Map of canal routes through FranceThere are a number of options to cruise through France to and from the Mediterranean. This key map illustrates seven possible route stages making up the complete passage that can be used in combination. See below for critical route dimensions, and distances, timings and lock numbers taken from VNF’s own route planning app.

Stage A | Stage B | Stage C | Stage D | Stage E | Stage F | Stage G 

Timing allowances are for fast full-day passages. Circumstances can easily slow progress. No allowance for un-masting or re-masting or similar operations. No allowance for sightseeing and other essential stops.

Draughts etc. are maximum vessel dimensions, measured at centre of canal or river or bridge arch. Circumstances can restrict these locally, as can the effect of dry seasons affecting water supply (noted as * risk where regularly experienced).

Popular Waterway Navigation Pages

Navigation Guides and Maps are essential – see ‘Further Details’ for each route stage below.


Stage Options

Dimensions, distances, timings and lock numbers, PDF Download Sets and Breil Printed Guides

A Calais-Reims

Route Stage A – Calais to Condé-sur-Marne

Canals through France | A | Calais to Condé

Stage A :: Calais to Condé

C. de Calais – Dunkerque Escaut – C. du Nord – Aisne – A à la Marne

Passage Planning
400km – 67 locks – 4 days min.

Normal Limits
Draught 2m – Air Height 3.45m – Width 5.05m

Dunkirk-Escaut canals, France

FW ‘Waterways in Detail’ pages for this stage

FW ‘Routes Through’ PDF format downloads for this stage – bundled set

Buy all of the above waterway detail pages, to download onto your computer – for reference, planning and printing – at a reduced 20% off price for the set

28€     Add to basket

Breil ‘Hands On’ navigation guide books with detailed waterway maps

(Unfortunately, there is currently no navigation guide available for the northernmost Nord/Calais region)


Editions du Breil : 20 – Picardie

Breil Picardy

Canals du Nord, Escaut, Sensée and St Quentin. River Oise and Oise Canals. River Aisne and Aisne Canals. River Somme.

This newly surveyed and created Breil guide expands and incorporates the previous #13 Oise and #15 Somme guides. It also replaces the northern part of the previous #08 Champagne-Ile de France guide (the southern part has been updated within guide #19 Marne).

2015 edition. Eng/Fr/De.


Editions du Breil : 19 – Marne

River Marne, Marne Lateral, Aisne à la Marne, Entre Champagne et Bourgogne

The complete Marne to Saone (Champagne) route, plus the Aisne-Marne canal that joins the route at Condé-sur-Marne. Breil A4 format pilot book (chart-guide) with detailed canal/river information including locks, bridges, depths, moorings, towns and villages and facilities.

2011 edition. Eng/Fr/De.

B Seine-Marne

Route Stage B – Le Havre/Honfleur to Condé-sur-Marne

Canals through France | B | Seine to Condé

Stage B :: Seine to Condé

Le Havre/Honfleur – Seine – Paris – Marne – Marne Lateral

Passage Planning
600km – 28 locks – 4 days min.

Normal Limits
Draught 1.8m – Air Height 3.7m – Width 5.05m

Seine Paris canals rivers France

FW ‘Waterways in Detail’ pages for this stage

FW ‘Routes Through’ PDF format downloads for this stage – bundled set

Buy all of the above waterway detail pages, to download onto your computer – for reference, planning and printing – at a reduced 20% off price for the set

22€     Add to basket

Breil ‘Hands On’ navigation guide books with detailed waterway maps


Editions du Breil : 21 – Seine

Breil waterway guide Seine

Tidal river (Le Havre to Rouen), lower Seine to Paris, Paris including the Saint-Denis, Saint-Martin and Ourcq canal, upper Seine and Petite Seine to the navigation limit. 

This newly surveyed and created Breil guide covers the complete river from the tidal estuary up to Rouen, then the non-tidal Lower Seine to and through Paris. The Parisian canals St-Denis and St-Martin are included, as is the Ourcq (which is only navigable for small craft). Above Paris the guide covers the Upper Seine to Montereau (junction with the River Yonne) and the Petite Seine to Marcilly. A very comprehensive navigational guide.

