Information about the 240km long Canal du Midi

Canal du Midi France location map

The Canal du Midi, designed and built by Pierre-Paul Riquet in 1662-1681, is a remarkable work of engineer­ing, justifying its inclusion in the Unesco world heritage list in 1996, and one of the most popular cruising waterways in France. 2016 marks the 350th anniversary of the royal decree authorising Riquet to build the canal, and the 20th anniversary of the world heritage listing. The canal runs 240km from the Étang de Thau, a sheltered lagoon behind the Mediterranean port of Sète, to Toulouse, where it connects with the Canal de Garonne. Its green waters twist and turn through the countryside, following the contours, bordered by an avenue of thousands of plane trees whose exposed roots interlock at the water’s edge, reinforcing the banks. Although many have been cut down to limit the spread of the deadly canker stain, a minute blue fungus, the characteristic landscape remains in many sections, and the newly-planted trees will gradually recreate the majestic presence of their predecessors. The canal passes through a great number of wine-growing areas, including the Hérault, the Aude, Minervois and Corbières, as well as many fields of sunflowers and corn. These dominate the more pastoral landscape after the canal leaves the Mediterranean climate west of Carcassonne.Canal du Midi Region location map

The Midi has just cause to be popular. During the season hundreds of hire boats cruise to and fro, not always completely sure of what they are doing, particularly in the locks (tricky enough for more experienced boaters). These are subject to a perpetual overflow waterfall noisily cascading over the upper gates. It pays to be somewhat on guard when sharing a lock with hire boats. The quantity of hirers naturally increases during the grandes vacances in July and August. Thefts from this tempting array of targets are not unusual, so boats should always be locked up!

Canal du Midi PK 117 Trèbes

The plane-trees of a new disease-resistant variety planted by VNF at Trèbes, to replace the trees that had to be chopped down and burned on site in 2012. In the background is the Le Boat hire base.  © F-W

From its entrance at Les Onglous, marked by a charming small lighthouse, the canal cuts across the coastal plain to Agde, where it crosses the river Hérault behind a weir, then enters its lowest pound at the round lock in Agde. It leaves sea level at the lock in Portiragnes, and soon reaches Béziers, where the canal crosses the river Orb, this time on an aqueduct. Here starts the ‘heavy engineering’ of this truly unique canal, where nature forms a constantly delightful backdrop to all manner of staircase locks, aqueducts, siphons, spillways, feeders and one tunnel.

At Fonserannes the six- (formerly eight-) lock staircase lifts boats to the ‘long pound’ (grand bief) which follows the 31.50m contour for no less than 54km to Argens-Minervois. This includes the world’s first canal tunnel, at Malpas, with a length of 161m and a width of 6.45m at water level. From Argens the canal climbs again in earnest through Carcassonne then Castel­naudary. A few hours after leaving Castelnaudary and its expansive basin, the summit level is reached. Here it is worth stopping where the feeder enters (photo, right) to visit the former octa­gonal basin, the Rigole de la Plaine feeder, and the imposing obelisk erected in Riquet’s memory. From Toulouse the canal rises through the rich cereal-growing plain of the Lauragais to a short summit level at the Col de Naurouze, at an altitude of 190m. It is to this point that Riquet succeeded in bringing a more-than-adequate supply of water by an ingenious feeder system, the main components of which are the Saint-Ferréol reservoir, still efficient after more than three centuries of operation, the Rigole de la Montagne, 24km long, and the Rigole de la Plaine, 35km long. The large-scale development of irrigation from the 1970s, combined with maintenance problems and the resulting wastage of precious water, and a series of exceptionally dry years, stretched this system beyond its limits, but additional resources have been made available (a new reservoir at Montbel supplying the Ganguise reservoir by gravity), so that all the canal’s functions are in principle guaranteed even in the driest summers.

Canal du Midi PK 52

A hire boat passes the point where the elaborate feeder system designed by Riquet and completed by Vauban enters the canal. In the foreground the former Méditerranée lock up to the octagonal basin was converted into a control valve, just one of many adaptations of the centuries-old infrastructure. There is an informal mooring just right of this outlet.  © dem

The important La Nouvelle branch, often called La Robine, leads from the main line at Sallèles (PK168) via Narbonne to the commercial port of Port-la-Nouvelle, a distance of 37km.

A short branch, the descente dans l’Hérault maritime, leads from the round lock at Agde to the river, thus giving alternative access to the Mediterranean. East of Agde lock, the canal uses the course of the Hérault for 1km (see under Hérault).

HistoryFrance’s most famous canal was born, like many great projects, from a meeting of men with uniquely converging motivations and capabilities. Tax collector Pierre Paul Riquet saw the value of the canal crossing the watershed, connecting Toulouse to the Mediterranean. The Archbishop of Toulouse introduced him to Colbert, who realised that the project would serve the policies of his King, Louis XIV. The concession was given to Riquet, and works began in 1662. The fascinating story of the canal’s construction is told by Tom Rolt* in From Sea to Sea. The canal was ceremonially opened in October 1681, 10 months after Riquet died, ruined after investing his entire fortune in the works. Vauban made a number of improvements in the 1690s, but was understandably impressed by the boldness of the project completed by Riquet and his engineers.
* Co-founder and main inspiration for the Inland Waterways Association in the UK; the centenary of his birth was celebrated in 2010.


