Barger Guide to Canal du Nivernais

Barger Guide to Canal du Nivernais

Among the beautiful inland waterways of France, the Canal du Nivernais offers beautiful scenic routes through the rocky and historic Burgundy landscape. Originally created as a feeder duct where floats are firewood, today it has a very different incarnation as a popular route for a new generation of barge vacations in France. Barger Guide to Canal du Nivernais
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The 174km-long Canal du Nivernais serves as part of the wider Bourbonnais and Bourgogne between Paris and Lyon. The road runs north-south between the Seine valley (in Paris) and Saône and Rhône, almost parallel to Yonne. Along the road connect Yonne with the Loire at Auxerre and Decize, respectively. Its strategic position was no coincidence and, in 1783, the French government commissioned its construction as a conduit for transporting firewood indispensably to the frozen population of Paris.

It had been years before reaching completion (in 1843), but later became a vital transportation center for everything from wood and wine, coal, stone and charcoal. The canal is fed by Yonne and also from the north by another feeder channel that leads from the Pannecière Reservoir, through the beautifully and admiredly beautiful Montreuillon waterway.

There are 122 locks and 23 dams along its length and in one section three tunnels have been carved out of solid rock to allow for its journey. The journey through the tunnel has been described as complete silence, so similar to “the silence of the grave”. Despite the remarkable technical feats required to complete the journey, many keys are built to specifications that are considered ‘sub-standard’. This means that with a length of only 30m, some of them are unable to accommodate a larger barge, which causes a decrease in the use of waterways. Barger Guide to Canal du Nivernais

Only in the 1960s did local governments see the potential of Canal du Nivernais as a tourist attraction, and an extensive rehabilitation program for a decade has been carried out. The work provides facilities and moorings for private and commercial vessels along the route, enabling operators to enter the canals into their barging holiday travel plans in France. A number of nearby attractions can be enjoyed from the waters and beach-based tours.

Route Attractions One of the most popular sights on the way is the magnificent Abbey of Saint-Germain, in Auxerre. Dating back more than a thousand years, the monastic complex contains the real treasure of history within its enclosed wall. Along with the oldest wall paintings in the country, archaeologists have discovered the sarcophagi of the sixth century and the crypt, nave and the monastery tower are almost completely intact.

Something a bit more energetic to do along the canal route in the picturesque village of Merry-sur-Yonne is climbing in the famous landmark, Le Saussois. This impressive expanse overlooks a very beautiful backdrop that is famous for being one of the most challenging climbing sites in the country, although there are many areas that have already been traversed for beginners as well to cut their teeth. Barger Guide to Canal du Nivernais

With a reputation for being one of the most exciting and enjoyable places for barges in France, the history, techniques and scenery of the Canal du Nivernais are an important past reminder and insight into today’s fun.

Paul Newman is a Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the most respected provider of all-inclusive luxury barges in France and other major destinations in Europe. Part of an experienced barge team, Paul first queued to support a slow-paced barging cruise facility for anyone looking for a unique holiday experience. Barger Guide to Canal du Nivernais