Canal du Midi Information

The Canal du Midi is a 240km long canal in Le Midi (southern France). The canal connects the Garonne River to the Etang de Thau on the Mediterranean and along with the canal de Garonne forms the Canal des Deux Mers joining the Atlantic to the Mediterranean port of Sete which was founded to serve as the eastern terminus of the Midi Canal.

Canal du Midi Characteristics

The Midi Canal has 91 locks which are used to climb and descend a total of 190 metres. The Canal has 328 structures including bridges, dams and tunnel besides the locks. At the town of Beziers there was a staircase of 8 locks at Fonserannes to bring it over the river Orb. All the locks had to contain the same volume of water, but could not have precisely the same shape. Despite of these technical difficulties, the staircase locks were successfully built without need of repair.

Because of flooding problems, the Canal du Midi was outfitted with aqueduct brigdes. The first was over the Le Repudre river, but Vauban also designed subsequent ones. Finally, an aqueduct bridge was built over the Orb Aqueduct bypassing the bottom two locks at Fonserannes.

The construction of the Canal du Midi was considered by people in the 17th century as the biggest project of the day. Even today, it remains in the eyes of the public a nice technical engineering accomplishment and is the most popular pleasure waterways in Europe.

Canal du Midi History

The original purpose of the Canal du Midi was to be a shortcut between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, avoiding the long sea voyage around hostile territories such as Spain. Pierre Paul Riquet, a rich tax farmer in the Languedoc Region, believed he could solve the technical and geographical problems that the country was facing.

During the construction, the women laborer were suprisingly important to the Canal du Midi engineering. The Canal as a whole was built on a grand scale with locks of length 30.5m oval in construction, being 6m wide at the gates and 11m wide in the middle. This design was intended to resist the inward pressure of the surrounding soil that had destabilized the early locks with straight walls.

The Canal du Midi was opened officially as the Canal Royal de Languedoc on May 15, 1681. The Midi Canal eventually cost over 15 million livres, of which 2 million came from Riquet himself, leaving him with huge debts and he died in 1680, just months before the canal was opened to navigation.