Key Waterway Dimensions

  • Max Beam: 5.45m
  • Max Height: 3m
  • Max Draught: 1.50m


Navigation

The Midi has just cause to be popular. During the season hundreds of hire boats cruise to and fro, not always completely sure of what they are doing, particularly in the locks (tricky enough for more experienced boaters). These are subject to a perpetual overflow waterfall noisily cascading over the upper gates. It pays to be somewhat on guard when sharing a lock with hire boats. The quantity of hirers naturally increases during the grandes vacances in July and August. Thefts from this tempting array of targets are not unusual, so boats should always be locked up!

Locks – Discounting the two locks down to the river Garonne in Toulouse (obliterated by a ring road) and one stop lock which is normally open, there were formerly 64 locks on the canal, 16 falling towards the Garonne and 48 falling towards the Mediterranean. With 19 double staircases, four triple, one quadruple and one sextuple, the number of separate chambers to be negotiated was in fact 99 (24 from Toulouse to the summit and 75 down to the Mediterranean). Minimum lock dimensions were 30.00 by 5.50m. However, in the late 1970s the canal was modernised (like the Canal de Garonne in the early 1970s) to bring it up to the standard of the main canal network in France, navigable by the 38.50m long péniche, loading 250 tonnes. The works, which consisted essentially in lengthening the existing lock chambers, were completed from Toulouse to Baziège (PK 28) and from Argens (PK 152) to the Étang de Thau, including the entire branch to Port-la-Nouvelle, and the navigable dimen­sions in these sections increased accordingly. Five new deep locks were built at the Toulouse end of the canal, and two at Béziers, replacing former double staircase locks, so that there are now 15 locks and 18 chambers between Toulouse and the summit. The most significant change east of the summit was construction of the water slope to bypass the Fonsérannes staircase, finally opened in 1989 after protracted court action follow­ing failure of the traction unit when the water slope first opened in 1984. In 1990, the prospects for a revival of water transport were seen to be negligible, even for 250-tonne barges, and in 1996 the canal became a World Heritage site, protected by Unesco. The section of the Canal du Midi which retains its original structures will thus remain as it is, a relief for all those who were concerned that Riquet’s heritage would be desecrated beyond recognition.

Canal du Midi Lock PK 133

A unique benefit of cruising on the Canal du Midi is the presence of lock-keepers, in an age which seems to dictate automatic operation as the only way to operate a canal economically. However, not all lock-keepers are as welcoming, let alone entertaining, as Joël Barthes at the écluse de l’Aiguille (pk 133). © dem

Considering the direction of travel, heading west from the Étang de Thau, the number of locks is 48 (73 chambers) from the Mediterranean to the summit level and 15 (18 chambers) from the summit to Toulouse, making a total of 63 locks and 91 chambers. Maximum authorised length 30 m, beam 5.45 m. The locks have an unusual oval shape on plan, but the walls are vertical. The double, triple, quadruple and sextuple staircases are electrically-operated, and can be negotiated in a relatively short time. Most of the single locks are now user-operated. There is a control panel at the lock-side with buttons. Crew must be let off in advance of the lock in order to press the appropriate button actually to prepare and open the lock-gates before a boat can enter. Once moored, a button is pressed once more to empty/fill the chamber, etc. Reports indicate queues of boats waiting to pass through locks, where once the éclusiers would ‘encourage’ (sometimes vigorously) boats in so as to fill them as well as managing the actual operation.

Draught – The maximum authorised draught is 1.50m. This is the ‘book’ value and may vary according to conditions. There may be some shallower ‘spots’ at downstream lock entrances, at least until the current 10-year dredging programme is completed. The real depth of the Midi is the subject of seemingly constant debate because it varies according to season, nature and location. Some stretches are highly prone to either silting or to falling leaves forming a ‘soft bed’ that can be ploughed through but which certainly reduces the actual water depth. As on most waterways, the given depth is the middle of the channel; the sides may be noticeably less deep and this may affect coming alongside, especially if one has twin bilge keels or twin propellers. The final factor is that on the ‘down’ side of an écluse the outgoing water scours a depression immediately outside the gate but then deposits that silt a short way beyond as a ‘bar’.

Headroom – The bridges leave a minimum clear headroom of 3.25m in the centre line of the arch and 3.00m at the sides.

Canal du Midi Bridge Headroom

A tight squeeze for this large hire boat under a characteristic Midi bridge. © f-w

Towpath – There is a good towpath throughout, except over the first 22km from Les Onglous to Portiragnes lock.

Authority – VNF – Subdivision de la Haute-Garonne:
—    115 bis, rue des Amidonniers, 31000 Toulouse (PK 0-76)
Subdivision Languedoc-Ouest:
—    Port du Canal, 11000 Carcassonne (PK 76-151)
Subdivision Languedoc-Est:
–    Pont Rouge, avenue du Prado, 34500 Béziers (PK 151-240 and La Nouvelle )

Descente dans l’Hérault – The descente dans l’Hérault maritime leads from the round lock at Agde (PK 231) to the port of Agde on the Hérault. The cut is about 500m long and includes a railway bridge offering a minimum headroom of 4.22m. The maximum authorised draught is 1.80m.

Click to enlarge

Route description

Mediterranean towards the Atlantic
PK 240.1    Les Onglous lighthouse, entrance from the Bassin de Thau
PK 239.8    Quays (Les Onglous)

Primarily a Glénans sailing school base, located in the former stable and other buildings for the teams that hauled boats through the canal. There are a few areas of quayside available for visitors. Interesting and peaceful spot to stay for a day or so, by the étang but also quite near the big beaches to the south at Marseillan-plage.

