Information about the 137km long canalised river Vilaine


The canalised river Vilaine forms a link in the waterway route across Brittany from Saint-Malo to the Bay of Biscay, an inland route regularly used by yachtsmen long before the current boom in inland cruising. The river is navigable from Rennes, where it is joined by the Canal d’Ille-et-Rance, to below La Roche-Bernard, where it flows into the Atlantic, a distance of 137km. It is crossed by the Canal de Nantes à Brest at Redon (PK 89), below which point it used to be tidal, until a barrage was built at Arzal, 6km inland, incorporating a large lock. This has transformed the estuary into a wide fresh-water lake of more or less constant level and more attractive for yachting and inland cruising. Despite this scheme, the large sluice-gate on the river at Redon (the ‘Grand Vannage’) is often closed, offering protection against exceptionally high tides, and since there is no lock here the structure has to be bypassed. Proceeding downstream on the Vilaine, the route to be followed (if the Grand Vannage is closed) is right through lock 18 (Oust) of the Canal de Nantes à Brest, then immediately left through another lock into the large basin at Redon (360 by 60m), which has been developed as a yacht harbour (Port de Plaisance). The basin is linked to the Vilaine downstream of the Grand Vannage through a short length of canal, in which the former tide lock has been eliminated. It is thus a clear run from Redon basin to the lock at Arzal, a distance of 42km. Vilaine-reg

It should also be noted that the junction with the Canal de Nantes à Brest in the direction of Nantes is no longer made at the Redon crossing, but 7km down­stream through the lock at Bellions, the section of the canal between Bellions and Redon having been closed.

History – With its gentle gradient, the Vilaine was one of the first rivers in France to be canalised. Some weirs and flash locks were built from 1540, and a lock was projected in Rennes in 1610, but the complete canalisation project was not started until 1784. The waterway was completed in 1834 by the Compagnie des Quatre Canaux, formed in 1821. The river is now entirely under the responsibility of the Brittany region, and managed under a concession agreement by the Institut pour l’Aménagement de la Vilaine. All operating staff were transferred to the Region on 1st January 2010.

Key Waterway Dimensions

  • Max Beam: 4.70m
  • Max Height: 1.80m
  • Max Draught: 1.50m


Locks – There are 12 locks on the Vilaine between Rennes and Mâlon (PK 52), with dimensions of 26.60 by 4.70m. The lock at the Arzal barrage is of large dimensions (85 by 13m), allowing big yachts and passenger boats to navigate up the river to Redon. There is an intermediate gate which allows a shorter length of the chamber to be used when sufficient. A lift bridge spans the lock.

Draught – The maximum authorised draught is in principle 1.50m, but this may be reduced to 1.20m between Rennes and Redon. Downstream of Redon depths are substantially greater.

Headroom – The bridges leave a minimum clear headroom of 3.20m above normal water level, reduced to as little as 1.80m above the highest navigable water level between lock 13 (Mâlon) and Redon. During floods local enquiries should therefore be made. The nominal headroom is guaranteed through the covered section of the Vilaine in Rennes.

La Chapelle Bauby lock is the upstream limit of navigation in Rennes © MarcAlex
La Chapelle Bauby lock is the upstream limit of navigation in Rennes © MarcAlex

Towpath – The towpath has been restored from Rennes to Cran bridge (PK 100), with an interruption at Redon, where local roads must be used from the canal basin to south of the Oust confluence.

Authority – Région Bretagne – Service des Voies Navigables
Subdivision Vilaine-Canal d’Ille et Rance
–    33 rue Armand Rébillon, 35000 Rennes
Operation and maintenance conceded by the region to
–    Institution du Canal d’Ille-et-Rance Manche-Océan Nord (ICIRMON), same address (PK 0-52)
–    Institution d’Aménagement de la Vilaine 1 quai amiral de la Grandière, 35600 Redon (PK 52-137)

Click to enlarge

Detailed route description

PK 0.0     Rennes bridge (Pont de Bretagne) (see Vilaine in Rennes below)
PK 0.1     Junction with Canal d’Ille-et-Rance, r/b, Rennes bridge (Pont de Bretagne)
PK 0.2     Quays, water, town centre 500m (better mooring above lock 1 on Canal d’Ille-et-Rance)
PK 0.7     Bridge (Abattoir)
PK 0.9     Skew bridge (Robert Schuman)
PK 1.0     Confluence of Ille, r/b
PK 1.3     Railway bridge, former industrial quays d/s
PK 1.9     Lock 2 (Comte) in short lock-cut l/b, swing bridge
PK 2.5     Bridge
PK 2.6     Road bridge (N136, Rennes bypass)

…and downstream of the covered section, with the entrance to the Canal d’Ille-et-Rance on the left behind the barges © Kader Benferhat/Comité des Canaux Bretons
The Vilaine in Rennes, upstream of the covered section (in the background)… John Riddel/EDB