2016 edition. Eng/Fr/De.


Editions du Breil : 19 – Marne

River Marne, Marne Lateral, Aisne à la Marne, Entre Champagne et Bourgogne

The complete Marne to Saone (Champagne) route, plus the Aisne-Marne canal that joins the route at Condé-sur-Marne. Breil A4 format pilot book (chart-guide) with detailed canal/river information including locks, bridges, depths, moorings, towns and villages and facilities.

2011 edition. Eng/Fr/De.

C Calais-Paris

Route Stage C – Calais to Paris

Canals through France | C | Calais to Paris

Stage C :: Calais to Paris

C. de Calais – Dunkerque-Escaut – C. du  Nord – Oise – Seine – Paris

Passage Planning
400km – 37 locks – 3 days min.

Normal Limits
Draught 2.2m – Air Height 3.45m – Width 5.75m

Seine Paris canals rivers France

FW ‘Waterways in Detail’ pages for this stage

FW ‘Routes Through’ PDF format downloads for this stage – bundled set

Buy all of the above waterway detail pages, to download onto your computer – for reference, planning and printing – at a reduced 20% off price for the set

30€     Add to basket

Breil ‘Hands On’ navigation guide books with detailed waterway maps

(Unfortunately, there is currently no navigation guide available for the northernmost Nord/Calais region)


Editions du Breil : 20 – Picardie

Breil Picardy

Canals du Nord, Escaut, Sensée and St Quentin. River Oise and Oise Canals. River Aisne and Aisne Canals. River Somme.

This newly surveyed and created Breil guide expands and incorporates the previous #13 Oise and #15 Somme guides. It also replaces the northern part of the previous #08 Champagne-Ile de France guide (the southern part has been updated within guide #19 Marne).

2015 edition. Eng/Fr/De.


Editions du Breil : 21 – Seine

Breil waterway guide Seine

Tidal river (Le Havre to Rouen), lower Seine to Paris, Paris including the Saint-Denis, Saint-Martin and Ourcq canal, upper Seine and Petite Seine to the navigation limit. 

This newly surveyed and created Breil guide covers the complete river from the tidal estuary up to Rouen, then the non-tidal Lower Seine to and through Paris. The Parisian canals St-Denis and St-Martin are included, as is the Ourcq (which is only navigable for small craft). Above Paris the guide covers the Upper Seine to Montereau (junction with the River Yonne) and the Petite Seine to Marcilly. A very comprehensive navigational guide.

2016 edition. Eng/Fr/De.

D Loire-Saône

Route Stage D – Paris to Chalon-sur-Saône

Canals through France | D | Paris to Chalon

Stage D :: Paris to Chalon

Paris – Seine – C. du Loing – C. de Briare – Loire Lateral – Centre**

Passage Planning
500km – 156 locks – 7 days min.

Normal Limits (* risk)
Draught 1.8m* – Air Height 3.5m – Width 5.05m

*Restricted (or **closed) in dry years

River Cher France

FW ‘Waterways in Detail’ pages for this stage

FW ‘Routes Through’ PDF format downloads for this stage – bundled set

Buy all of the above waterway detail pages, to download onto your computer – for reference, planning and printing – at a reduced 20% off price for the set

36€     Add to basket

Breil ‘Hands On’ navigation guide books with detailed waterway maps


Editions du Breil : 21 – Seine

Breil waterway guide Seine

Tidal river (Le Havre to Rouen), lower Seine to Paris, Paris including the Saint-Denis, Saint-Martin and Ourcq canal, upper Seine and Petite Seine to the navigation limit. 

This newly surveyed and created Breil guide covers the complete river from the tidal estuary up to Rouen, then the non-tidal Lower Seine to and through Paris. The Parisian canals St-Denis and St-Martin are included, as is the Ourcq (which is only navigable for small craft). Above Paris the guide covers the Upper Seine to Montereau (junction with the River Yonne) and the Petite Seine to Marcilly. A very comprehensive navigational guide.

2016 edition. Eng/Fr/De.


