Information about the 121km route comprising the river Sambre and canal de la Sambre à l’Oise
– Currently closed to through navigation –


The canalised river Sambre and Canal de la Sambre à l’Oise together form what used to be one of the most popular routes for plaisanciers entering France from Belgium and the Netherlands. Although not currently available as a through route, it is presented here in anticipation of its reopening, projected in 2020. Until then, boat owners can only be encouraged to take this ‘back door’ into France, starting from Charleroi, and enjoying a very attractive winding river navigation, despite its historic association with the heavy industry that lined its banks in towns in both Belgium and France. Hautmont, for example, had steelworks that have now vanished and given way to a splendid port de plaisance which itself justifies the detour, as a cruising destination during the year or for wintering.

The canalised river Sambre extends from the Belgian border downstream of Jeumont to the small town of Landrecies, a distance of 54km with 9 locks. Various rectification works have cut almost 2km from the course of the river, so the actual distance is just over 52km. The distance table below retains the original distances, corresponding to the kilometre posts on the river. The places where the course of the river has been shortened by the opening of meander cutoffs are downstream of Berlaimont (PK 19) and downstream of Sassegnies (PK 12-15).

From Landrecies, navigation continues on the Canal de la Sambre à l’Oise, which passes through a profoundly rural area of northern France. I first travelled the length of the canal in 1968, and it hasn’t changed much since then. The canal is 67km long from Landrecies to La Fère, where it joins the La Fère branch of the Canal de Saint-Quentin. The canal includes a summit level at an altitude of 137.40m, near Landrecies. Throughout most of the descent towards La Fère, the canal follows the upper valley of the river Oise.


The canal is at present closed to through navigation, and is practically unusable throughout much of its length because of siltation. This temporary situation was caused by the risk of failure of the Vadencourt aqueduct over the Oise, revealed by an inspection in 2006. The nearby Macquigny aqueduct is also in need of repairs.
The French Government has agreed to pay for half the cost of restoring the canal, the rest of the €15 million investment being covered by the local authorities. The canal is expected to reopen in 2020.

History – A company was set up in 1826 to canalise the river Sambre under the Becquey programme. Some flash locks had been built in the 17th century. A canal to link the Meuse with the Seine was envisaged from the late 17th century, but it was only after the Becquey programme was approved that the canal was let to private concessionary Urbain et Piard in 1833. Works were carried out in 1834-39, while the river canalisation works were also completed within this period (1835-1837). Closed since 2006, the through route is scheduled to be fully restored and reopened to navigation in 2020.

Key Waterway Dimensions

  • Max Beam: 5.05m
  • Max Height: 3.70m
  • Max Draught: 1.80m

Local Waterway Links


There is a standard 38.50 by 5.20m lock beside each of the nine movable weirs on the river Sambre, overcoming a total difference in level of 11.35m. The 38 locks on the canal have the same dimensions. Three locks rise the 5.70m from Landrecies to the summit level. The other 35 fall towards La Fère (difference in level 86.65m). Coming from Belgium,the welcome at Marpent lock (#9) is a challenge, because it means walking along the sheet piling guide wall to the lock, where there is an intercom to announce your arrival. You will be registered by the VNF office in Berlaimont, and they will deliver your remote control. The same unit will be used on the river and the canal through to the practical end of navigation at Étreux. You may obtain your vignette either from VNF at Berlaimont or at the port de plaisance at Hautmont.

Tranquil mooring opposite the glass works at Assevent, PK 45 © Rob Marquenie

Draught The maximum authorised draught is 2.00m from the Belgian border to Landrecies. This depth will not be guaranteed anywhere along the Canal de la Sambre à l’Oise until the restoration project has been completed. There has been heavy siltation in the absence of use and maintenance over many years. Boats drawing less than 1.40m should be able to navigate through to Étreux.

Headroom The fixed bridges leave a minimum headroom of 3.80m, except when the river is in flood. The canal offers a slightly reduced headroom of 3.70m, but this may be reduced when the rivers supplying the canal are in flood.

A banner on the bridge at Étreux declaring local support for the canal’s restoration.

Towpath There is a towpath throughout.

