Information about the 95 km long Canal du Nord

canal du nord location france

This 95 km-long canal has been a curiosity since it was first planned, the only canal to be built in France to intermediate dimensions between the 250-tonne Freycinet and the modern high-capacity standards. It is now to be abandoned within a few years, after an operating lifetime of less than 60 years, taken over by the future Seine-Nord Europe Canal.

The distance of 95km from Arleux, near Douai on the Canal de la Sensée (now the Dunkerque-Escaut waterway), to the junction with the Canal latéral à l’Oise at Pont-l’Evêque, is divided into three sections:

Section 1 extends from Arleux on the Canal de la Sensée to Péronne on the Canal de la Somme (PK 45), section 2 is a redeveloped length of the Canal de la Somme from Péronne to a junction near Rouy-le-Petit (PK 65), and section 3 connects the Canal de la Somme to Pont-l’Evêque on the Canal latéral à l’Oise (PK 95).

The first and third sections cross low watersheds, and their summit levels have impressive tunnels. The Grand Souterrain de Ruyaulcourt, on the summit level of the first section (PK 25-29) has a total length of 4350m. It is divided into three sections. The first 1600m from each portal is of single barge width (6.30m), while the 1150m middle portion is of double width (12.30m). Thus north and southbound barges enter simultan­eously at each end, pass each other in the middle portion and exit simultaneously from each end. There is a remote monitoring and traffic control system with lights, ensuring the minimum delays to barges on this busy route. The Souterrain de la Panneterie, on the summit level of the third section, is 1100m in length. Its dimensions provide for one-way working only, with entrance controlled by lights as at Ruyaulcourt.

The canal is a busy commercial waterway, and boaters may prefer the parallel Canal de Saint-Quentin. Imposing works will be in progress throughout almost the entire length from 2017 until the new canal is opened in 2023 (as currently projected). A short length with two existing locks and one new lock will be maintained to give access from the new canal to the Canal de la Somme at Péronne. This is shown in the route description.canal du nord region map

History – Excavation for the canal started in 1908, when the parallel Canal de Saint-Quentin had reached saturation, despite its paired locks throughout. By 1914 three quarters of the earthworks as well as a number of the locks and bridges had been completed. Following wartime destruction several attempts were made to restart the project, but little was achieved in the inter-war period. The rapid economic growth experienced by France in the 1950s saw a marked increase in bulk transport requirements between the Seine basin and the north, and it again became urgent to complete the project. The works were carried out in the early 1960s and the canal opened to navigation in 1966.

Key Waterway Dimensions

  • Max Beam: 6.00m
  • Max Height: 3.98m
  • Max Draught: 2.40m


Locks – There are 12 locks in the first section (7 falling towards the Sensée and 5 towards the Somme), 2 in the second section and 5 in the third section (one falling towards the Somme and 4 falling towards the Oise). All measure 91.60 by 6.00m and accommodate push-tows made up of two 38.50m barges, as well as some 700-tonne barges designed specifically to operate between the Seine basin and northern France. There may be delays at certain locks, for example at lock 12 for vessels proceeding upstream, as the lock-keepers attempt to rationalise the transit of commercial vessels in groups.

Draught – The authorised draught is 2.40m.

Headroom – All the bridges leave a minimum headroom of 3.98m above the highest navigable water level (4.28m above normal level).

Authority – VNF – Direction territoriale Nord – Pas de Calais
–    Place Marcelin Berthelot, BP 371, 59407 Cambrai (PK 0-25)
Direction territoriale Bassin de la Seine
–    19 route de Paris, BP 1053, 80201 Péronne cedex (PK 25-95)

