These are the routes into France for thousands of boatowners each year, starting with Dunkirk (Dunkerque) as a prime choice of entry port. Take time to discover the fascinating Dunkirk canals before continuing on the high-capacity (grand gabarit) waterway towards Lille and Douai, then heading south… or not! For this region, historically marked by its heavy industry and coal mines, is one of the friendliest and most welcoming in France. The landscapes, the treatment of urban waterfronts and the mooring facilities offer a great variety of experiences, not all satisfying, but great efforts have been made in recent years and investments are continuing today, for example in Dunkirk and Lille.

The Liaison Dunkerque-Escaut is used by many barges of 1000 tonnes and more, but there are plenty of opportunities to moor off the narrow main canal.

The most spectacular route into France is the Somme estuary. Although there is a limited tidal window for access to the port of Saint-Valéry, the Canal de la Somme is a wonderful waterway to continue inland, and Amiens itself is well worth the detour for those coming south on the Canal du Nord.

Rivers and Canals of Nord / Pas de Calais


Click on the list (right) to open information pages for each river and canal in this region, including navigation guides, books and PDF downloads.

This regional group of waterway Cruising in Detail guides can also be downloaded as one complete set.

Region Set PDF Download

Northern France

waterway navigation guide download

Complete northern waterways – Ports, Liaison, Nord, Sambre, St Quentin, Somme etc – in detail.

Region set : 25€

Each waterway page has been compiled and edited by David Edwards-May (waterways consultant and author of ‘Inland Waterways of France) and Jenny Ruff, and founded on the extensive 7,000km of personal experience of the team since 2003.