Information about the 194km long Canal de Garonne
The Canal latéral à la Garonne was opened in 1856 to bypass the unpredictable river Garonne over a distance of 194km from Toulouse, where it connects with the Canal du Midi, to Castets-en-Dorthe, where it falls into the tidal river. It thus forms an important link in the 600km route across southern France from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, as well as becoming a cruising waterway in its own right, connected to the canalised rivers Lot and Baïse at Buzet-sur-Baïse.
Apart from this strategic connection, four branches remain open to navigation. The Canal de Brienne is 1.6km in length from the Port de l’Embouchure to the Garonne upstream of the Bazacle diversion weir in Toulouse. This branch serves for the canal’s water supply, and is regularly used by trip boats, but the lock giving access to the Garonne is not normally operated for pleasure boats. There is no basin below this lock and boats longer than 8m will have difficulty in turning here.
The second and most important branch, 11km in length, extends from the main line at Montech to the town of Montauban, where it used to connect with the river Tarn. This branch had to be closed in 1996 because of leakage through its embankments, but was restored and reopened in 2006, and now has a well-equipped boat harbour in the canal basin. The double staircase locks down to the Tarn have also now been restored.
History – The canal was first envisaged by Vauban in the late 17th century as a ‘logical’ extension of Riquet’s Canal du Midi, to bypass the unpredictable river Garonne. It was authorised by the Finance Act of July 1838, which budgeted 86 million francs for the works. It opened in 1856. It was lengthened to ‘Freycinet’ dimensions in 1968-1974, but without increasing the available draught. This encouraged a handful of operators to set up on the canal with 38m barges, but the decline in traffic had already set in, and the canal is now almost exclusively used for tourism.