PK 238.5    Bridge (Les Onglous)
PK 235.3    Lock (Bagnas)
First/last lock on the Midi. Éclusier.
PK 234.1    Bridge (Saint-Bauzille)
PK 233.2    Bridge (Prades)
PK 232.9    Stop lock (Prades)
PK 232.7    Canal enters HéraultAgdePlan

Turn south and go downstream for 800m (past possible bank-side river moorings) until within sight of the Agde weir, then turn right into the canal – high grassy banks but a timber waiting pontoon outside Agde’s ‘round lock’. Entering the river, it is possible to turn north and cruise up to Bessan (see under Hérault).

PK 231.9    Canal leaves Hérault
PK 231.4    Round lock (three-way), junction with branch (descente dans l’Hérault)

It’s not truly round since it was altered to accommodate longer peniches. For example, the passenger boat ‘le Capitain’ that we often seem to meet in, or coming out of, the lock. Prudence is the watchword if you also see it, not a pleasant experience. In fact, the round lock seems harmless enough but it is more difficult than it looks – it is easy (especially if the wind is blowing) to get ‘trapped’ on one quadrant or another, unable to get off and make the turn out through the gate. Bear this in mind when you choose your place to tie up. Some places are subject to quite a lot of turbulence as the lock fills. The écluse is manned.
To the left of the lock lies the spur canal that also connects with the river Hérault, below the weir, that provides a route to the sea.

PK 231.3    Agde bridge, Canalous Plaisance hire base, basin, quay u/s r/b for 15 boats, water, town centre 800m r/b

Public quayside mooring to the left, possible bankside on the right before the long series of hire boats starts. Agde is a picturesque and historic town, well worth visiting – about 15mins walk south from the écluse. Airport nearby.

PK 229.7    Three-arched bridge
PK 229.2    Railway bridge

Canal du Midi PK 231 Round Lock Agde

The round lock at Agde. Left is the little-used branch down to the Hérault. Beyond the bridge, to the right, is the harbour basin.

PK 229.0    Bridge (Pont Neuf, Vias), D912
PK 228.2    New road bridge (D612, Agde bypass)
PK 226.4    Vias bridge (Pont Vieux), moorings d/s r/b, 8 boats, water, electricity, village 1200m l/b

Quayside mooring by the bridge, close to the big sandy beaches at la Tamarissière.

PK 226.3    Bridge (D137)
PK 225.2    Libron crossing, narrow passage, bridge
PK 222.0    Port Cassafières basin r/b, Le Boat hire base, 70 berths, night €20 (no mooring the week-end), diesel, water, electricity, showers, pump-out, restaurant, Redoute-Plage 1800m

A major hire boat base with facilities potentially available for outside use – repairs, crane, etc. Fuel. Some spaces available for visitors (harbour off the river), or moor bankside nearby, plenty of scope. Big sandy beaches of la Redoute very close by.

PK 221.6    Bridge (Roquehaute)
PK 218.3    Lock (Portiragnes), bridge, village 400m l/b
PK 216.5    Bridge (Caylus)
PK 215.5    Cers bridge, village 800m l/b
PK 214.9    Bridge (D64)
PK 213.8    Lock (Villeneuve), bridge, Villeneuve-lès-Béziers r/b, quays for 5 boats, night €6, water, showers at camp site

Canal du Midi Mooring Villeneuve

Moorings at Villeneuve-lès-Béziers © F-W

A good place to moor for a day or two, nice village, excellent wine co-operative. Most moorings are bank-side but there is a public quayside with water (south bank just below the écluse – ‘jeton’ tokens from the tourist office adjacent) and also other moorings by the restaurant, north bank by the écluse. The best place is outside the friendly and very well run camp-site ‘les Berges du Canal‘ (small restaurant, bar, showers, etc), which has electricity as well as water available. Phoning ahead to reserve a mooring is advised.

PK 212.7    Motorway bridge (A9)
PK 212.5    Lock (Ariège)
PK 210.5    Bridge (Capiscol)
PK 210.0    Lift bridge on industrial railway siding, disused (remains open)
PK 209.5    Bridge (Saint-Pierre)
PK 208.8    Flood gate (Sauclière), bridge and footbrige, quay d/s l/b
PK 208.5    Bridge, junction with Canalet du Pont Rouge r/b

Timber waiting pontoons ahead of the lock. The short canal spur off to the left provided access to the River Orb via a lock. Excellent possible bank-side mooring (check depths).midi-208-beziers-cathedral

PK 208.4    Deep lock (Béziers), dry dock

This manned lock is straight-sided and deep (4m+).Vertical poles to moor to and slide up (or down). You will only be able to loop round one pole (take both stern and bow lines through); they are spaced for péniches, not plaisanciers.

PK 208.1    Béziers basin, moorings, water, town centre 500m l/b beyond railway

A very historic town, dating back beyond Roman times to the Neolithic. It became a stronghold of the Cathar sect, forcibly surpressed in 1209 when the population (15 000–20 000) was massacred in its entirety by Catholic forces. The town is very pleasant to walk up to from the port, to sit in the main square by the statue of Paul Riquet, born in Béziers. The port is spacious and modern, but in our experience the water and electricity points have never worked.

