any of the reputable companies to be found on french-waterways.com.

self-drive canal boat rentals map

Base locations map – Centre-Franche Comté