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!

A strong character!

The Burgundy Canal may look serene and peaceful but don’t be fooled! Beneath its apparent tranquillity it hides a strong, tenacious character!

For it to see the light of day, it took time, money, countless feats of technical wizardry and the tireless work of many men.

Since its engineer, Joseph Abeille, drew up the route in 1725, it took:

50 years to pay for it – from 1725 to 1775

58 years to build it – from 1775 to 1833

To solve the problems of supply, water divide and regulating the flow they needed to:

Build a 3.3 km tunnel at Pouilly-en-Auxois

Construct 6 reservoirs and a huge number of other works to manage the supply

To get it to make the 378-metre climb it required:

Locks and more locks – 189 altogether!

Then they added 30 ports and 224 houses.

So much construction for the transportation of goods, for commerce and industry!

Now, the activity of the past is long gone, displaced by the railway and motorway, and the canal has become a place for leisure with a cycle path along the old towpath and a whole range of leisure activities on offer along its banks, especially fishing, and opportunities for gourmet breaks; you can also go swimming in certain stretches of the water.

Today, in Pouillenay

 Léa meets a stone from the quarry

“Hello! Yes, I am indeed famous! And my ancestors are famous too! Just imagine, lots of them helped build Notre-Dame de Semur-en-Auxois and the castle of Marigny-le-Cahouët! Others played their role around 1830, in the heyday of the canal. And in 1880, a distant cousin enabled the locks to be lengthened while his colleagues took part in the construction of the walls of the dam at Pont-et-Massène. Our family was more into public works, but some of my acquaintances were chosen to be sculpted. The ones who formed the substructure of the statue of Vercingetorix, at Alise-Sainte-Reine became very snobbish! And they also have a relative who knew the engineer Lacordaire, you know, the one who found cement by digging into the subsoil of Pouilly-en-Auxois. With all that, they almost forgot they originally came from a quarry! In 1850 the whole of the Ouche valley was lined with a great number of small quarries! Working these quarries required cement works, lime kilns and sawmills to be built all along the canal. Today the quarry at Pouillenay is still in operation, run by the Rocamat Company. And look, here’s the bulldozer coming, we’d better get out of the way!”

The Auxois Park

At Arnay-sous-Vitteaux, stretching over an area of 40 hectares, this wildlife and leisure park offers the visitor the chance to see over 500 creatures at close quarters as well as a fun park with rides, attractions and a swimming pool. What would the children prefer: watching the bears have their tea or speeding down the water chute? Well, both, of course!


Snuggling against the slope of Mont Auxois, the village still recalls the spirit of resistance, inspired by characters from the past. On the oppidum of Alesia, Vercingetorix faced up to Caesar’s armies; where the miraculous fountain springs forth, the young Queen was executed for refusing the advances of a Roman prefect. Félix Kir was born in the village, famous both for his charisma and his aperitif, as well as for his Resistance activities from 1940. You can follow in the footsteps of these three outstanding personalities as you wander through the alleyways of the village.


This little medieval village, perched on a hill, is one of the loveliest villages in France. Built around an eighth-century Benedictine abbey, it is made up of beautiful stone houses, protected by ramparts and three fortified gateways. In addition to its outstanding heritage, it is famous for its little aniseed-flavoured sweets, which are exported all over the world.


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!