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 Pouilly

Léa meets her friend Nolwenn, a Breton girl on holiday

Léa, my whole family wants to thank you for inviting us! What fun, a cruise on board the Billebaude! And we start tomorrow! We’re doing a bit of the cycle route. Right now I could really do with some peaceful, country scenery. I can just imagine a lock-keeper’s house with blue shutters and flowers at the windows; in the distance is a valley surrounded by steep hills and further away still you can see vineyards and a castle perched on a hill. Wonderful! Yann says I am just a romantic. He dreams about good meals and the children want to swim in Panthier Lake! Family holidays do need a lot of organisation, that’s for sure! And we’ll never have time to see everything, visit everything and taste everything… 

Cercey reservoir

Of the six reservoirs built to supply the canal, the Cercey reservoir is without any doubt the closest to nature. Finished in 1836, it has become a natural haven where you can watch the birds, especially the coots and ducks that come here for the winter. An information trail winds all around the lake so you can find out everything about how the canal was supplied with water.

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 Mont-Saint-Jean

This is one of the most beautiful villages in France, looking down from its limestone promontory, with its sturdy thirteenth-century keep, a former hospital for pilgrims, and a church with twisted columns. Its medieval heritage, religious, civil and military, never fails to impress visitors.

Panthier reservoir

Extending over 130 hectares, this is the largest lake in the Côte-d’Or and the biggest reservoir on the canal. From its banks you can admire the valleys of the Auxois and the village of Châteauneuf. You can also enjoy the activities of the water sports centre, with something to suit everyone: a 4.5 km walk around the lake, swimming, fishing or sailing.

The old tool house of Civry-en-Montagne

Come and visit the past to discover the everyday objects and old farming equipment of the countryside. To get you into the atmosphere, a classroom and cafe have been reconstructed. And if you would like to taste some bread baked in a wood-fired oven, just ask!


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!