Click to enlarge

canal du nord waterway strip

Route description

PK 0.0     Junction with liaison Dunkerque-Escaut km 15, beginning of first section, boat moorings
PK 0.6     Arleux bridge, village 1000m l/b
PK 0.9     Private basin (Malderez) l/b (length 560m)
PK 1.4     Lock 1 (Palluel), VHF 18
PK 1.8     Palluel bridge (D21), village 400m l/b
PK 3.5     Bridge (Oisy-le-Verger)
PK 5.1     Sauchy-Cauchy bridge, village r/b
PK 6.6     Motorway bridge (A26)
PK 7.0     Turning basin
PK 7.7     Marquion bridge (D939), quay and moorings d/s l/b, water, village 500m r/b
PK 8.0     Lock 2 (Marquion), VHF 22, water
PK 10.0     Sains-lès-Marquion bridge, village 300m r/b
PK 10.7     Lock 3 (Sains-lès-Marquion), VHF 18
PK 11.2     Inchy-en-Artois bridge, quay u/s l/b, village 800m l/b
PK 12.0     Bridge
PK 12.3     Lock 4 (Sains-lès-Marquion), VHF 22
PK 13.4     Mœuvres bridge, village 500m l/b
PK 14.0     Lock 5 (Mœuvres), VHF 18
PK 14.3     Bridge
PK 15.3     Bridge (D930)
PK 15.8     Lock 6 (Graincourt-lès-Havrincourt), VHF 22
PK 16.5     Bridge
PK 17.5     Lock 7 (Graincourt-lès-Havrincourt), VHF 18, beginning of summit level
PK 17.9     BridgeArleux junction plan
PK 19.8     Havrincourt bridges (two high cantilever bridges 30m apart, D5), village 1200m r/b
PK 21.3     Turning basin
PK 21.6     Bridge
PK 22.7     Hermies bridge, private quay u/s l/b, village 1200m l/b
PK 23.6     Bridge
PK 24.5     Bridge
PK 25.1     Ruyaulcourt tunnel control post, l/b
PK 25.2     Ruyaulcourt tunnel, northern entrance
PK 27.4     Ventilation shaft
PK 29.6     Ruyaulcourt tunnel, southern entrance
PK 30.4     Bridge (D58)
PK 31.0     Étricourt-Manacourt bridge, village 200m r/b
PK 31.8     Bridge
PK 32.7     Bridge (D72)
PK 34.2     Turning basin
PK 35.5     Bridge
PK 36.8     Bridge
PK 37.2     Moislains bridge (D184), quay d/s l/b, water and electricity, village 400m r/b
PK 37.6     Lock 8 (Moislains), VHF 10, end of summit level
PK 38.1     Turning basin
PK 38.4     Bridge (D43)
PK 38.7     Lock 9 (Moislains), VHF 10
PK 39.2     Future junction with Canal Seine-Nord Europe ( for reference)
PK 39.7     Lock 10 (Allaines), VHF 10
PK 40.0     Allaines bridge, small village 300m l/b
PK 40.7     Bridge
PK 41.7     Bridge (D1017)
PK 42.0     Lock 11 (Feuillaucourt), VHF 10, water
PK 43.5     Bridge (D938), quay d/s r/b, no services
PK 43.8     Lock 12 (Cléry-sur-Somme), VHF 10, water
PK 45.4     Junction with Canal de la Somme, beginning of 2nd section (common to Canal de la Somme) quay with water u/s l/b
PK 47.8     Péronne port de plaisance, night €9.45, diesel on commercial quay, water, electricity, showers at campsite, slipway, restaurant
PK 48.2     Bridge (D1017), quays d/s, private quay u/s r/b with all services but limited space, Péronne 1300m r/b
PK 48.6     Railway bridge
PK 49.5     Lock 13 (Péronne), VHF 10, water
PK 53.2     Bridge (Pont-lès-Brie), D1029
PK 55.9     Saint-Christ-Briost bridge, quay u/s l/b, no services, village 300m
PK 57.8     Motorway bridge (A29)
PK 58.9     Épenancourt l/b
PK 59.7     Lock 14 (Épenancourt), bridge, VHF 10, water, private quay u/s l/b
PK 60.9     Pargny bridge, village l/b
PK 63.7     Béthencourt-sur-Somme bridge, quay d/s r/b
PK 65.3     Junction with Canal de la Somme, end of section common to Canal de la Somme, beginning of third section
PK 67.8     Rouy-le-Petit bridge, small village 400m r/b
PK 68.8     Railway bridge, private quay u/s and d/s l/b, no services
PK 68.9     Nesle bridge (D930), quays u/s, village 2000m l/b
PK 69.6     Lock 15 (Languevoisin), VHF 10, beginning of summit level
PK 69.9     Bridge (D89), quay u/s l/b, no services
PK 71.5     Breuil bridge, small village l/b
PK 72.7     Buverchy bridge, small village r/b
PK 74.6     Bridge (D186), quay u/s r/b, no services, turning basin d/s r/b, Ercheu 2500m l/b
PK 77.1     Libermont bridge, small village 800m r/b
PK 78.5     Tunnel (La Panneterie), northern entrance
PK 79.6     Tunnel (La Panneterie), southern entrance
PK 81.2     Bridge (Frétoy-le-Château)
PK 81.9     Lock 16 (Campagne), VHF 10, water, end of summit level
PK 82.9     Campagne bridge, small village l/b
PK 84.3     Catigny bridge, small village r/b
PK 86.2     Bridge (Béhancourt)
PK 87.1     Sermaize bridge, village 400m r/b
PK 87.7     Lock 17 (Sermaize-Haudival), VHF 10, water
PK 89.2     Beaurains-lès-Noyon bridge, village 500m r/b
PK 91.2     Bridge (D934)
PK 91.8     Noyon quay l/b, water and electricity, town centre 1300m
PK 93.1     Bridge (D938)
PK 93.4     Lock 18 (Noyon), VHF 10, water
PK 93.8     Bridge (avenue Jean Jaurès)
PK 94.2     Bridge (D1032, Noyons bypass)
PK 94.4     Lock 19 (Pont-l’Évêque), VHF 10, water
PK 94.7     Pont-l’Évêque bridge, village 800m l/b
PK 94.8     Railway bridge
PK 95.0     End of third section, junction with Canal latéral à l’Oise (PK 18.6)