Information about the 66km long canalised river Cher and Canal du Berry

CherBerry-location

The river Cher was canalised in the 19th century over a distance of 130km from the confluence with the Loire west of Tours to the market town of Vierzon. After restoration work carried out in the 1980s it formed an attractive cruising waterway, extending from Larçay (26 km above the confluence) to Selles-sur-Cher, a distance of 66 km including the first 12 km of the historic Canal du Berry.

Restoration and maintenance of the river navigation suffered a serious setback in the 2003-2005, when the département of Loir-et-Cher stopped all works on two new gated weirs, designed to replace the earlier needle weirs. These were dangerous and had deteriorated beyond repair. At that time one new weir had been built, at Saint-Aignan, and the lock here is in operation. However, with the weirs removed between Saint-Aignan and Montrichard, all development of navigation on the river has ceased, the small hire fleet of narrow boats has moved and the trip-boat at Montrichard has been sold by its operator (and replaced by a shallow-draught vessel). The State bodies which issue authorisations for works on rivers are insisting that weirs, old or new, should not be raised until the end of the fish spawning season on 1st July each year, which naturally calls into question the feasibility of the weir rebuilding programme. The current situation is an unsatisfactory stalemate, while all parties involved are maintaining their positions in the run-up to the forthcoming regional elections. One prospect currently being discussed is handing over management to the public agency for the river Loire, which would run the waterway on behalf of the Centre Region.

The situation is as shown on the map below and in the distance table. The Canal du Berry is navigable over the last 12km from Selles-sur-Cher to Noyers-sur-Cher, while the canalised river Cher is navigable from Noyers to just beyond Saint-Aignan lock, then again from Montrichard to Tours (PK 59.5). The obstacles are the two weirs to be completely rebuilt, and the following three to be restored without modernisation.

The Cher flows gently through a broad valley bordered by gentle hills, making a most attractive landscape, with many sites of cultural and historic interest, including the spectacular château at Chenonceaux.Cher canal de berry region map

History – The Cher was canalised starting from 1830 from the Loire confluence to Vierzon, a distance of 130 km. The Canal du Berry was a ‘narrow’ canal, inspired by the economic model of the English canals, and opened in 1841. Starting in 1985, three ‘Syndicats Mixtes’, bodies set up by the local councils, actively restored the Cher navigation and the lower part of the canal, with the aim of eventually restoring navigation throughout the 130km from Tours to Vierzon, but the project is facing opposition from State bodies defending the interests of migrating fish species, as explained in the text, left. Sensible compromises have still to be made to complete the transfer of ownership from State to Region, and preserve the heritage value of this unique waterway.


Key Waterway Dimensions

  • Max Beam: 5.20m
  • Max Height: 2.60m
  • Max Draught: 1.20m

Navigation

Locks There are 14 locks on the reopened length of the river Cher, offering navigable dimensions of 35m by 5.20m (the fifteenth lock at Larçay remains to be restored), and 6 locks on the navigable section of the canal. The first of these, at Noyers, is 35.30m long and 5.20m wide, while the others are for narrower boats only (28.65m long and 2.70m wide). Once through the manned entrance lock to the canal at Noyers, the locks are worked by boat crews using paddle gear installed on the gates, and a windlass supplied by the waterway staff. The 8 locks on the Cher in Loir-et-Cher are automatic, and remote-controlled with an electronic key available from the waterway authority. The charge for the key ranges from €6.20 for one day to €39 for a month. The 6 locks in Indre-et-Loire are manually operated by lock-keepers.

Draught The maximum authorised draught is at present 0.80m (although the depth over the lock sills is between 1.20 and 1.30m).

Bridges The lowest bridge on the Cher, at Saint-Aignan, offers a headroom of 3.90m above the normal water level; the other bridges offer a minimum headroom of 4.50m. The least air draught available on the canal is 2.60m.

Towpath None on the Cher. Rough path on the Canal du Berry.