PK 208.0    Deep lock (Orb), bridge

Junction Plan Beziers Canal du Midi

Straight-sided and very deep (6m+). Again, there are vertical poles to moor to.

PK 207.6    Aqueduct (Orb, length 240m)

The aqueduct takes the canal over the River Orb. Before this was built in 1858 river craft had to descend to the river, travel along, and then come back up to canal level. Conditions often meant this was not possible. The photo shows the écluse ‘Notre Dame’ (below Fonserannes), unused since then, slowly sinking into picturesque decay. It is to the credit of the original builders that it is still so well preserved.

PK 207.0    New cut r/b to water slope (disused)
PK 206.9    Six-lock (formerly eight-lock) staircase (Fonserannes)

Canal du Midi Lock PK 207

View looking down the Fonserannes staircase. © France Vélo Tourisme – J. Damase

Going down is quite fun; going up is ‘an experience’. There were once 8 écluses, plus ‘Notre Dame’, to get up from the river; now there are just 7 in operation (= 6 rises or falls) to get up from the aqueduct level. Quite enough.

The ascents and descents are according to a timetable – up 10:00-11:45 and 16:00-18:45, down 8:00-9:30 and 13:30-15:30. An ascent takes about an hour. It is always beer-o-clock at the top and one is entitled to expect appreciative applause.
Beside the staircase of locks is the ‘water slope’ or pente d’eau, built 9 years after the prototype at Montech, to slide 38-metre péniches between the upper and lower levels. Following the disappearance of commercial traffic in 1987, it was never needed, and was technically unsatisfactory. In a forlorn state, it is now expected to be dismantled, and the whole site relandscaped.

The locks are invariably shared with other boats, of differing sizes and crew abilities, often quite tightly packed in. It is best to be at the back, but beware of the gates closing on the stern. If at the front the bow may be worryingly close to the rushing water, but a secure line taken to the upper bollard, top or foot of the steps will keep the boat safe. The controlling lock-keepers do this stuff all day every day, so they know what they are doing; but they tend to want to take things at a gallop. There are usually lots of spectators enjoying what they see as fun, tending to crowd forward and get in the way of one trying to get lines round bollards, or ‘helping’.

Canal du Midi Locks Fonserannes

The impressive rush of water from the gate paddles one basin up from where
boats are made fast; this mode of operation accelerates the locking cycle. © SB

Going up (the trickiest) ‘à deux’, the basic technique is to have crew on the lock-side with the bow line. Moving between lock-chambers, they lead the boat with the line, walking up the steps whilst the skipper attempts to keep the boat under control, go through the gates and then tuck into the curved lock-wall. Crew takes a couple of turns of the bow line around the forward bollard and then darts back to take the stern line from the skipper, around the aft bollard, back to the skipper and then forward to pick up the bow line and control the bow.

There are two situations where this doesn’t work. Going into the first (lowest) chamber the configuration means that the crew won’t be able to walk in, bow line already in hand. It may be difficult to lasso the necessary bollards from the boat. Secondly, half-way up there is a footbridge that means crew also cannot lead the boat here. The skipper may have to throw the bow line to the crew, as well as the stern. All good fun.

PK 206.6    Bridge over third lock
PK 206.5    New cut r/b to water slope (disused)

From here, heading west, there are no locks for 53km.

PK 205.9    Bridge (Narbonne), D609, quay u/s r/b
PK 205.4    Bridge (D64)
PK 204.4    Bridge (Gourgasse)
PK 204.0    End of narrow section
PK 203.8    Second passing place
PK 202.7    First passing place
PK 202.0    Canal narrows, one-way traffic (except for small boats)
PK 200.5    Colombiers bridge, marina and Canalous Plaisance hire base, d/s r/b, 30 berths, night €20, diesel, water €2, electricity, showers €2, slipway

Hire boat base (travelift and yard) in a harbour off the river. Apparently, free water and electricity for the first night. Colombiers has its regular customers, who have left their boat there for the winter. Visiting boats have been known to be given a hard time, not welcomed at any mooring inside the basin despite space being available, and then berated for mooring on the canal bank. The port can also be very noisy.

PK 198.8    Malpas tunnel (length 161m), Oppidum d’Ensérune ruins 1500m l/b

Canal du Midi Bridge Malpas

The narrow approach to Malpas tunnel
from the eastern end. © Sylvain Blanchard

The oldest canal tunnel in the world; quite short but the tunnel and the approaches are narrow (single passage) so hooting loudly to scare oncoming traffic is a good idea. Above, the Oppidum d’Enserune is an ancient hill settlement, occupied for 500 years up to 100ad – magical, but a very stiff walk up from the canal. It overlooks the Étang de Montady, once a swamp but drained in 1247, with spectacular radial fields and ditches.

PK 196.3    Bridge (Régimont)
PK 194.2    Poilhes bridge, quay d/s r/b for 2 boats, night €7, water, electricity, village r/b

Poilhes is a gorgeous little village that spans the canal with two bridges connecting the halves. There is a short stretch of quayside downstream (south) of the road bridge. Bankside (with bollards) for 500m from that bridge upstream, plus mooring off the old washing-place opposite. Small shop/boulangerie, restaurants, superb Mairie overlooking the canal.

