On all the boards
Welcome to the Burgundy Canal!

My name is Léa and I am a seasonal lock-keeper!
Take a look at my logbook and come along with me for a canal adventure the whole of its 242-kilometre length. It’s a real masterpiece of civil engineering as well as one of the loveliest ways to get from the Channel to the Mediterranean!
Meet me at every noticeboard by the canal. Have a great time exploring!

The canal is greedy

This is a canal with a summit section linking 2 catchment basins: the Yonne with an elevation of 300 metres and the Saône at 200.

Its water consumption is used to maintain the levels of the canal reaches and to fill its 189 locks. The ingenious builders designed an original system to provide hydraulic power for the canal and to supply it with water:

Aqueducts, valves, weirs

Channels, reservoirs

All these work together to regulate the hydraulic operation of the canal.

6 reservoirs for one canal

To keep the canal supplied with water, 6 reservoirs were built: Cercey, Panthier, Grosbois, Chazilly, Le Tillot and Pont-et-Massène. They are usually located around the summit section except at Pont-et-Massène which is more downstream on the Yonne side. These sections of water are fed by streams or rivers, or by the channels called ‘fillers’.

Other channels, called ‘feeders’, direct the water to the canal and its basins. The water reaches the canal by simple force of gravity alone. The 4km channel from Cercey reservoir that feeds into the canal at the port of Pouilly works in this way. The Pont-et-Massène reservoir provides drinking water for the surrounding communities.


The counter-reservoir is a place of leisure with a beach, and the beach hut Grosbois-en-bambou offers refreshment. Fishermen are welcome on the reservoir.

In 1980, at Grosbois reservoir

Léa meets Jérémy, a replacement guard

“Hello, have you come for a picnic? People often wonder why there are two reservoirs! Well, the big one is to supply the canal, it dates from 1838. You see the embankment? It’s built of brick, all 550 metres of it! With 9 buttresses! But all that volume of water creates a huge pressure that has to be balanced. So, in 1905, the engineers built a counter-reservoir to decrease the force. That kind of mechanism is really rare! Because you have to invent a whole system of supply points and overflow discharge while at the same time supplying the canal with water! In short, that’s why we have a spillway, wells and a wonderful channel, the Soussey channel, that goes through two tunnels and ends up 14 km lower down in the Pouilly basin! When you know all that, you never see the landscape in the same way again! Well, enjoy your swim!”

Commarin Castle

This castle, situated on the water, surrounded by moats and built on stilts, is still inhabited and has belonged to the same family for 900 years. In the seventeenth century, it was occupied by Marie-Judith de Vienne, the grandmother of Talleyrand and thanks to the villagers it escaped the pillaging of the Revolution. Now, with its furnishings and decor intact, the old residence gives free rein to the imagination and brings alive the History of several centuries.

The village of Grosbois

Now in the Brenne valley, the village used to be located on the north hillside. The nineteenth century church contains some beautiful sculptures from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Nearby is the castle built in the sixteenth century for Etienne Bernardon, a councillor in the Parliament of Dijon; his grandson had the ‘pink castle’ built in the eighteenth century, and the neo-Gothic wing in brick and stone dates from the nineteenth. As you pass by you will see a little bit of local heritage (cross, wash-house, forge, etc.).

Grosbois reservoir

Situated at the heart of an unspoilt area of ecological interest for its flora and fauna, the reservoir is home to rare and threatened species of flowers, such as the Limosella aquatica, common name water mudwort. This natural space also provides a migratory stopover or a place for overwintering for various species of birds such as the black stork and the spotted redshank; the red kite, a threatened species in Burgundy, also visits in the nesting season.


1724 A canal project is agreed after much deliberation concerning the route

1775 Work begins on both banks

1826-1832 Pouilly tunnel is dug out

1833 The whole canal is opened to traffic

1872-1882 Standardised to Freycinet gauge (lengthening of the lock chambers)

Nineteenth century The industrial boom

Twentieth century Gradual transition from industry and commerce to tourism and leisure

2010 Creation of the cycle path

Nowadays you can travel on the water for pleasure or enjoy cycling along the cycle path that follows the old towpath. It’s an ideal opportunity to discover the wealth of our heritage as you explore!