Information about the 78km long Canal d’Orléans

Canal d'Orleans location map France

The Canal d’Orléans was the third watershed canal to be built in France, after the Canal de Briare and the Canal du Midi. It was completed in 1692, to provide a link between the Loire valley near Orléans and the river Loing (hence the Seine) at Montargis. As originally built, it was 73km long with 30 locks, joining the Loire at Combleux, short of Orléans. An extension was opened in 1921 to give canal traffic direct access to the city, avoiding the river Loire. This added 5.5 km to the length, hence the total distance of 78.5 km.

Two sections of the canal have been restored, but are not yet open to navigation since they remain to be dredged. From the junction with the main system at Buges, three locks were restored in the 1990s up to the village of Le Mée, a distance of 14km, while west of the summit level, locks were restored from Fay-aux-Loges to Combleux. The latter section has now been extended to the terminal basin in Orléans, making a total of 19 km with 4 locks. The eastern section is also now being extended to reach Grignon lower lock and its reservoir, 26 km and 14 locks from Buges. By 2012, both these sections should be opened for recreational boating. In the meantime, only the western restored section is operated, and exclusively for a trip-boat. The ‘missing link’ of 33 km with 10 locks is expected to be restored by 2020. The Syndicat Mixte de Gestion du Canal d’Orléans is the concessionary and possible future operator.Canal d'Orleans location map region

History – After the Canal de Briare was opened in 1642, traffic was limited by the poor conditions of navigation on the Loire above Orléans. A canal from this lower port on the Loire to the Briare at Montargis was an ‘obvious’ project, all the more so since Robert Mahieu had already started building a canal over part of the route from the Orléans forest to Grignon. Surveyors for the Duc d’Orléans found a route incorporating Mahieu’s canal. Royal assent was given to the prince (Louis XIV’s brother) in 1679, and the works were let to Lambert & Cie in 1682. The canal was completed in 1692. Unusually for a small-capacity canal, it was extended to the centre of Orléans, along the bank of the Loire, as late as 1921, while the locks were upgraded to Freycinet dimensions (but only west of the summit). The canal was abandoned in 1954, but is now being restored by the Loiret département. Since the canal was taken over from the State in 1985, Loiret has invested €20M, out of an estimated total of €60M for the complete restoration.

Key Waterway Dimensions

  • Max Beam: 5.00m
  • Max Height: 3.50m
  • Max Draught: 1.20m

Local Waterway Links


Locks – There are 28 locks, of which 17 climb from the Loing to the summit level (originally 18 including Buges lock, now part of the Canal du Loing), and 11 drop down to the Loire (originally 12). Those on the Loing side offer navigable dimensions of 30.00 by 5.00m, while those on the Loire side are of Freycinet dimensions.

Draught – The maximum available draught is 1.20m. (It is planned to dredge the canal to a depth of 1.40 m.)

Headroom – Bridges originally offered a headroom of 3.50m, but this is restricted to 2.70m, especially where pipes have been placed under the bridge deck.

Towpath – The towpath is being adapted in stages for use as a cycling and hiking trail. The eastern section has been completed.

Authority – Syndicat mixte de gestion du canal d’Orléans (SMGCO)
–    61 bis route de Nestin, 45450 Fay-aux-Loges

Click to enlarge

canal d'orleans waterway strip

Route description

PK 0.0     Junction with the Canal du Loing and Canal de Briare at Buges lock, towpath bridge
PK 0.7     Bridge (D40)
PK 1.3     Lock (La Folie), bridge
PK 2.6     Railway bridge
PK 3.0     Bridge (D94)
PK 3.3     Lock (Sainte-Catherine)
PK 3.6     Overhead power lines
PK 4.4     Motorway bridge (Pannes), A77
PK 4.6     Bridge
PK 6.9     Lock (Machault), bridge
PK 7.8     Bridge (D950)
PK 8.4     Main road bridge (N60)
PK 10.0     Lock (Le Mée), bridge
PK 11.2     Bridge
PK 13.8     Lock (Marchais-Clair), limit of navigability
PK 14.2     Bridge
PK 15.8     Lock (Chancy), bridge

canal d'orleans lock Chancy
The recently restored lock at Chancy (PK 15.8). © Wikipedia Commons

PK 17.3     Lock (Chailly), bridge
PK 17.9     Bridge
PK 19.8     Lock (Rougemont)
PK 20.1     Bridge
PK 21.7     Lock (Vallée), bridge
PK 22.9     Lock (lower Hateau), reservoir upstream
PK 23.2     Lock (upper Hateau)
PK 24.0     Lock (de la Chaussée), bridge
PK 24.8     Bridge
PK 25.2     Lock (Choiseau)
PK 26.3     Lock (lower Grignon), bridge, reservoir u/s
PK 26.4     Lock (middle Grignon), bridge, reservoir u/s
PK 26.5     Lock (Gué des Cens)
PK 27.7     Lock (Grignon summit), bridge

canal d'Orléans flood protection
The terminal length of the canal in Orléans was restored after severe floods had damaged this embankment wall. The wall was restored by the Loiret département with a €2.8 million subsidy from the State, financed as flood protection works. This enabled rewatering of the 5 km long pound in 2006. © Laurent Pitot

PK 29.0     Reservoir (Noue-Mazone), west side
PK 30.6     Bridge (Verrerie)
PK 31.6     Châtenoy quay, west bank, village 800m
PK 33.3     Bridge
PK 38.8     New road bridge (N60)
PK 39.0     Bridge (Besniers, D114)
PK 39.7     Bridge
PK 41.0     Bridge
PK 42.7     Sury-aux-Bois bridge, village north bank
PK 45.6     Combreux bridge, village south bank
PK 46.5     Lock (Combreux), bridge
PK 48.2     Lock (Moulin-Rouge)
PK 49.5     Lock (Vitry-aux-Loges)
PK 49.7     Vitry-aux-Loges bridge, village r/b
PK 52.3     Turning basin
PK 52.7     Lock (Chennetière), bridge
PK 55.0     Lock (Gué-Girault), bridge
PK 57.0     Lock (Jonchère), bridge
PK 58.7     Lock (Fay-aux-loges), bridge
PK 59.1     Turning basin
PK 60.0     Fay-aux-Loges bridge (D11), small town l/b
PK 63.2     Lock (Donnery), bridge, village r/b
PK 64.7     Main road bridge (N60)
PK 67.5     Basin (canal widens)
PK 67.7     Railway bridge
PK 67.9     Lock (Pont-aux-Moines), bridge, Mardié 800m l/b
PK 69.9     Chécy bridge, village r/b
PK 70.4     Footbridge
PK 71.8     Turning basin
PK 72.0     Swing bridge
PK 73.0     Footbridge
PK 73.1     Junction with lock (Combleux) to Loire, l/b
PK 73.2     Swing bridge (Combleux) remains to be repaired
PK 73.4     Lock (Combleux), bridge
PK 75.0     Bridge
PK 76.7     Bridge, canal museum
PK 77.5     Bridge
PK 77.9     Orléans canal basin, town centre 1200m
PK 78.2     Railway bridge (Pont de Vierzon)
PK 78.3     Bridge (René Thinant), basin d/s, port de plaisance, tourist office and services (since 2007)
PK 78.5     Entrance lock from the Loire