Editions du Breil : 02 – Loire-Nivernais

Yonne – Loing – Briare – Loire Lateral – Centre – Nivernais

The Bourbonnais route, from Fontainbleu-St-Mammes to Chalons-sur-Saône. Plus the Canal Roanne à Digoin and the Canal de Nivernais. Breil A4 format pilot book (chart-guide) with detailed canal/river information including locks, bridges, depths, moorings, towns and villages and facilities.

2019 edition. Eng/Fr/De.

E Marne-Saône

Route Stage E – Condé-sur-Marne to Chalon-sur-Saône

Canals through France | E | Condé sur Marne to Chalon sur Saone

Stage E :: Condé to Chalon

C. entre Champage et Bourgogne –
R. Saône

Passage Planning
375km – 131 locks – 4 days min.

Normal Limits
Draught 1.8m – Air Height 3.45m – Width 5.1m

Ardennes Canal France

FW ‘Waterways in Detail’ pages for this stage

FW ‘Routes Through’ PDF format downloads for this stage – bundled set

Buy all of the above waterway detail pages, to download onto your computer – for reference, planning and printing – at a reduced 20% off price for the set

22€     Add to basket

Breil ‘Hands On’ navigation guide books with detailed waterway maps


Editions du Breil : 19 – Marne

River Marne, Marne Lateral, Aisne à la Marne, Entre Champagne et Bourgogne

The complete Marne to Saone (Champagne) route, plus the Aisne-Marne canal that joins the route at Condé-sur-Marne. Breil A4 format pilot book (chart-guide) with detailed canal/river information including locks, bridges, depths, moorings, towns and villages and facilities.

2011 edition. Eng/Fr/De.


Editions du Breil : 03 – Bourgogne, Franche-Comté

River Saône (Corre to Lyon) – Seille – Marne à la Saône (southern) – Vosges – Doubs – Bourgogne (southern) – Centre – Rhône au Rhin (to Dole)

The southern section of the Marne/Champagne route from Langres to St-Jean-de-Losne – the complete route from Paris to the Saone is in guide 19 Marne. Plus the complete River Saone, the River Seille and adjacent parts of the Bourgogne, Centre and Rhone au Rhin. Breil A4 format pilot book (chart-guide) with detailed canal/river information including locks, bridges, depths, moorings, towns and villages and facilities.

2017 edition. Eng/Fr/De.

F Saône-Rhône

Route Stage F – Chalon-sur-Saône to Mediterranean

Canals through France | F | Chalon sur Saone to Port St Louis

Stage F :: Chalon to Med

R. Saône – R. Rhone

Passage Planning
460km – 16 locks
2 days min. (downstream)

Normal Limits
Draught 3.5m – Air Height 4.9m – Width 12m

FW ‘Waterways in Detail’ pages for this stage

FW ‘Routes Through’ PDF format downloads for this stage – bundled set

Buy all of the above waterway detail pages, to download onto your computer – for reference, planning and printing – at a reduced 20% off price for the set

23€     Add to basket

Breil ‘Hands On’ navigation guide books with detailed waterway maps


Editions du Breil : 03 – Bourgogne, Franche-Comté

River Saône (Corre to Lyon) – Seille – Marne à la Saône (southern) – Vosges – Doubs – Bourgogne (southern) – Centre – Rhône au Rhin (to Dole)

The southern section of the Marne/Champagne route from Langres to St-Jean-de-Losne – the complete route from Paris to the Saone is in guide 19 Marne. Plus the complete River Saone, the River Seille and adjacent parts of the Bourgogne, Centre and Rhone au Rhin. Breil A4 format pilot book (chart-guide) with detailed canal/river information including locks, bridges, depths, moorings, towns and villages and facilities.

2017 edition. Eng/Fr/De.


Editions du Breil : 18 – Rhone

River Saône included in Breil guide 03 – Petit Rhone and Rhone à Sete in Breil guide 07

River Rhone – Petit Rhone – Canal de Bacarin (Arles) – Canal St Louis

Breil A4 format pilot book (chart-guide) with detailed canal/river information including locks, bridges, depths, moorings, towns and villages and facilities.