PK 4.2     Meander cutoff r/b
PK 5.5     Lock 3 (Apigné) in short lock-cut l/b, bridge
PK 9.3     Bridge (Chancors), weir r/b, entrance to lock-cut l/b
PK 9.7     Bridge (D34)
PK 11.0     Lock 4 (Cicé), lift bridge, navigation re-enters Vilaine
PK 13.9     Entrance to lock-cut l/b, confluence of Meu, r/b
PK 14.1     Bridge (Mons), quay d/s l/b, Bruz 2000m l/b
PK 14.3     Lock 5 (Mons)
PK 14.5     Bridge (D177)
PK 14.8 Navigation re-enters Vilaine
PK 17.8     Lock 6 (Pont-Réan), l/b, and weir
PK 18.0     Pont-Réan bridge, quay d/s r/b for 9 boats, water, electricity, village r/b
PK 20.3     Confluence of Seiche, l/b
PK 20.5     Railway viaduct (Cahot), moorings d/s l/b
PK 21.0     Lock 7 (Boël), r/b, and weir
PK 23.7     Laillé bridge, boat moorings d/s r/b, water, electricity, mooring free, village 2500m l/b, Guichen 3600m r/b
PK 26.8     Lock 8 (Bouëxière), r/b, and weir
PK 27.9     Bridge (D38)
PK 28.5     Bridge (Glanret), quay d/s r/b,  1800m l/b
PK 30.2     Lock 9 (Gailieu), r/b, and weir, Bourg-des-Comptes quay u/s l/b for 3 boats, water, electricity, showers at camp site (200m)
PK 33.8     Lock 10 (Molière), r/b, and weir
PK 35.3     Bridge (Charrière), Pléchâtel 1000m l/b
PK 37.3     Railway viaduct (Cambrée)
PK 39.9     Bridge (Macaire), moorings d/s l/b
PK 40.6     Lock 11 (Macaire), r/b, and weir
PK 47.4     Messac boat harbour and Le Boat hire base l/b, 166 berths, night €6.25, water, electricity, showers, slipway, crane 10t, repairs, restaurant 100m
PK 47.9     Lock 12 (Guipry), r/b, and weir
PK 48.0     Guipry bridge, quay d/s r/b, water, showers, village 1500m r/b, Messac 1300m l/b
PK 48.5     Bridge (Guipry)
PK 52.0     Lock 13 (Mâlon), r/b, and weir, shoals d/s
PK 55.0     Bridge (Saint-Marc), entrance to gorge
PK 56.7     Railway viaduct (Corbinières)
PK 62.2     Port de Roche bridge, quay u/s r/b, slipway, water, end of section in gorge, small village r/b
PK 63.5     Sainte-Anne-sur-Vilaine pontoon l/b, water, water, electricity, slipway
PK 66.4     Confluence of Chère, l/b
PK 67.6     Railway viaduct (Droulin)
PK 69.3     Beslé bridge, quay u/s l/b for 6 boats, water, electricity, slipway, village 500m l/b
PK 71.3     Brain-sur-Vilaine island, navigation in r/b arm, quay, village r/b
PK 73.0     Ferry
PK 74.3     Bridge (Ilette), quay u/s r/b
PK 76.5     Lake (Lac de Murin) beyond left bank
PK 79.3     Painfaut bridge, small village 300m r/b
PK 84.0     Bridge (Grand-Pas), quay u/s r/b for 3 boats, water, slipway
PK 85.9     Main road viaduct (D177/D164, Redon bypass)
PK 88.8     Railway viaduct (Redon)
PK 89.1     Redon bridge (Pont de Saint-Nicolas), quay u/s r/b, town centre r/b
PK 89.2     Crossing of Canal de Nantes à Brest
PK 89.3     Quays r/b
PK 89.4     Site of former weir (Grand Vannage)RedonPlan
PK 89.7     Redon basin (Grand Bassin) r/b, yacht harbour, junction with Canal de Nantes à Brest at end of basin, Cris’Boat and Locaboat hire bases, 12 berths for visitors, night €20.90, diesel, water, electricity, showers
PK 90.1     Commercial quays r/b
PK 90.9     Confluence of Oust, r/b
PK 96.1     Junction with Canal de Nantes à Brest, l/b, through Les Bellions lock (see plan)
PK 96.7     Rieux pontoon r/b, night €7, water, electricity, shower €2, slipway
PK 100.0     Confluence of Isac, l/b
PK 101.8     Bridge (Cran) with swinging span l/b, opens at fixed times for boats requiring more than 5.8m headroom, pontoon moorings u/s and d/s l/b, restaurant
PK 103.8     Ferry (Passage Neuf)
PK 114.9     Foleux port de plaisance r/b, 321 berths, night €15, water, electricity
PK 120.9     Boat moorings l/b
PK 121.1     Main road bridge (N165)
PK 122.0     Suspension bridge (D765)
PK 122.6     La Roche-Bernard harbour (Port du Rhodoir) l/b, moorings and boatyard (Atelier Naval de la Couronne), 56 berths, night €25, water, electricity, showers, crane 13t, slipway, repairs, wifi, restaurants, village 500m up hill l/b
PK 130.8     Arzal-Camoël yacht harbour l/b, 41 berths, night €21.00, fuel, water, electricity, showers, crane, pump-out, repairs, wifi, restaurants 150m
PK 131.0     Arzal dam, lock r/b, lift bridge
PK 131.2     Slipway (Vieille Roche) l/b
PK 136.6     Tréhiguier quay and boat harbour l/b, 4 berths, former ferry
PK 137.0     Discharge into the Atlantic, Pointe du Moustoir r/b, Pointe du Scal l/b

Branch through Rennes
PK 0.0     Rennes bridge (Pont de Bretagne)
PK 0.1     End of tunnel
PK 0.5     Entrance to tunnel (covered section of Vilaine)
PK 0.6     Footbridge
PK 0.8     Bridge (Pasteur), Musée des Beaux Arts
PK 1.0     Bridge (Richemont)
PK 1.2     Entrance to lock-cut
PK 1.3     Lock (La Chapelle-Bauby), head of navigation for small craft

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