Learn about canals and locks

Learn about canals and locks

The canal is a man made water way, comprising of locks and irrigated rivers.

The canal’s purpose is to allow cargo barges to navigate from the Atlantic ocean to the Mediterranean sea via the river Yonne and Seine to the river Saône and Rhône.

The canal was built to climb in altitude and pass through the hills of central Burgundy which create a natural watershed.

Total length of the navigable canal waterway is 242 kilometres with a total of 209 locks.

Each lock is of a standard "Freycinet" size and able to lift or descend a barge of 250 tonnes, 38 metres long and 5 metres wide.

This particular canal must be supplied with water from upstream. There are more than 63 kilometres of “secondary canals”, with the sole purpose of supplying water to the canal from the reservoirs and rivers. This is different to “Lateral Canals” which follow rivers, they will use the water from the river, which they are following and are generally constructed to allow boats to navigate whilst the river is unstable due to flooding or lack of water.

Learn how to operate a lock with our interactive animation showing the different steps in operating the lock to allow boats to pass through. This will be very helpful for those who have never operated a lock, as some sections of the canal require you to lock yourself through without the assistance of a lock keeper. There are also fully automatic locks which only require you to push a button to start the process.

Information about each lock on the Burgundy canal

There are a 189 locks on the canal. The distances from one lock to the next, from the Yonne and from the Saône.

  • 113 locks on the Yonne side, from Laroche Migennes to Pouilly en Auxois.
  • 76 locks on the Saône side, from Saint Jean de Losne to Escommes.

The flow of water on the canal
The map sabove hows the flow of water on the canal.

Lock calculator, for distance and cruise duration between locks. Use this page to prepare cruise itineraries.