2017 edition. Eng/Fr/De.

G Bordeaux-Midi

Route Stage G – Bordeaux to Mediterranean

Canals through France | G | Bordeaux to Port St Louis

Stage G :: Bordeaux to Med

R. Garonne – C. de Garonne – C. du Midi – Rhone à Sete

Passage Planning
645km – 118 locks – 5 days min.

Normal Limits (* risk)
Draught 1.5m* – Air Height 3.25m – Width 5.2m

* Suggested max. draught 1.3m

southern midi canals rivers France

FW ‘Waterways in Detail’ pages for this stage

FW ‘Routes Through’ PDF format downloads for this stage – bundled set

Buy all of the above waterway detail pages, to download onto your computer – for reference, planning and printing – at a reduced 20% off price for the set

27€     Add to basket

Breil ‘Hands On’ navigation guide books with detailed waterway maps


Editions du Breil : 16 – Gironde

Gironde – Dordogne – L’Isle

The Atlantic Gironde estuary from the sea to Bordeaux, with the River Garonne to Castets-en-Dorthe, also including the navigable lower sections of the Rivers Dordogne (to Gardonne) and l’Isle (to Coutras). Breil A4 format pilot book (chart-guide) with detailed canal/river information including locks, bridges, depths, moorings, towns and villages and facilities.

2019 NEW EDITION Eng/Fr/De.


Editions du Breil : 12 – Aquitaine

Canal de Garonne – River Baise – River Lot (lower)

The Garonne/canal from Castets to Toulouse, including the side branch rivers Baise and (lower) Lot, the Canal de Montech to Montauban and the River Tarn at Moissac. Breil A4 format pilot book (chart-guide) with detailed canal/river information including locks, bridges, depths, moorings, towns and villages and facilities.

2017 edition. Eng/Fr/De.


Editions du Breil : 07 – Midi (Entre des Mers) Canals

Petit Rhône – Rhône a Sete – Lez – Etang de Thau – Canal du Midi – Canal de Jonction/de la Robine.

The southern canal network from the Rhone through to Toulouse. Including the Mediterranean canal ports of Grau du Roi, Grau d’Agde, Sete/Frontignan and Port la Nouvelle. Plus the side branch canals (but not the Garonne, Lot or Baise). Breil A4 format pilot book (chart-guide) with detailed canal/river information including locks, bridges, depths, moorings, towns and villages and facilities.

2019 NEW EDITION Eng/Fr/De.

IWF Map and Book

Inland Waterways of France - Map


Excellent and up-to-date map of all navigable French canals and rivers, plus (uniquely) Belgium, Holland and the Rhine. Scale  1: 1 500 000 with clear graphics that note key characteristics for each waterway. High quality durable paper.
Companion to the ‘Inland Waterways of France’ book.

Contact us for special (e.g recorded, insured) delivery services

Inland Waterways of France - 3 Volume Set

The 2021 ninth edition of David Edwards-May’s Inland Waterways of France takes a new A4 soft cover format, split into three volumes.

Volume 1 – North and Centre
2700 kilometres from the English Channel through Northern France, Picardy and Paris to Central France and Burgundy.

Volume 2 – Northeast and Southeast
2500 kilometres from the north-east (the cross border rivers Meuse, Moselle, Sarre and Rhine) through to the Mediterranean.

Volume 3 – South and West
3000 kilometres in the South (the Midi), the South-West and Western France.

Each volume is in full colour, with detailed maps of junctions and other key sites on the network, overview maps for each waterway, and route descriptions. It is a unique blend of practical information, maps, background historical notes and colour photographs.

The complete set of three volumes of 472 pages covering the entire waterways network
(Volumes are also available individually, see below)
Contact us for special (e.g recorded, insured) delivery services


Inland Waterways of France - Individual Volumes 1, 2 and 3

Inland Waterways of France - Volume 1 - North and Centre

The 2021 ninth edition of David Edwards-May’s Inland Waterways of France takes a new A4 soft cover format, split into three volumes.

The first volume provides a detailed overview of the waterways extending from the English Channel through Northern France, Picardy and Paris to Central France and Burgundy.

