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 north bank of Panthier reservoir has been left natural, with fauna and flora conservation areas, while the south bank has become a leisure centre.

In 1910, at Panthier reservoir

Léa meets Jean, a fisherman

“Hello, but sshhh, keep your voice down! The noise will scare the fish away! You might wonder where the fish are with all this work going on? Well, we’ve just finished a new channel to take the excess water from the summit section. It’s more than 3 km long and it goes through two tunnels! What with that and the Panthier stream and the Montoillot channel, you’ve got a lot of cubic metres there! When the canal needs water it comes to Vandenesse by another channel. Well, they’ve been working on this reservoir for years! In 1871, it was completely dry for three years because of the works! It must have been an impressive sight with its 14 metre high retaining wall! The engineer, Bonnetat, would hardly recognise the plan he drew up in 1830! He had some great ideas, that man! Because it can’t have been easy to design the system of valves to run off the overflow. Right, that’s enough talking. I think I’ve got a bite!

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 chain boat Hall and the Billebaude

The electric chain boat from 1893 which used to pull the boats under the arches of Pouilly-en-Auxois is now at rest. It is housed on the port in a work of art: the translucent hall in cardboard tubes by the Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban.

To experience the atmosphere of the tunnel crossing and understand the life of the bargemen, you just need to come on board the ‘Billebaude’, a cruise boat whose name recalls the famous novel of Henri Vincenot.

The village of Châteauneuf

Perched at an altitude of 500 metres, this is one of the loveliest villages in France, with an exceptional medieval heritage. In the shadow of a powerful thirteenth-century fortress, it has beautiful houses with towers, coats-of-arms and sculptures, all bearing witness to past prosperity, due to the traders, artisans and the influence of Philippe Pot, a relative of the Dukes of Burgundy, who lived in the castle in 1460.


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!