UNESCO World Heritage # 21: The Canal du Midi

As part of a specially dedicated series French sites recognized as World Heritage by UNESCO, writing Welcome Camping invites you to discover one by one the exceptional French destinations, preserved as a heritage of humanity. We continue this series with a site recognized in 1996, the Canal du Midi.

Link between Toulouse and the Mediterranean, the Canal du Midi was produced in the 360th century, under the impetus of the creative genius of Pierre-Paul Riquet. This work constitutes "one of the most extraordinary civil engineering achievements of the modern era, which paved the way for the industrial revolution". The 328 ​​kilometers of waterway are punctuated by XNUMX exceptional engineering structures. Locks, aqueducts, bridges and tunnels follow one another. They testify to a technological innovation associated with a great concern for architectural and landscape aesthetics. The Canal du Midi is indeed a technical feat, but also an extraordinary work of art. The Canal du Midi and the Canal Lateral à la Garonne constitute together the Canal des Deux Mers. They thus link the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

A little bit of history

Over the centuries, several emperors and monarchs have issued the project to link the ocean to the sea. Augustus, Nero, Charlemagne, François I, Charles IX and Henry IV all encountered the same problem, the water supply of the canal. In addition, the canal had to cross a height between two valleys, which was a major obstacle. It was finally under Louis XIV that Pierre-Paul Riquet will find the point of division of the two sides of the Canal du Midi, the threshold of Naurouze. He will pour the waters of the Black Mountain into it. The work will thus become the first large French canal with a shared reach.

The Orb canal bridge
The canal bridge spans the Orb

Throughout the realization of his masterpiece, Pierre-Paul Riquet knew how to surround himself. The Revel fountain manager, Pierre Campmas, will enable him to solve the problem of water supply. Engineer François Andréossy will work on lock design. Throughout the 14 years of construction, no less than 12 workers will work on the construction of the canal.

The Canal du Midi, a magnificent route

In Occitania, from Toulouse to Marseillan, passing through Castelnaudary, Carcassonne, Béziers and Agde, the Canal du Midi traces a path in the shade of plane trees, through vineyards, hillsides and typical villages. The entire canal and civil engineering worksite has five components. The main section measures 240 kilometers and connects Toulouse to the Étang de Thau. From Moussan to Port-la-Nouvelle, part of the old Canal de la Robine constitutes another section. The Saint-Pierre canal connects the main section to the side canal at the Garonne.

The Canal du Midi today
The Canal du Midi in Toulouse

Exceptional works of art

On the Laudot river in the Montagne Noire, the Saint-Ferréol dam is the largest work of the project. But others also deserve our attention. The threshold of Naurouze is the highest point of the Canal du Midi. “La channel de la montagne” is used to store the water collected in Lake Saint-Ferréol, on the Montagne Noire. The “channel of the plain” feeds the canal. Under the hill of Ensérune, the Malpas tunnel opens the road to Béziers. The Béziers canal bridge crosses the Orb with majesty. The 9 locks of Fonseranes are the jewel of the canal. Not far from Béziers, over 312 meters, they allow the Canal du Midi to cross a drop of more than 20 meters.

Fonseranes, jewel of the Canal du Midi
The locks of Fonseranes, jewels of the Canal du Midi

In Vias, the books of Libron are unique in the world. Thanks to a clever system of valves and removable covers, they allow the passage of boats in complete safety. In Agde, the round lock built in basalt stones is the crossing of 3 waterways.

The Canal du Midi today

Today, the route of the Canal du Midi, its water supply system and many of its structures are still intact. They can be discovered along the water on foot, by bike or by boat. During your visit to the Canal du Midi, do not miss to stop at the charming port of Somail. In Castelnaudary, the large pool lined with open-air cafes and cafés offers moments of conviviality with flavors from the south. Throughout your trip on the canal, you will discover local products in restaurants and taverns. Tapenades, cold meats and sun-kissed vegetables delight the taste buds of thousands of vacationers!