Authority VNF – Unité territoriale Escaut-Saint-Quentin – Écluse de Berlaimont, 2 chemin du Halage, 59620 Aulnoye-Aymeries (Sambre and canal PK 0-19, including the summit level)

VNF – Unité territoriale Bassin de la Seine
– 44 rue du Gouvernement, BP 616, 02321 Saint-Quentin (PK 19-67)

Click to enlarge

Detailed route description

PK 54.2     Belgian border, 39km and 10 locks from the junction with the Canal de Charleroi à Bruxelles at Charleroi
PK 54.1     Private pipeline bridge (Alstom factory)
PK 53.9     Private lift bridge (Alstom factory)
PK 53.2     Jeumont bridge, quay u/s r/b, water, electricity, slipway, small border town r/b
PK 53.0     Railway bridge, private quays u/s
PK 51.8     Lock 9 (Marpent) r/b and weir

Pick up remote control for all the locks on the river
and the canal. This will be delivered from the
VNF office at Berlaimont.

PK 50.9     Marpent bridge, small town 400m r/b
PK 50.1     Conveyor bridge
PK 47.7     Boussois bridge, village 200m l/b, Recquignies r/b
PK 47.0     Railway bridge (private)
PK 45.3     Assevent bridge, village l/b
PK 43.5     Bridge
PK 42.2     Road bridge (boulevard Charles De Gaulle)
PK 41.5     Maubeuge bridge (Pont Franco-Belge), quays d/s, water, electricity, pump-out, town l/b
PK 41.4     Lock 8 (Maubeuge) r/b and weir
PK 41.1     Bridge (Europe)
PK 39.9     Railway bridge
PK 39.5     Bridge
PK 39.4     Louvroil bridge (Pont Michaux), town r/b
PK 39.0     Bridge (avenue du 19 Mars 1962)
PK 38.7     Bridge (Usinor railway siding, disused)
PK 37.5     Bridge
PK 37.3     Bridge
PK 36.9     Expressway bridge (N2, Maubeuge bypass)
PK 35.7     Disused railway bridge and new road bridge (D95d), industrial quays
PK 35.4     Lock 7 (Hautmont) l/b and weir, bridge

The attractive new port de plaisance at Hautmont. PK 35.2

PK 35.2     Hautmont marina l/b, all services, wintering, town centre r/b
PK 34.5     Railway bridge and footbridge, numerous industrial quays
PK 33.9     Bridge (D800)
PK 32.0     Boussières-sur-Sambre bridge, village l/b
PK 26.2     Lock 6 (Quartes) r/b and weir
PK 26.0     Bridge (Quartes)
PK 23.2     Bachant bridges, village r/b
PK 22.0     Pont-sur-Sambre bridge, village l/b
PK 21.7     Lock 5 (Pont-sur-Sambre) and weir
PK 19.9     Aymeries bridge, small village r/b
PK 18.1     Berlaimont bridge, quay d/s l/b, water, electricity, small town 400m l/b
PK 17.8     Lock 4 (Berlaimont) and weir
PK 17.6     Bridge (Montbard), private quay u/s r/b
PK 15.7     Railway bridge
PK 13.0     Bridge
PK 12.5     Pipeline crossing
PK 11.1     Lock 3 (Sassegnies) and weir
PK 7.7     Lock 2 (Hachette) and weir
PK 5.9     Bridge (Hachette)
PK 3.0     Lock 1 (Étoquies) and weir, lift bridge
PK 0.0     Junction with Canal de la Sambre à l’Oise (300m d/s of Landrecies), turning basin


Canal de la Sambre à l’Oise

PK 0.0     Junction with the canalised river Sambre, turning basin
PK 0.2     Landrecies bridge, quay d/s r/b, water, electricity, slipway, small town
PK 0.3     Lock 3 (Landrecies), weir, quay u/s r/b

Reminder: the same remote control works for the locks on the canal.

PK 5.8     Lock 2 (Ors), bridge, village l/b
PK 8.6     Catillon-sur-Sambre lift bridge, quays l/b for 3 boats, water, electricity, pump-out, village l/b
PK 12.0     Lock 1 (Bois l’Abbaye), beginning of summit level
PK 13.9     Fesmy bridge, village 1300m
PK 16.0     Oisy bridge, village 200m
PK 18.6     Railway bridge
PK 18.9     Lock 1 (Gard), overflow weir, end of summit level, Boué bridge, pontoon moorings, village 2000m

A banner on the bridge at Étreux declaring local support for the canal’s restoration. PK 21.8