PK 194.1    Footbridge (Poilhes)
PK 191.7    Bridge (Trézilles), D11
PK 188.5    Bridge
PK 188.3    Capestang bridge, quay and moorings d/s l/b, France Fluviale hire base, 30 berths, night €16, diesel, water, electricity, showers, pump-out, restaurant

Capestang bridge dimensions

Capestang bridge – click to enlarge

Capestang is a good village, with facilities including supermarkets. There are plenty of bank-side moorings either side of the bridge, as well as a hire boat base.
The bridge has the reputation of being the lowest on the canal; it isn’t, but it is the most awkward because of its shape (the two bridges at Saint-Jean and Carcassonne locks, PK 108 and PK 105, are the lowest).

PK 180.6    Bridge (Malviès)
PK 178.3    Bridge (Pigasse)

This stretch is wide and an excellent place to moor bank-side; far-reaching views to the south.

PK 176.5    Bridge (Sériège), quay u/s l/b, restaurant
PK 172.6    Argeliers bridge (Pont Vieux), quay u/s l/b, village 700m l/b

Good, popular, bankside moorings with a pleasant small village nearby

PK 171.4    Bridge (Pont de la Province)
PK 168.8    Railway bridge, end of one-way section traffic
PK 168.7    Junction with embranchement de La Nouvelle, r/b, moorings
PK 168.3    La Robine basin l/b, bridge (Truilhas), 45 berths, night €16.85, diesel, water, slipway, wifiCanal du Midi La Robine Junction Plan

Cathare Marine harbour off the canal (behind a sliding passerelle, so very secure), bankside moorings with water and electricity. Slipway at the far end. Some noise and dust from the works adjacent. Fuel from the pontoon outside the passerelle. A very pleasant walk or bike ride down the side canal (towards Narbonne) to pretty Sallèles d’Aude village for provisions.

PK 168.0    Aqueduct (Cesse)

The little halte beside the bridge over the River Cesse offers a stone quay but no services. The river is worth a look at, or even to scramble down and paddle in. A fairly thin stream running between gravel banks, you will surely be taken aback by the plaques on the south side of the bridge recording winter flood heights – 10 m above the summer low water level.

PK 167.7    Canal narrows, one-way traffic (applies only to large vessels)
PK 165.9    Le Somail bridge (Pont Vieux), Nicols hire base, quays d/s for 20 boats, water, village l/b

Very pretty village and bridge. Close by, a stunning, very large antiquarian bookshop and an equally extraordinary hat museum. Several restaurants.

PK 165.4    Bridge (Pont Neuf), D607
PK 162.7    Bridge (Saint-Nazaire)
PK 160.9    Ventenac d’Aude bridge, quay u/s l/b, village l/b

Good quaysides immediately outside a huge wine ‘cave’. The aqueduct over the river Repudre (1676) is the oldest in France, probably the world.

Canal du Midi Répudre aqueduct

Répudre aqueduct

PK 158.8    Aqueduct (Répudre)
PK 157.6    Paraza bridge, quay u/s l/b, water, village l/b
PK 154.8    Roubia bridge, quay d/s l/b, water, village l/b
PK 152.3    Lock (Argens), beginning of long pound
PK 151.3    Port de plaisance (Port Occitanie) through bridge l/b, Locaboat hire base, night €13.50, diesel (on request), water, electricity, shower, crane 10t, picnic area
PK 151.1    Argens-Minervois bridge, village l/b

A very attractive village, with an ancient and seemingly untouched chateau set on the hill above. Down at canal level things have moved on a bit – there is the hire boat base (‘Port Occitanie’, no private plaisanciers, possibly fuel, crane) and bank-side moorings alongside the path where the locals play pétanque.

PK 149.8    Double staircase lock (Pechlaurier)
PK 147.5    Bridge (Ognon), D11
PK 147.2    Stop lock (Ognon), footbridge
PK 147.1    Double staircase lock (Ognon), aqueduct d/s
PK 146.4    Lock (Homps), bridge
PK 145.8    Bridge
PK 145.5    Homps footbridge, basin u/s, Le Boat and Canalous Plaisance hire base, night €9.70-17.20, water, electricity, shower €1.50, crane 9t, restaurant, wifi, village r/b

We like Homps. The village itself has nice buildings including the Knights Tower – in the Middle Ages Homps was one of the most important sites of the Templar Order of Jerusalem. On the edge of the village is an excellent service station and convenience store. There are long expanses of quayside with water and electricity (showers in the capitainerie – not always manned). Big hire boat base with craned lift-out, possibly fuel (?). A bike ride away is the much larger village of Olonzac (banks, etc.).

PK 144.0    Bridge (Jouarres)

By the bridge, a romanesque arch and colonnade fronts a vineyard estate. Closer to Homps, what was obviously intended to be a port de plaisance. Two entrances (chains across) with an island between that would make an excellent, very safe overnight mooring. This is presumably an abandoned property development.

PK 142.7    Lock (Jouarres)
PK 141.4    Bridge (Métairie du Bois)
PK 141.0    Argent-Double aqueduct
PK 140.5    Bridge (Pont Neuf), D11
PK 139.6    Aqueduct (Ribassel)
PK 139.5    La Redorte bridge (Pont Vieux), quay d/s l/b for 15 boats, water, electricity, restaurant, village 500m l/b

Good quayside moorings (with services), restaurants; a new pontoon west of the bridge.

Canal du Midi Lock

Aiguille double staircase lock, PK 133

PK 136.4    Double staircase lock (Puichéric)
PK 136.0    Bridge (disused)
PK 135.0    Bridge (Rieux), Puichéric 800m r/b
PK 133.7    Aqueduct (Aiguille)
PK 133.4    Double staircase lock (Aiguille), bridge

A brilliant collection of very witty sculptures made from bits of wood and objets trouvés. The lady on the bike pedals if you approach. Down by the lock weir is a wooden alligator. They are for sale!

