Construction of the canal, part 2

The arrival of electricity

Canal towpath

Apart from constructing the canal, there has been a historical problem of supplying water supply for the basic functionalities of the canal. To enable a minimum supply of water there are the two main rivers, on the Yonne side of the canal the river Armancons, and the Saône side uses the river Ouche.

The reservoirs

There are purposely built reservoirs with the task of storing and then supplying water to the canal, especially upstream from the two rivers Armancons and Ouche.

In 1830 the reservoir of Grosbois was built and terminated some 8 years later. It held more than 9 million tonnes of water and covers more than 100 hectares of land; today the capacity has been reduced to 7 million tonnes. There is a smaller reservoir below this one, which was built in 1900, covering 10 hectares and holds under 1 million tonnes of water.

The reservoir of Cercey was built in 1834 and supplies the canal with 3.5 million tonnes of water,  the water plane spreads over 62 hectares. If you enjoy circular walks without a crowd then this is a perfect place.

The reservoir of Panthier was built in two stages, in 1834 and then enlarged in 1869; it holds just over 8 million tonnes of water and is 120 hectares on the surface. 

A small reservoir called Tillot contains half a million tonnes over 14 hectares.

The reservoir of Chazilly was built in 1830, enlarged in 1844 and holds 5 million tonnes. In 2019 the complete structure was totally renovated to secure the damn walls.

In 1879 a seventh reservoir called the reservoir  "Lac de Pont" was built on the Yonne side of the canal to help maintain the supply of water. 

The perimeter of "Lac du Pont" is just over 12 kilometres and holds 6 million tonnes. This may appear to be a lot of water, but one must remember that the Burgundy canal loses water each time a boat passes through a lock, the canal uses gravity to function, there are no pumps to push the water back upstream. Water is also lost through evaporation, leaking lock doors and eroded sections of the canal

The canal also had to have lock keepers, who were housed along the canal at the locks. Many of these houses were built at the same time or just after the completion of the canal. Today 99 % of the lock houses remain, and the lock keepers still occupy many. There is also the Maison de Garde, which are houses and were occupied by teams of workers who would move along the canal for maintenance and repair work.

There are many sluice gates along the canal, which allow the canal to overflow into the river, the water is then held back further downstream before being reintroduced into the canal.

The Burgundy canal is 242.045 kilometres long and is split into 188 pounds of water; a pound is the stretch of water between two locks. The average length of a pound is 1287 metres; there are 113 locks on the Yonne side of the canal and 76 on the Saône.

The canal has been built to the Freycinet standard, which has adopted in 1879; this required the bridges to be lifted and the locks to be deepened. The Freycinet standard allows barges up to 38.5 metres long and 5.05 wide and a draft of 1.80 metres to navigate. The longest pound of water (water between two locks) is 10.45 kilometres and the shortest 210 metres, both are on the Yonne side of the Canal.

There are three main groups of locks with very short pounds called “staircases”, the first group is from lock 1 to lock 7 on the Yonne side of the canal where the average distance is 333 metres per lock. The second more impressive group is also on this side of the canal and is between locks 16 and 55, giving a total of 39 locks for 13.8 kilometres, an average of one lock every 350 metres. The third group is on the Saône side, average distance of 320 metres between locks from locks number 1 to 11.

The Canal of Burgundy climbs a total of 299 metres (981 feet) in altitude from the entrance to the River Yonne to its summit at Pouilly-en-Auxois and 199 metres (653 feet) from the entrance to the River Saône.

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