France has 2700 miles of inland waterways and a network of canals that link to the main rivers, connecting the English Channel and Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. In central France a series of summit level canals link the Loire, Seine and Saone providing routes from Paris to Lyon and to the Rhone valley. In southern France, The Garonne river, Canal de Garonne and Canal du Midi make it possible to travel from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
The Seine Basin contains rivers and canals providing a network radiating out from the city of Paris. The River Marne flows through the Champagne-Ardennes region of northern France where many of the great battles of European history were fought. The canalised River Yonne is one of the most important rivers in Burgundy passing through Clamecy to Auxerre, Joigny and onto Sens before flowing into the Seine at Montereau. The Canal de l’Ourcq begins at Bassin de la Villette in Paris and continues for 108 km into the woodlands northeast of Paris. The Marne-Rhine Canal in north-eastern France connect the river Marne in Vitry-le-François with the Rhine in Strasbourg. The Canal du Loing connects the Seine (at Saint-Mammès) to the Briare Canal near Montargis. The Canal du Nord connects the Canal latéral à l’Oise at Pont-l’Évêque to the Sensée Canal at Arleux and climbs over the Vermandois Hills of Picardie in northern France.
In central France, a series of summit level canals link together three major river systems, those of the Loire, the Seine and the Saone. These navigable waterways provide three inland waterway routes from Paris to Lyon and on to the Rhone valley: Canal de Bourgogne, Canal du Nivernais and the Canals of the Centre. The Loing, Briare, Lateral a la Loir and Centre Canals were built to enable the wine, wood, garden produce, pottery and ceramics of Burgundy and the Loire to reach Paris.
In southern France, The Garonne River, Canal de Garonne and Canal du Midi form a 370 mile system of navigable waterways. The canals make it possible to travel from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. The Canal du Rhône au Rhin climbs from the River Saône, up the Doubs Valley and into the rugged Jura region, providing a route to Germany and Switzerland.
WHEN TO CRUISE?
Canal cruises are offered from March to December. Around Paris you can expect hot summers and cold winters.
Summer in Paris and the surrounding region sees maximum average temperatures of 24°C to 25°C, with daytime temperatures in the 30s not being uncommon.
July and August see the hottest temperatures and it remains warm and sunny through until the end of September when nights become crisper. You can expect rain at any time of the year although April through until August sees the greatest rainfall.
Central France generally has cold dry winters and warmer summers and it can rain all year round. A Mediterranean climate of hot summers and mild winters applies in the Rhône Valley and the coastal areas of Languedoc and Provence.