PK 131.6    Double staircase lock (Saint-Martin), bridge
PK 130.4    Triple staircase lock (Fonfile)
PK 127.2    Lock (Marseillette), bridge
PK 126.2    Marseillette bridge, village 200m r/b

A number of bankside moorings, also a timber pontoon with water.

PK 122.2    Bridge (Millegrand)
PK 121.0    Bridge (Millepetit)
PK 119.4    Bridge (Saint-Julia)
PK 118.0    Triple staircase lock (Trèbes), bridge

PK 117.3    Trèbes bridge, quay u/s l/b, Le Boat hire base, night €20, water, village r/b

A busy place. Hire boat base, lots of bank-side moorings, shops and restaurants. pk 117 on the north side is a pretty feeder canal. Suggested quiet mooring, but looks narrow and depth uncertain.

Canal du Midi Carcassonne Mooring

Excellent moorings downstream of Carcassonne lock (PK 105)

PK 116.7    Aqueduct (Orbiel)
PK 116.2    Bridge (Rode)
PK 113.4    Lock (Villedubert)
PK 112.6    Lock (Evêque), bridge
PK 110.6    Bridge (Méjeanne)
PK 109.3    Bridge (Conques)
PK 109.0    Lock (Fresquel)
PK 108.8    Double staircase lock (Fresquel), quay d/s l/b
PK 108.7    Aqueduct (Fresquel)
PK 108.0    Lock (Saint-Jean), bridge (Friedland), one of the lowest on the canal at 3.30m
PK 107.9    Bridge (D118)
PK 105.4    Railway bridge (main line Toulouse-Narbonne)
PK 105.3    Lock (Carcassonne), bridge
PK 105.0    Carcassonne basin, port de plaisance in town centre and 1500m from La Cité, 59 berths, night €15 depending on number on board (2 to 10 persons, covering water, electricity, showers), Canalous Plaisance hire base, crane on request, slipway, pump-out, repairs

Canal du Midi Mooring

Excellent moorings upstream of Villepinte lock (PK 77)

Utterly spectacular, world-renowned and unmissable, Carcassonne comprises a very large, complete and intact ancient fortified town (the Cité) and a 13th century ‘new’ town. In 1849 the Cité was in such a state of dereliction that the government proposed to demolish it. This caused a national outcry and comprehensive – somewhat inauthentic in places – restoration began. In a more modern vein, there are plenty of facilities within an easy and pleasant stroll from the port de plaisance, as well as a main-line station.
Navigationally, in general moorings are divided between the bows-to port and the alongside quay (see aerial photo above right). Both have water and electricity; the capitainerie (also the local VNF office) is by the port. It is advisable to make contact in advance of arrival, this is a popular place as might be imagined. Speak to Mathieu, Stephanie or Françoise (04 68 25 10 48). In between the two there is an écluse – the bridge headroom here (and at the écluse downstream ‘Saint-Jean’) is at the 3.30m canal minimum.

PK 104.8    Bridge (Pont de la Paix)
PK 104.6    Footbridge
PK 104.4    Bridge (Iéna)
PK 103.6    Railway bridge
PK 102.3    Bridge (D6161, Carcassonne ring road)

Quayside outside an old canal building. When first built, the Canal du Midi by-passed Carcassonne (the cost of going though the town was more than the town, impoverished by plague, could bear) and this is where that old canal emerged. Later on, soldiers captured from the Franco-Prussian war were used to dig the revised ‘through’ route, in particular the extremely deep cutting immediately above the PdP. There is now practically nothing to show of the old canal, but some masonry of the at least one of the écluses survives.

Canal du Midi Restaurant

Restaurant ‘La Rive Belle’ at Herminis lock, PK 98

PK 99.9    Lock (Ladouce)
PK 98.5    Lock (Herminis), bridge

Delightful lock-side restaurant La Rive Belle.

PK 98.2    Double staircase lock (Lalande)
PK 95.9    Bridge (Rocles), Pezens 1500m l/b
PK 94.1    Bridge (Caux-et-Sauzens), quay d/s r/b
PK 93.4    Lock (Villesèque)
PK 91.2    Villesèquelande bridge, village 600m l/b

Excellent grassy bank moorings under the trees, pretty bridge and lovely village nearby.

PK 89.1    Bridge (Saint-Eulalie)
PK 87.9    Aqueduct (Espitalet)
PK 85.9    Lock (Béteille), bridge
PK 84.7    Bridge (Diable)
PK 83.9    Railway bridge (main line Toulouse-Narbonne)
PK 83.6    Aqueduct (Rebenty)
PK 80.8    Bram bridge, basin and quays d/s r/b, Castel Nautique hire base, 40 berths, diesel (on request), water €5, electricity €5, shower, crane, slipway, repairs, restaurantCanal du Midi Restaurant Bram

Bank-side and quay moorings (being extended – shallow area half-way along), hire boat base and café/restaurant L’Île aux Oiseaux (ownership changed 2012 after this photo was taken).
Expensive water point. The village is 1500m from here, based on a fortified medieval circular plan.

