Information about the 65km long canalised River Baïse
The river Baïse, a left bank tributary of the Garonne, was restored to navigation in the 1990s over a distance of 65km, from its confluence with the Garonne at Saint-Léger to Camarade mill upstream of Valence-sur-Baïse. It was formerly navigable a further 21 km and 8 locks to the village of Saint-Jean-Poutge, a small river port serving Auch in the département of Gers. The Baïse is connected with the Canal de Garonne by a double staircase lock at Buzet-sur-Baïse, and with the navigable river Lot via a 5km length of the river Garonne (the ‘Garonne crossing’), downstream from the double outfall lock at Saint-Léger.
The navigation was abandoned in 1955 and sold to the riparians throughout most of its length, but the two départements Lot-et-Garonne and Gers invested more than €10 million in restoration of the waterway as the key to developing tourism in this rural area, redolent of armagnac and corn. The upstream limit of Valence was chosen because of the importance of the Cistercian abbey of Flaran, on the left bank of the river just before this small town is reached.
History – The Baïse was naturally considered for possible canalisation by Henri IV, who resided in Nérac before he became king of France. It was a more regular, less challenging river than the nearby Gers. Napoleon also saw the value of canalising this left-bank tributary of the Garonne. The project was started in 1808, and completed a few years later. The waterway was closed in 1954 and removed from the list of navigable waterways in 1957, except for the section between the canal and the Garonne. It then became private property. Restoration works, after a study by the author in 1990-91, meant that the right to navigate had to be negotiated with the riparian owners. This popular waterway is operated by the Councils of the two départements.
Key Waterway Dimensions
- Max Beam: 4.20m
- Max Height: 3.00m
- Max Draught: 1.20m
The Baïse is an ideal cruising river, with no particular difficulties except when the river is in flood. No vignette is required, as this is not part of the VNF network. The cruise on this tranquil shady river, steeped in history, offers a marked contrast with the long straight pounds of the Canal de Garonne. The river is attractively leafy and narrow, in some places twisting as well. In a suitable boat (including many hire boats available from
Buzet or Agen) it offers a uniquely delightful cruise, surrounded by wild life including lots of kingfishers (martin-pêcheurs). There are several attractive, historic small towns to visit. Navigation is interrupted when the Baïse floods to a level of +0.50m on the gauge at
Nérac. The speed limit is 6km/h.
The banks above Lavardac are all private and mooring must be at a locks or other pontoons, or the quaysides at Nérac, Moncrabeau, Condom and Valence.
Locks – There are 21 locks including the double staircase at Graziac. Saint-Léger lock leading to the Garonne is 40.50m by 5.20m. It is extended by an additional chamber into the Garonne, since the sill of the original lock was too high to provide sufficient depth during periods of low flow on the Garonne. The route description gives the historic lock numbers, which started at Saint-Jean-Poutge, hence 29 for Saint-Léger and 9 for Flaran. The three locks up to Lavardac have the restricted dimensions of the original locks on the Midi canals: 32.00 by 5.20m. From here upstream, the locks are the same length but narrower (4.20m).
The lock-keeper posted at the Buzet locks from June to September issues the swipe card for operation of all locks, from 09:00 to 19:00, with the exception of Saint-Léger (access to the Garonne), and the double staircase lock at Graziac, which was not mechanised and is operated by a lock-keeper (9:00 to 18:00, with a lunch-break). The magnetic card may need to be ‘jiggled’ to get it to read, or in extremis the stop button may be given a quarter-turn to release it. Out of season, consult the canal staff or follow instructions posted at Buzet locks.
Draught – The maximum authorised draught is 1.50m downstream of the junction with the Canal de Garonne, reduced to 1.20m upstream of the junction.
Headroom – The bridges leave a minimum headroom of 3.50m above normal water level up to Nazareth lock, and 3.00m thereafter.
Towpath – The towpath is of varying condition over the first 19 km up to Lavardac, and totally impracticable upstream from Lavardac following sale of the river to riparians between 1956 and 1962.
