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 stirs everything up

The construction of this waterway greatly altered the appearance of our towns and villages. What a lot of activity there was! Bargemen, lock-keepers, artisans, tradesmen, farmers and workmen all brought the canal to life.

Fortunately, the leisure sector then took over

The nineteenth century rocked by the industrial boom

With the water of the canal, it was full steam ahead!

Hydraulic power and the transport of goods

Establishment of factories, cement works, forges, warehouses

Workers arrive in great numbers

There is much activity on the quaysides of the ports, at Saint-Jean-de-Losne, Pouilly-en Auxois, Montbard. People are loading and unloading wood, oil, laminated iron, cement, lime, Burgundy stone, wine, sugar beet, cereals.

Businesses used the canal as a way of fetching raw materials form afar, which were processed and then sent elsewhere in the same way. The sugar refinery at Brazey-en-Plaine processed sugar beet from the whole region. A weighing machine at the port of Vandenesse-en-Auxois (several dozen kilometres upstream) would weigh the production before it was loaded onto barges.

It is difficult today to imagine all the hustle and bustle.

When the major road and rail links were built, the flame of industrial activity on the canal was extinguished. Fortunately, the leisure sector then took over.


The Burgundy Sugar Refinery has become a malthouse; you can see its silos. As for the baker’s yeast factory, that is now a car breaker’s yard. On the right bank, the weaving factory has been replaced by metal-working companies.

Des Corps Creux in Metal Valley

The old factory is still here and all around it, business has boomed. Now Montbard still has a cutting-edge industrial hub for metal production whose businesses make up Metal Valley. The products are exported all over the world.

In Montbard, in 1897 

Léa meets Jules, a factory worker

“No, I don’t live on the hill, where the castle ruins are. Like all the other workers, I live not far from the canal. In the beginning, the canal used to go through open fields. But later it got very built up, with workers’ lodgings and residences for the overseers and owners. I work in Monsieur Bouhey’s factory. In 1895 he founded the Société Française des Corps Creux with his brother. We make seamless tubes, using a revolutionary process from Germany. I am really proud of that! Our factory also has a wonderful location with a quay on the canal and a direct railway line to the station. We unload the materials and send the finished products to the train. But I haven’t got time to tell you any more. So, say hello to everyone, I’m off back to the workshop.”

The Buffon Museum and Park in Montbard

Here you can immerse yourself totally in the world of Buffon! This famous eighteenth-century naturalist invites you to his estate and to his famous Histoire Naturelle. As you wander over the terraces of Parc Buffon, built on the site of the old castle of the Dukes of Burgundy, or peek into his famous study, you will encounter the spirit of the Enlightenment with everything you discover.

Fontenay Abbey

Founded by Saint Bernard in the twelfth century, this Cistercian abbey is an architectural jewel, with Unesco World Heritage classification. The monks’ spirit is still present, whether in the serenity of the cloisters or the gardens or the unique use of light in the architecture. 

The Great Buffon Forge

Where did the forge master live and what accommodation was provided for the workers and managers? The way the workshops are organised, the beauty of the furnaces and the hydraulic system required for metal manufacture helps us imagine how this masterpiece of industrial heritage worked. It was designed and built by the Count of Buffon in the eighteenth century


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!