PK 80.3    Lock (Bram)
PK 79.0    Lock (Sauzens), bridge
PK 77.4    Lock (Villepinte)

Good bankside moorings above the lock near the small village; a lovely location albeit with some background traffic noise from the road a few kilometres away.

PK 76.5    Pumping station, concrete quay under a tree
PK 76.0    Villepinte bridge, village 1000m l/b
PK 73.6    Lock (Tréboul), bridge
PK 73.4    Tréboul aqueduct
PK 72.2    Lock (Criminelle)
PK 71.7    Lock (Peyruque), bridge
PK 70.6    Lock (Guerre), bridge, Saint-Martin-Lalande 1000m l/b
PK 69.7    Lock (Saint-Sernin), bridge
PK 69.1    Lock (Guilhermin)
PK 68.7    Triple staircase lock (Vivier), bridge
PK 67.2    Bridge (D6313)
PK 67.1    Double staircase lock (Gay)
PK 65.6    Quadruple staircase lock (Saint-Roch), water
4-chamber staircase, closes 20 minutes earlier.
PK 65.4    Bridge (Saint-Roch)
PK 65.2    Basin (Grand Bassin), Le Boat hire base r/b, 6 berths, night €8, fuel, water, electricity, showersCastelnaudaryPlan

The ‘Grand Bassin’ is a 5ha reservoir feeding the locks. Moorings on the south side. Hire boat base with showers and moorings available to plaisanciers. Dry dock. Fuel point on the north side, but not as cheap as it once was. New quaysides west of the bridge closer to the village centre. Good town with all facilities. The home of the legendary bean and pork cassoulet baked in goose-fat.

PK 64.8    Bridge (Pont Vieux)
PK 64.6    Castelnaudary quays both banks, moorings for 50 boats, night €20, water, electricity, shower, slipway, pump-out, wifi, town l/b
PK 64.5    Bridge (Pont Neuf)
PK 64.1    Footbridge
PK 60.9    Lock (Laplanque), bridge
PK 59.7    Lock (Domergue)
PK 58.7    Triple staircase lock (Laurens), bridge
PK 57.5    Double staircase lock (Roc)
PK 56.6    Lock (Méditerranée), bridge, beginning of summit level
PK 53.8    Le Ségala bridge, quay south bank, 8 berths, water €3, electricity €3.

The watershed or ‘summit level’. Quayside moorings by the small village.

PK 52.1    Naurouze feeder enters canal from former octagonal basin

Canal du Midi Le Ségala

Eroded banks and small plane-trees at Le Ségala, PK 54

A beautiful place; this is where Riquet’s feeder canal enters, but it does so in a wonderful octagonal parkland setting and around an avenue of plane trees. The avenue leads up to a small hill, on top of which is an obelisk commemorating the canal’s plateau ‘between the two seas’ and celebrating Riquet. Everyone should stop here; to enjoy and to pay their respects to the great man!

PK 51.6    Lock (Océan), bridge, end of summit level
PK 50.6    Railway bridge (main line Toulouse-Narbonne)
PK 50.2    Bridge (A61, Autoroute des Deux Mers)
PK 50.0    Port Lauragais marina adjacent to motorway services and Pierre Paul Riquet visitor centre, 32 berths, night €12.50, water, electricity, slipway, restaurant

Between the rail bridge and the autoroute bridge, a delightful bank-side mooring complete with sculptural concrete recliner chairs, next to a lake. The trains are quite frequent, but easily ignored.
NaurouzePlan Immediately west of the autoroute, a port de plaisance that is part of its spacious parkland rest area. Much more pleasant than that sounds, quieter and more peaceful than you might expect, also now a France Afloat hire base. The adjacent A61 autoroute is an inescapable factor for the next 35km. Most of the time there is merely a background buzz, sometimes it is lost entirely, but in a couple of places it is very noticeable.

PK 49.5    Bridge (Maraval)
PK 47.5    Lock (Emborrel), bridge, Avignonet-Lauragais 1500m r/b
PK 45.9    Double staircase lock (Encassan), bridge
PK 43.0    Lock (Renneville), bridge, small village 400m l/b
PK 41.0    Aqueduct (Hers), Villefranche-de-Lauragais 2000m r/b

At PK40, on the south bank, a good, quiet, bankside mooring. north bank – further good, quiet, bankside moorings at PK37, 35.5 and 33.

PK 39.0    Gardouch quay l/b, water, electricity, pump-out, village 600m
PK 38.9    Lock (Gardouch), bridge
PK 38.5    Aqueduct (Gardouch)
PK 37.5    Double staircase lock (Laval), bridge
PK 35.0    Bridge (Vieillevigne)
PK 34.6    Motorway bridge (A66)
PK 33.3    Lock (Négra), bridge, Montesquieu-Lauragais 1000m l/b
PK 33.1    Locaboat hire base l/b, water,  electricity, shower
PK 31.5    Bridge (Enserny)
PK 29.6    Double staircase lock (Sanglier), bridge
PK 28.1    Deep lock (Ayguesvives), footbridge

This écluse has been modernised into a single (oval shape) from the old double; it is quite deep (4m+). Coming down (towards Toulouse) you will need long ropes if you use the bollards, or you will need to find the inset bollards, but their position is not obvious. Going up (towards Castelnaudary) the inset bollards can be seen but you will need to use bow and stern lines on the same one. There are ‘slidey poles’ but they are positioned at the extreme ends of the écluse, close to the gates.

