Information about the 31km (+10km) long canalised river Isle

River Isle Map France

The Isle was formerly canalised over a distance of about 144km upstream from its confluence with the Dordogne at Libourne to the town of Périgueux. However, all the structures were abandoned after the decline of commercial navigation, leaving only the tidal navigation, covering a distance of 31km from Libourne to the first lock (lock 40) at Laubardemont.

In recent years the lowest three locks have been restored, and are regularly used by a trip-boat. This development adds 10km to the previously navigable length, up to the weir and lock at La Pauillade, but in the absence of formal arrangements for maintaining and operating the waterway, private boats are unfortunately not allowed to use this  length for the time being. Further restora­tion is nonetheless projected, inspired no doubt by the success of the river Lot, the eventual aim being to restore the river navigation up to the historic limit of navigation at Périgueux. For convenience, the distance table is given working upstream from the Dordogne.

River Isle Map France RegionIt should be noted that the possibility of mooring at most of the quays indicated in the distance table depends on the state of the tide.

History – Navigation to the town of Périgueux was blocked by a series of watermills, and it was decided in 1768  to canalise the river. The entire project was completed by a private company under a concession granted in 1820. This was one of the ambitious projects initiated by the Becquey programme for financing public works. It was inaugurated in 1837 from the Dordogne up to Périgueux, with 40 locks, mostly 24.25 by 4.50m, although some were narrower (3.60 m), and only a few at the lower end were given the ‘Becquey’ dimensions of 30 by 5.20 m. 

Key Waterway Dimensions

  • Max Beam: 5.20m
  • Max Height: 3.80m
  • Max Draught: 0.30m-0.80m

Local Waterway Links


Locks – The lock at Laubardemont is 30.00m long by 5.20m wide. It is operated by the trip boat crew only.

Draught – There is a depth of 0.30m at low water neap tides rising to between 0.80 and 1.60m at high water neap tides (at the current limit of navigation at Laubarde­mont). The maximum authorised draught in the canalised river is 1.40m.

Headroom – The fixed bridges leave a clear headroom of 8.20m at low water neaps, reduced to 3.80m at high water neaps (more restricted dimensions on the canalised river).

Towpath – There is no towpath.

VNF – Direction territoriale du Sud-Ouest
– 61 cours des Girondins, 33500 Libourne

Click to enlarge

River Isle Waterway Map

Route description

PK 0.0     Confluence with Dordogne (PK 75)
PK 0.7     Libourne bridge, quay u/s l/b, pontoon moorings d/s l/b, town centre 700m
PK 3.4     Motorway bridge (A89)
PK 4.1     Motorway bridge (A89)
PK 5.5     Motorway bridge (A89)
PK 7.6     Saillans r/b, village 1200m
PK 11.3     Bridge (D18)
PK 16.6     Savignac-de-l’Isle bridge, quay d/s r/b, village 400m r/b
PK 20.7     Saint-Denis-de-Pile bridge, quay and village l/b
PK 22.1     Quays l/b (Fleix)
PK 28.1     Bridge (D901e1, Guîtres bypass)
PK 28.6     Guîtres bridge, quay and village r/b
PK 31.1     Lock 40 (Laubardemont), in 650 m lock-cut, head of tidal navigation, Coutras 2500m u/s on Dronne (light craft only)
PK 31.6     Bridge, disused factory r/b
PK 31.8     End of lock-cut, Isle weir on r/b, bridge (D674)
PK 33.0     Railway bridges (Paris-Bordeaux main line)
PK 34.8     Abzac bridge (D17), village 700m l/b, Coutras 1800m r/b

Restored lock at La Roche-Beaulieu, 12 km downstream of the historic head of navigation at Périgueux. Complete restoration would require removal of the fences.  ©Cbb Marsac
Restored lock at La Roche-Beaulieu, 12 km downstream of the historic head of navigation at Périgueux. Complete restoration would require removal of the fences.  ©Cbb Marsac

PK 35.1     Lock 39 (Abzac) in short cut r/b, weir
PK 38.6     Lock 38 (Penot) in short lock-cut r/b, weir
PK 41.1     Lock 37 (La Pauillade) in short lock-cut r/b, weir current limit of navigation (trip boat only)