This North-Centre system totals 2700 kilometres of waterways that are as vibrant as ever, and include the new Seine-Nord Europe Canal, now under construction, to be completed by 2028. 200 pages in full colour, with detailed maps of junctions and other key sites on the network, overview maps for each waterway, and route descriptions. It is a unique blend of practical information, maps, background historical notes and colour photographs.

Contact us for special (e.g recorded, insured) delivery services

Inland Waterways of France - Volume 2 - North-East and South-East

The 2021 ninth edition of David Edwards-May’s Inland Waterways of France takes a new A4 soft cover format, split into three volumes.

The second volume provides a detailed overview of the 2500 kilometres of waterways extending from the north-east (the cross border rivers Meuse, Moselle, Sarre and Rhine) through to the Mediterranean.

126 pages in full colour, with 40 detailed maps of junctions and other key sites on the network, overview maps for each waterway, and route descriptions. It is a unique blend of practical information, maps, background historical notes and colour photographs.

Contact us for special (e.g recorded, insured) delivery services

Inland Waterways of France - Volume 3 - South and West

The 2021 ninth edition of David Edwards-May’s Inland Waterways of France takes a new A4 soft cover format, split into three volumes.

The third volume provides a detailed overview of the waterways extending throughout the South (the ‘Midi’), the South-West and Western France.

The South and West waterways system totals 3000 kilometres of canals and rivers that are maintained and developed almost exclusively for recreational navigation.

146 pages in full colour, with 40 detailed maps of junctions and other key sites on the network, overview maps for each waterway, and route descriptions. It is a unique blend of practical information, maps, background historical notes and colour photographs.

Contact us for special (e.g recorded, insured) delivery services

Can I Get Through?

At the Limit – Will I Get Through the Canals?

This one of the most frequent questions that we get asked, from folk whose vessels are just below, at, or slightly beyond the draught, height or width limits. It’s not a question we can easily answer, but these are the pertinent factors –

  • How much difficulty are you prepared to overcome?
    If your boat is ‘at the limit’ then even if you do successfully make the passage you are more or less bound to meet problems, possibly many times. Lock-keepers and other authorised personnel can be asked to over-fill sections (or the reverse, to help bridge clearances) but this would be to overcome a particular local situation; the entire network could not be travelled like that. The same is true for ‘ploughing through’ shallow sections, as laden commercial barges might do. Can you accept (with equanimity?) making the attempt, but then meeting the insurmountable and having either to turn back or get lifted out and transported?
  • Channels, locks and bridges
    Quoted depths are always ‘dead centre’ of the canal: even if you have some keel clearance you may not be able to move over much, to moor or get out of the way of oncoming vessels. Quoted depths are also usually compromised outside the downstream end of locks where outgoing water scours the canal bed and then deposits that a little further to create a bar. Historic bridges are arched and although VNF’s air height dimensions take practical account of this, wide wheelhouses or fly-bridges may produce difficulties. There is no dimensioned ‘directory’ of bridge arches but the printed guides, such as Breil give some information about the most significant, including tunnels.
  • Time of Year
    A dryer than normal Spring, followed by a dry summer will lead to problems for the reservoirs feeding canals. Available canal depths will be reduced to conserve water and boats will be grouped at locks for the same reason. In recent years the Canal du Centre – route D – has regularly suffered and has sometimes been closed completely by mid-August. All the central, traditional canals south of Paris are sensitive to drought problems, although route E (Marne to the Saône) is reliably the best supplied.
  • The Fresh Water Factor
    You will float about 2.5% lower in fresh water than in salt water, say +40mm for a draught of 1.50m.

Waterway Depths, Heights and Widths – for all key rivers and canals

Videos

Sailing Through France – The Video

^ click on to play, pause or resume ^

Read the complete story of our Sailing Through France journey

Paul and Sheryl Shard, of the Distant Shores sailing adventure travel TV series that is broadcast in 24 languages worldwide, have released an extract from their ‘Through the French Canals’ video. It’s a really excellent taster of what the canals are like and what going through the traditional Freycinet-size locks is like: