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.


Saint-Jean-de-Losne is a hub of waterways and the foremost river tourism port in France. The water station has become a marina where 400 boats are anchored. The former canal port is still very busy.

In 1852, at the port of Saint-Jean-de-Losne

Léa meets Marie, the lock-keeper of lock 76

“Hello, Léa! I haven’t seen you for a long time. Look, there’s something new to see. A water station has just been dug and they’ve linked it to the Saône. It’s a wonderful piece of work, don’t you think? Of course, ever since the great flood of 1840, the traders have been petitioning to have it built. There have been too many wooden rafts lost and too many boats crashed into the Saône bridge! In this big basin loading can be done with better shelter.

Over in the old port it’s still as busy as ever! Well, the railway to Dijon passes right by there! We like the bustle, don’t we, dear? Ah, here’s a barge wanting to get through! Oooh, this is going to be a bit tight, it looks very big! Come and give me a hand!”

The Bargemen’s House

In a fifteenth-century house, built of brick and cob, with traditional oak-beamed ceilings, a permanent exhibition on the lives of the bargemen has been set up. Photographs and everyday objects, everything that was part of life on the inland waterways in the old days is on display. The museum also offers visits to the port on board the barge Aster, tastings of local produce and gourmet cruises!

The Bargemen’s walk

The bargemen’s walk is organised over 4 routes, each based on a different view of the lives of the bargemen and of the inhabitants de Saint-Jean-de-Losne. Follow the information boards, download the free mobile app, put on your trainers and off you set to explore the major river tourism port in France!


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!