Canal du Midi France

Canal Du Midi, or Midi Canal, and commonly referred to as the French Canal du Languedoc, is a historic canal in the Languedoc region of France and was a UNESCO World Heritage Site from 1996 onwards.

Canal du Midi in France

From the Bay of Biscay in the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, the Canal Du Midi is a vital connection in the interior waterway system. It was constructed in the 17th century, when France was at the pinnacle of civil engineering.

The Canal du Midi connects Toulouse to the Mediterranean at Sète through the Étang de Thau, which uses water from an artificial reservoir created in the Montagne Noire (Black Mountain) (Thau Lagoon).

The Canal du Midi rises 63 metres at the start of its 240-kilometer (149-mile) course (206 feet). Starting with 26 locks on a 51.5-kilometer (32-mile) section from Toulouse to its 5-kilometer (3-mile) top, it then descends 189 metres (620 feet) in 183.5 kilometres (114 miles) to Étang de Thau through 74 locks. Europe’s first long-distance canal was the Canal du Midi.

In Milan, Leonardo Da Vinci designed the first mitre gates (1497). Francis I, King of France and Milan, brought him to France in 1516. From the Garonne River to the Aude River, and from the Loire River to the Saône River, Leonardo considered canal plans. The second was deemed too tough, but it is a tributary of the Garonne and Aude rivers, known as the Hers and Fresquel.

Le canal du midi

Because their origins are just a few miles apart, it was thought that a canal might be built between them. Engineers were disappointed for the next century and a half by the lack of a local water supply for the peak.

The concept of a canal connecting the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas has not been abandoned. However, Pierre-Paul, Baron Riquet de Bonrepos, and his engineer, François Andreossy, were successful.

They eventually overcome the major design difficulty of providing an adequate water supply system for the top with plans to build a dam.In 1666, Louis XIV approved approval for the canal’s construction. Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the finance minister, has backed Riquet’s argument.

The water supply system was quickly put in place, with the most challenging phase being the construction of the Saint-Ferréol Dam. It is 780 metres (2,560 feet) long and 32 metres (105 feet) tall, with a capacity of 6,374,000 cubic metres (1,402,100,000 gallons). It was Europe’s largest civil engineering project at the time.

Canal du midi Toulouse

Waters from the Montagne Noire, notably the Laudot River, are held back. It could feed either the canal or the reservoir via two 66-kilometer-long channels (41 miles).

Despite political and financial pressures, Riquet continued to build the canal, despite the fact that it was affecting his health. In May 1681, he died eight months before his canal opened.

The project necessitated the construction of multiple bridges, an aqueduct, and the world’s first canal tunnel, in addition to the 100 locks. For whatever reason, the Malpas Tunnel was 165 metres (541 feet) long, 7.4 metres (24 feet) wide, and 5.85 metres (19 feet) above sea level.

It was constructed with substantially larger dimensions than any of the canal’s bridges. During building, there were several issues. In 1670, one of the locks fell, forcing Riquet to redesign and replace the others.

Canal du midi route

At Pechlaurier, the canal had to pass through a high rocky slope, and gunpowder was employed there—possibly the earliest use of explosives in civil engineering. Riquet had 12,000 people working for him at one point. So that control could be maintained, the workforce was divided into 12 sections.

Following Riquet’s death, his sons continued to work on upgrading the canal with the help of renowned French engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban. These modifications were finished by 1692, and tourists from all over the world flocked to see the canal.

Despite its financial success, the canal was never used to transport ships from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. The Canal du Midi was cut off from the rest of France’s canal system until the Canal de Beaucaire opened from Sète to the Rhône in 1808.

Midi canal

The Canal Latéral à la Garonne was built between 1850 and 1856, extending the canal’s western terminus by 193 kilometres (120 miles). The locks on both canals were shorter than the typical French size of 38.5 metres (98 feet), at 30 metres (98 feet) (126 feet).

The maximum weight a barge could carry on the canals was 160 tonnes, which was imposed in 1879 by Charles de Freycinet, the minister of public works. As a result, the Canal du Midi never transported a considerable number of commodities beyond its immediate vicinity.

The Canal Latéral’s locks were expanded to the Freycinet standard length in the 1970s, but the Canal du Midi’s remained at their original size. As part of a strategy to open the canals to conventional French vessels.

In 1974, at Montech on the Canal Latéral à la Garonne, and in 1983, at Fonserannes on the Canal du Midi, two unique “water slopes” were erected.

Boats are lifted and lowered down an inclined channel in a wedge of water generated by a movable barrier along the channel on these water slopes. Notwithstanding these enhancements, commercial activity on the canals fell dramatically, although some barges continue to operate on the Canal Latéral.
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