Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Monday, August 16, 2021

Up the Nivernais, Aug 6-8

 We arrived in our usual spot outside Decize around 3 o’clock, giving us plenty of time to visit the nearby grocery store to stock up. The Nivernais is, as our old Hugh McNight guidebook declares, “intensely rural” and the big shopping opportunities are pretty sparse.

The Loire Lateral canal is on the south side of the river while the Nivernais, originally constructed in the 1880’s to connect the Loire and the Yonne Rivers, heads off to the north. That means the river has to be crossed. In the flood year of 2016 it was impossible to make that crossing. Boats were stuck on both sides. No problem this year. After the mooring, you turn left through a lock into the Decize marina, then through another lock that drops you down into the river. After a short distance downstream, a sharp right turns takes you into the Nivernais. We stopped just after the first lock to do a last little shopping and then headed up the canal. We were only going to go a short way and by about noon we were tied up near the small village of Champvert

Follow the yellow line.

Leaving Champvert after lunch on Saturday we had this years first encounter with the dreaded weed. Invasive water plants have invaded the French canals and when they become thick they wrap themselves around spinning propellors and severely limit forward progress. If your engine uses canal water for cooling, the chopped up weed can clog cooling water intakes. Luckily we have external cooling pipes so that’s not a problem for us. The first kilometer out of the Champvert lock was really thick but the VNF weed cutter had been at work so that was really the only place that caused a problem. Hopefully on the way back they will have finished the job. This plague is a system wide problem and the VNF has formed a task force to try to come up with a practical, environmentally sensitive way of dealing with it. It’s been made much worse by the lack of boat traffic over the last couple of years.

We only traveled about 11 k Saturday and stopped overnight in Cercy la Tour, Sunday morning entering the more picturesque portion of the canal. The locks on this stretch were never upgraded from their original size to the “frecinet” 39 meters, remaining about 30 meters long. Not a problem as there was very little traffic.

We’ve seen hardly any private boats this year. Usually we would see large numbers of European flagged boats, especially the Dutch. The Australians and New Zealanders aren’t here at all. The upside to this is that the hireboats have been very busy and their clients have been almost exclusively French. We’ve talked to a number of first time hireboaters and they are enthusiastic about the canals, which is a good thing. Lack of anglophones has also forced us to practice our French, which is also a good thing.

Our Sunday night stop was in the small village of Fleury where we stopped for the beautiful swimming beach in 2018.  No swimming this time as it was still pretty cool, although no rain and the sun did peak through the clouds. Sadly, the small restaurant no longer exists.

In the 1880’s when the Nivernais was being constructed, a needle weir was built in Fleury on the Aron River to help feed the canal and, as a side benefit, provide a nice recreation opportunity for the residents of the area. To maintain water depths, the weir, a type of dam, was constructed with small wooden needles that could be removed or added to control water levels.

In the 1980’s a local organization was formed to reconstruct the weir and protect the beautiful swimming beach. We’d have an opportunity to make use of the beach again on our way back down the canal.

The Fleury Weir

The reconstructed needles.

Monday morning we were off at 9 am to tackle a portion fo the Nivernais we affectionately refer to as “The Intestine.”


  1. I’ve heard others muttering about the weed too, Don and Cathy Jo. It seems to be a big problem, even on the newly reopened Canal de la Sambre a L’Oise. We were hoping to get there this year, but our engine installation continues to be more time-consuming than we planned for. Sigh.

    1. That's really distressing about the engine. Hope spring eternal!

  2. PS, lovely to read about the weir and the efforts to protect the beach! I dop hope we can get there one of these days!


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