Authority Syndicat du Cher canalisé, Mairie, 37270 Larçay (PK 28-60, but also manages by default the length in the neighbouring département of Loir-et-Cher, where the Syndicat has been disbanded)

Click to enlarge

Route description

PK 0.0     Selles-sur-Cher bridge (blocks navigation), turning basin and moorings d/s, village 1000m on l/b of Cher
PK 0.4     Bridge (La Thizardière)
PK 0.7     Lock (La Thizardière), bridge
PK 1.5     Lock (Val de Sauldre), bridge
PK 2.4     Sauldre aqueduct (five arches of 7m span each)
PK 3.6     Pipeline crossing
PK 4.6     Châtillon-sur-Cher lift bridge, small village r/b
PK 4.9     Lift bridge (Trévety)
PK 7.0     Lift bridge (La Rue)
PK 8.5     Les Martinières lift bridge, small village r/b
PK 8.9     Lock (Les Roches), bridge
PK 10.2     Lock (Trompe-Souris), bridge
PK 10.4     Bridge (Noyers by-pass)
PK 10.7     Lock (La Hémonnière), bridge
PK 11.7     Noyers-sur-Cher lift bridge at u/s end of canal basin, village r/b
PK 12.1     Lock (Noyers), bridge,  junction with river Cher

Cher
PK 0.0     Junction with Canal du Berry, limit of navigation on the Cher
PK 0.2     Bridge (Noyers by-pass)
PK 0.3     Footbridge, narrow passage
PK 1.9     New weir r/b, beware of cross-current
PK 2.5     Lock (Saint-Aignan), bridge, small town l/b
PK 2.5     Current limit of navigation, insufficient depths in downstream reach following demolition of the following weir
PK 6.0     Lock (La Méchinière), bridge
PK 8.2     Motorway bridge (A85)
PK 9.3     Lock (Talufiau)
PK 11.1     Bridge (D976)
PK 11.6     Thésée bridge, moorings on quay d/s r/b
PK 12.9     Lock (Mazelles), gîte in lock cottage
PK 16.7     Lock (Vineuil)
PK 17.1     Bridge
PK 19.2     Lock (Bourré)
PK 21.3     Montrichard bridge
PK 22.1     Lock (Montrichard)
PK 23.9     Overhead power line
PK 25.6     Bridge
PK 25.8     Lock (Saint Georges)
PK 27.6     Limit of Indre-et-Loire département, r/b
PK 28.6     Limit of Indre-et-Loire département, l/b
PK 28.9     Lock (Chisseaux)
PK 29.5     Bridge
PK 30.5     Chenonceau château bridging the river
PK 32.6     Lock (Civray)
PK 33.0     Bridge (La Canardière), camp site r/b
PK 36.4     Lock (Bléré) r/b, weir
PK 36.7     Bléré bridge, small town l/b
PK 38.2     Bridge (D31 Bléré by-pass)
PK 40.3     Lock (Vallet) r/b, weir, (disused mill on l/b channel)
PK 43.3     Bridge, Saint-Martin-le-Beau 1800m r/b
PK 44.3     Lock (Nitray) l/b, weir, mill r/b
PK 47.8     Azay-sur-Cher bridge, village l/b
PK 49.4     Lock (Roujoux) r/b, weir
PK 51.6     Véretz bridge, village l/b
PK 52.6     Overhead power lines
PK 53.2     Railway bridge (TGV Atlantique)
PK 54.4     Lock (Larçay) r/b, weir
PK 55.3     Overhead power lines
PK 59.3     Bridge (Arcole)
PK 59.3     Motorway bridge (A10), former junction with link canal to Loire
PK 59.5     Tip of island (Honoré de Balzac park), footbridge
PK 59.6     Weir on right bank arm (lock projected long term)
PK 61.1     Bridge (Bordeaux), main line railway
PK 61.7     Bridge (Sanitas), D910 trunk road
PK 62.7     Footbridge (Passerelle du Cher)
PK 63.1     Tours bridge (Pont Saint-Sauveur), town centre 2 km r/b
PK 64.1     Bridge (D37, Tours bypass)
PK 68.8     U/s tip of island, mill stream l/b
PK 69.0     Mill (Le Grand Moulin), no through navigation
PK 75.1     Mill (Savonnières), no through navigation
PK 75.3     Bridge (Savonnières)
PK 80.6     Confluence with river Loire (Bec de Cher)