PK 19.3     Lock 2 (Étreux), overflow weir, quay u/s l/b
PK 20.1     Lock 3 (Étreux), overflow weir
PK 20.8     Lock 4 (Étreux), overflow weir
PK 21.1     Lock 5 (Étreux), overflow weir
PK 21.5     Lock 6 (Étreux), overflow weir, bridge
PK 21.8     Étreux swing bridge, quay u/s r/b, slipway, water, electricity, pump-out, village l/b
PK 22.1     Lock 7 (Étreux), bridge
PK 22.5     Lock 8 (Étreux)
PK 23.0     Lock 9 (Vénérolles)
PK 23.2     Vénérolles bridge, small village l/b
PK 23.8     Lock 10 (Vénérolles), private footbridge
PK 24.5     Lock 11 (Vénérolles)
PK 25.0     Hannapes swing bridge, village r/b

In practice this is the current limit of navigation, and is reported to be accessible by boats drawing up to 1.30m, but local enquiries should be made before proceeding beyond Landrecies.

Vadencourt aqueduct. PK 31.5

PK 25.1     Lock 12 (Hannapes), quay d/s r/b
PK 26.5     Lock 13 (Hannapes)
PK 27.0     Lock 14 (Tupigny)
PK 27.2     Lock 15 (Tupigny)
PK 27.3     Swing bridge, river Noirieux enters canal, r/b, quay r/b
PK 27.7     Tupigny swing bridge, village r/b
PK 28.0     Weir (Tupigny) r/b, Noirieux leaves canal
PK 28.4     Lock 16 (Tupigny)
PK 29.2     Lock 17 (Grand-Verly)
PK 30.0     Lock 18 (Grand-Verly), bridge, village 500m r/b
PK 30.9     Vadencourt swing bridge, turning basin d/s, village 800m r/b
PK 31.5     Vadencourt aqueduct over Oise (to be restored by 2020)
PK 31.6     Lock 19 (Vadencourt), quay d/s r/b
PK 31.9     Bridge (Bohéries)
PK 33.2     Lock 20 (Longchamps), bridge, water
PK 35.2     Lock 21 (Noyales), bridge, village 400m r/b
PK 37.3     Macquigny aqueduct over Oise (to be restored by 2020)
PK 37.5     Lock 22 (Macquigny), bridge
PK 38.6     Lock 23 (Hauteville), bridge
PK 40.9     Lock 24 (Bernot), bridge, village 700m r/b
PK 42.4     Turning basin l/b
PK 43.2     Neuvillette swing bridge, quay u/s l/b
PK 43.6     Lock 25 (Origny-Sainte-Benoîte), water
PK 44.1     Origny-Sainte-Benoîte bridge (D1029), grain loading quay u/s l/b, village 900m l/b, basin r/b

In practice this is the current limit of navigation heading north from the Oise.

PK 44.4     Pipeline crossings (factory on both banks)
PK 45.9     Lock 26 (Thenelles), bridge
PK 48.1     Lock 27 (Ribemont), bridge, quay and turning basin d/s l/b, small town 1200m l/b
PK 49.7     Lock 28 (Sissy), bridge, village 600m r/b
PK 51.3     Châtillon aqueduct over Oise
PK 51.6     Lock 29 (Châtillon), bridge, small village 600m r/b
PK 52.9     Lock 30 (Mézières-sur-Oise), bridge, quay d/s l/b, village 500m r/b
PK 53.6     Railway bridge
PK 54.5     Lock 31 (Berthenicourt), bridge
PK 55.3     Alaincourt bridge, quay d/s r/b
PK 56.4     Motorway bridge (A26)
PK 56.8     Lock 32 (Hamégicourt), bridge, water, quay d/s r/b, Moÿ-de-l’Aisne 700m r/b
PK 57.8     Bridge (Brissy)
PK 58.4     Lock 33 (Brissy)
PK 60.7     Vendeuil bridge, quays, village 1200m r/b
PK 62.2     Travecy-Montigny aqueduct over Serre, overhead power line
PK 62.6     Lock 34 (Travecy-Montigny)
PK 63.5     Turning basin and quay l/b
PK 63.8     Travecy swing bridge, quay d/s l/b, village 500m r/b
PK 64.3     Travecy aqueduct over Oise
PK 65.1     Lock 35 (Travecy), bridge, water
PK 66.1     Bridge (D1044)
PK 66.2     Conveyor bridge, basin d/s
PK 67.2     La Fère bridge, centre 1200m l/b, Junction with embranchement de La Fère of Canal de Saint-Quentin

If heading back north on the Canal de Saint-Quentin, select that waterway, one of the Northern France set. Otherwise select Normandy-Île de France to head down the Oise towards Paris (the La Fère branch of the Canal de Saint-Quentin is duplicated there for convenience). The Central France set will be needed for heading further south.