PK 28.0    New road bridge (D813)
PK 26.9    Bridge (Baziège)
PK 25.0    Montgiscard quay l/b, village 300m beyond main road
PK 24.9    Deep lock (Montgiscard), footbridge

Similar to the lock at Ayguesvives, but not as tricky or deep. Short length of quay above the écluse, good for lunch or overnight. Boulangerie in the village, up the hill.

Canal du Midi Port Lauragais Mooring

Hard to believe that this is a motorway service area (Port Lauragais, PK 50)

PK 24.8    Bridge (Montgiscard)
PK 22.7    Bridge (Donneville)
PK 19.8    Bridge (Deyme)
PK 18.4    Aqueduct (Rieumory)
PK 17.4    Lock (Vic), bridge
PK 15.7    Deep lock (Castanet), bridge, village 2000m l/b
PK 15.3    Bridge (route de Labège)
PK 12.4    Ramonville centre 1000m
PK 12.1    Bridge (Madron)
PK 11.5    Ramonville marina r/b, with dry dock, night €12.79, water, electricity

A full service port de plaisance, including fuel. The port has recently (late 2011) been taken over by the municipality of Ramonville and there are plans to rehabilitate and enhance facilities.

PK 11.4    Footbridge (Ramonville)
PK 10.6    Canal basin r/b (port technique)

A large maintenance and repair yard, including a peniche-size dry dock. No crane. East bank.

PK 10.5    Road bridge (avenue de Latécoère)
PK 9.1    Bridge (pont Giordano Bruno, university campus)

Aérospatial space research centre. Science areas. University of Toulouse.

PK 8.6    Footbridge
PK 8.1    Aqueduct (Herbettes, Toulouse ring road A620)
PK 7.1    Footbridge
PK 6.4    Bridge (Demoiselles)
PK 6.1    Basin l/b (Basin de Radoub)
PK 6.0    Railway bridge
PK 5.6    Footbridge (Soupirs)
PK 5.2    Toulouse port de plaisance (Port Saint-Sauveur), moorings 800m from city centre, 40 berths, night €11.90, diesel, water, electricity, showers, slipway, pump-out

Toulouse Map Waterways

Such a great place to stay, it is tempting even to live aboard throughout the winter! The Saint-Sauveur harbour, is run by friendly municipal staff. Excellent, spotless, services and complete security. WiFi. The port de plaisance is very popular – phoning ahead is advised.
Toulouse is one of France’s biggest cities; there’s a great deal to see and do, good shops and all facilities, including a big park just by the port de plaisance. If you walk back along the canal beware of the cyclists that you’ll share the path with. Some of them go at breakneck speed.

PK 5.1    Bridge (Saint-Sauveur or Montaudran)

Canal du Midi Toulouse Mooring Saint-Sauveur

The Port Saint-Sauveur in Toulouse during a boat rally organised as part of the World Canals Conference in September 2013; the capitainerie is the curved roof building on the right. © Sylvain Blanchard

PK 5.0    Basin (Port Saint-Étienne)
PK 4.9    Bridge (Guilheméry)
PK 4.4    Bridge (Colombette)
PK 4.2    Bridge (Constantine)
PK 4.2    Footbridge
PK 3.9    Bridge (Riquet)
PK 3.6    Deep lock (Bayard), bridge, Toulouse Matabiau station r/b

Notes on the three locks in Toulouse: Bayard (6m+) and Minimes (4m+) have been converted from double locks and are deep. They have ‘slidey poles’ (near the ends) to which you’ll need to attach both bow and stern lines. All three are automated but there will normally also be an éclusier at Béarnais, the nearest to pk 0. Coming up from the port de l’Embouchure (junction with the Canal de Garonne) you may need to tie up at the downstream wooden pontoon and go and announce your presence. Coming from the other direction, Bayard is operated via a suspended pole or perche.

PK 3.3    Bridge (Matabiau), narrow passage (former lock)
PK 3.0    Footbridge (Raisin)
PK 2.6    Footbridge (Négreneys)
PK 2.1    Bridge (Minimes)
PK 2.0    Deep lock (Minimes)
PK 1.5    Footbridge (Nymphée)
PK 1.1    Lock (Béarnais), bridge
PK 0.4    Bridge
PK 0.3    Bridge (Ponts Jumeaux)
PK 0.2    Junction with Canal de Garonne and Canal de Brienne
PK 0.0    Toulouse basin (Port de l’Embouchure), former locks down to Garonne filled in for ring road, moorings, water

Cruise into the terminal basin and turn round to appreciate the unique view of the ‘twin bridges’.There are now three, but the name stuck. Through the right-hand bridge is the short Canal de Brienne which takes water from the Garonne behind the Bazacle weir. The middle bridge is the one you have just come through. The left-hand bridge is on the connecting Canal de Garonne (see South West France). Terrific white marble bas-relief between the first two : the Mediterranean and the Atlantic personnified together with canal building cherubs busy with picks and shovels. The turn between the two canals is quite tight; you might want to go further into the basin and take a wider approach. There are quayside moorings here, but it is bounded by busy roads.

 

Descente dans l’Hérault
PK 0.0     Junction with main line of Canal du Midi at round lock (PK 231.4), bridge
PK 0.2     Railway bridge
PK 0.4     Footbridge
PK 0.5     Junction with Hérault maritime

Cruises, holidays and vacations on the Canal du Midi

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HOTEL BARGE CRUISES

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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.

self-drive canal boat rentals map

Base locations map – Canal du Midi