Authority – Conseil Général Lot-et-Garonne, Service Routes et Navigation:
Coteau de Romas, 47130 Port Sainte-Marie (PK 0–45)
Direction Départementale des Territoires du Gers
Cellule Eau Environnement – 19 Place du Foirail – BP 342 – 32007 Auch cedex (PK 45–65)
PK 0.0 Lock 29 (Saint-Léger) and weir, confluence with the Garonne
Waiting pontoon above the lock; walk to the portacabin office to register, arrange and pay for your Garonne crossing. When it comes to thinking about your return journey, the staff here can advise on the Garonne situation. The écluse down to the Garonne is fairly deep, with hanging ropes, but the normal summer water drop is just 1m.
PK 4.5 Lock 28 (Buzet) and weir
PK 4.7 Buzet-sur-Baïse bridge, quay d/s l/b, Aquitaine Navigation hire base, village 800m beyond lateral canal
Almost immediately after joining the Baïse from the Canal de Garonne and heading downstream, a weir and an écluse off to one side. Waiting pontoon to land your crew who will operate the lock using the magnetic card. Slidy poles. There is also an excellent mooring pontoon (one boat only) above the lock and a quayside mooring opposite that.
PK 4.9 Junction with the Canal de Garonne, l/b, by a double staircase lock
The locks are called ‘descente en Baïse’, but here used to lock up to the Canal de Garonne.
PK 8.7 Aqueduct (carries the Canal de Garonne over the river)
PK 8.9 Motorway bridge (A62, Autoroute des Deux Mers)
PK 9.9 Skew road bridge (D119)
PK 10.9 Railway bridge
PK 11.0 Feugarolles quay and boat moorings, r/b, village 600m, restaurant
PK 12.0 Trenquéléon château, r/b
PK 14.0 Bridge (Vianne)
PK 14.2 Vianne pontoon mooring for 10 boats, water, electricity, slipway, and turning basin d/s of weir, village l/b
Very pleasant ‘bastide’ walled village with gatehouses, roads in a grid pattern and very pretty suspension bridge. Good moorings.
PK 14.3 Lock 27 (Vianne) r/b, and weir
PK 15.2 Skew railway viaduct
PK 16.9 Lock 26 (Lavardac)
PK 17.2 Lavardac bridge (Roman arch on r/b)
PK 17.3 Lavardac quay directly below village centre, r/b, mooring for 4 boats, water, slipway
An historic small town, very pleasant from the river – écluse, quay and bridge. Beyond Lavardac écluses are narrower (max. 4m) and the river shallower (max. 1m). All banksides are privately owned.
PK 18.2 Confluence of Gélise, l/b
Stunning 13th C fortified mill approached across a mediaeval bridge across the river Gélise. 1km walk from Lavardac.
PK 18.7 Bridge (Pont de Bordes, D930)
PK 19.1 Railway viaduct
PK 19.5 Lock 25 (St Crabary) r/b, and weir
PK 20.6 Castle (Séguinot), l/b
PK 21.3 Lock 24 (Sourbet) l/b, and weir
PK 22.0 Castle (Bournac), l/b
PK 23.4 Lock 23 (Bapaume) r/b, and weir
PK 24.7 Lock 22 (Nérac) l/b, and weir
PK 24.8 Bridge (Vieux-Pont)
PK 24.9 Nérac quays both banks, capitainerie and trip boat departure point r/b, mooring for 15 boats, night €5, water, electricity €2), restaurant, town centre l/b
Extremely picturesque historic town, arched Pont Vieux bridge and quaysides. One wing of Henry IV’s large chateau survives, as do many other lovely old buildings.
