In France, the Briare Canal (Franch: Canal de Briare) was built to link the Loire and Seine rivers, and it was a remarkable feat of engineering. The Briare Canal was the first major watershed canal to be built in Europe and originally linked the river Loire at Briare to the river Loing at a point 5km north of Montargis.
For centuries, it was a lifeline for Paris, with food and fuel (wood and coal) being brought to the capital by barge from the upper Loire and Allier valleys. The canal is famous for its water bridge across the Loire Valley today. And the Aqueduct of Briar, near Châtillon-sur-Loire, has long been the longest steel aqueduct in the world.
The Canal de Briare was built under the patronage of Henry IV and put into operation during Louis XIII’s reign. Built to facilitate river trade between the Loire and Seine. Taking a cruise is a great way to enjoy the scenery on both sides of the strait.
History of the Briare Canal
The first major watershed canal in Europe was started under Henri IV in 1604 as part of the public works program initiated by his minister Sully. The works were in hand by contractor Hugues Cosnier when the king was assassinated in 1610. The project was revived in 1638 with new contractors Guillaume Bouteroue and Jean Guyon and completed in 1642. The canal was enlarged under the Becquey program in 1830-1837. The modernization involved rebuilding the canal, with a new route bypassing the staircase locks at Rogny and several other locations.
When the canal was enlarged, with its famous aqueduct crossing the Loire at Briare, the connection was made at La Cognardière, 2.6km and four locks from its junction with the Loire. The Briare Canal Bridge, built between 1890 and 1896, is 662 meters long and is the largest steel tube bridge in France. This work of art is very attractive, with its waterways lined with walkways, elegant street lamps, and boats offering views of the Loire and its banks.
Briare Canal Size
The Briare Canal was completed in 1642 to be the oldest canal in France, rose 39 meters (128 feet) to a plateau with a summit level 6 km (3.75 miles) long, and then dropped 81 meters (266 feet) to the Loing at Montargis. It included 40 locks, of which a unique feature was a staircase of six locks to cope with the fall of 20 meters (65 feet) on the descent from the Loing to Ronny. The maximum authorized draught is 1.8 meters (1.2 meters on the branch).
Detail of the Locks
There are 35 locks, of which 24 rise from the Loing to the summit level at an altitude of 165 meters, the remaining 11 falling towards the river Loire (of which eight on the main line of navigation and three on the branch down into Briare). Dimensions of the locks on the main line are 39.00 by 5.20 meters. Those on the branch to Briare are 30.40 meters by 5.20 meters.
The Aqueduct Size
The aqueduct was built on fourteen piers. The piers support a steel beam, which in turn supports a steel channel containing 13,000 tons of water, 2.2 meters deep and 6 meters wide, allowing passage of vessels with a draft of 180 meters. The width of the aqueduct (including the traction path) is 11.5 meters, and the length is 662.7 meters.
The picturesque Canal de Briare, which connects the Seine and Loire valleys, is notable for many reasons apart from the delightful scenery through which it wends its way. A popular route for private and commercial cruising vessels, the canal is renowned as one of the loveliest places for a barge cruise. Thanks to boat hire without a license in Briare, you can cruise on Canal de Briare and discover its incredible structures.