PK 25.0 Bridge (Pont Neuf)
PK 26.8 Lock 21 (Nazareth), lift 2.21m, in short cut l/b
PK 29.4 Lock 20 (La Saubole), lift 2.37m
PK 31.1 Accommodation bridge, entrance to lock-cut l/b
PK 31.2 Lock 19 (Récaillau)
PK 31.3 Navigation re-enters Baïse
PK 31.8 Entrance to mill-stream r/b (not navigable)
PK 34.6 Entrance to lock-cut, l/b
PK 34.7 Lock 18 (Pacheron), lift 2.54m, bridge d/s
PK 35.3 End of lock-cut, accommodation bridge, navigation re-enters river
PK 36.5 Entrance to lock-cut, l/b
PK 36.6 Lock 17 (Lapierre), lift 2.28m
PK 36.9 Accommodation bridge
PK 37.0 End of lock-cut, navigation re-enters river
PK 37.8 Bridge (D112), quays r/b, Lasserre village and château 2000m r/b
PK 39.8 Entrance to lock-cut, l/b
PK 39.9 Lock 16 (Vialères), lift 3.01m, bridge d/s
PK 40.4 End of lock-cut, navigation re-enters river
PK 41.8 Entrance to lock-cut, r/b
PK 41.9 Lock 15 (Moncrabeau), lift 2.53m, bridge d/s
PK 42.2 End of lock-cut, navigation re-enters river
PK 42.3 Moncrabeau bridge, mooring for 4 boats, water, electricity, village r/b
‘World Capital of Liars’. The location for the famous annual Untruth Contest (first Sunday in August) where applicants for membership vie to tell the most unlikely stories.
PK 44.7 Département du Gers r/b
PK 45.4 Département du Gers l/b
PK 46.2 Entrance to lock-cut, l/b
PK 46.3 Lock 14 (Autièges), lift 2.55m, bridge d/s
PK 46.5 End of lock-cut, navigation re-enters river
PK 48.4 Entrance to lock-cut, r/b
PK 48.5 Lock 13 (Beauregard), lift 2.86m, bridge d/s
PK 48.7 End of lock-cut, navigation re-enters river
PK 52.3 Entrance to lock-cut, r/b
PK 52.4 Lock 12 (Peyrouthéou), lift 2.60m,
PK 52.8 Bridge (Sarreméjean)
PK 52.9 End of lock-cut, navigation re-enters river
PK 53.0 Bridge (Barlet)
PK 53.1 Condom quay r/b, mooring for 20 boats, night €5.50, water €1.21), electricity €3.63), showers (€1.98), slipway, pump-out, restaurant, wifi, armagnac cellars, cathedral, condom museum 300m
Another lovely historic small town – absolutely no connection with contraceptive devices! – but a centre of Armagnac production.
PK 53.3 Bridge (Carmes)
PK 54.4 Entrance to lock-cut, l/b
PK 54.5 Lock 11 (Teste), lift 2.40m, bridge d/s, café-restaurant
PK 54.7 End of lock-cut, navigation re-enters river
Tight ‘kamikaze’ bend around PK 57
PK 58.4 Entrance to lock-cut, r/b
PK 58.5 Double staircase lock 10 (Graziac), lift 4.70m, manual lift bridge d/s
The only staircase lock on the Baïse.
PK 58.9 End of lock-cut, navigation re-enters river
PK 62.0 Flaran bridge, moorings l/b, Cistercian abbey 200m l/b
Beautifully preserved Cistercian abbey.
PK 62.4 Entrance to lock-cut, r/b
PK 62.5 Lock 9 (Flaran), lift 3.58m
PK 62.6 End of lock-cut, navigation re-enters river
PK 63.3 Valence-sur-Baïse bridge, Locaboat hire base, moorings u/s r/b, night €4, water, electricity, campsite l/b, N.B. navigable channel not guaranteed above this point
The cliff-top limit of navigation, with pleasant moorings just below the bridge. Water and electricity.
PK 64.0 Bridge (D571)
PK 65.1 Moulin de Camarade, weir, lock disused, limit of navigation
SELF-DRIVE CANAL BOAT VACATIONS
Hiring your own cruising boat is an ideal way to explore and experience the pleasures and treasures that the French waterways have to offer. Hire boats come in different sizes, to suit a couple, a family or you and your friends, and your ‘hands on the wheel’ holiday can be arranged from start to finish by any of the reputable companies to be found on french-waterways.com.