Canal Lat a la Marne

Canal Lateral à la Marne 


The Canal, completed in 1845, starts at Vitry le François and runs for 67 kilometres to Dizy where, 15 locks later, it joins the canalized Marne. The cruise starts on Sunday morning with a visit to two of the wood-framed churches of the Der region of Champagne, at Drosnay and Outines. Before returning to Merganser for lunch we visit the Lac du Der Chantecoq and the Museum of the Der region. During Sunday  afternoon we follow the valley of the River Marne on the Canal Latéral à la Marne. In former times the canal ran through the centre of the town itself but now a bypass canal skirts Vitry le François high above small houses with their tiny gardens with the spectacular Renaissance church dominating the skyline, then swings away towards the first lock. This lock is preceded immediately by an aqueduct over the River Sault. The next lock follows quickly and, with a drop of 3.5 metres is the deepest of the canal. The River Marne lies on our left as we descend. Here is an old lock, now disused, leading from the canal to the river. Note that the lock numbers on the old lock houses are, as a result, different from their modern equivalent. Winding our way past villages, high chalk cliffs and disused lime kilns we moor for the night beside one of the small villages which line this route. Passengers should note that on this first day we pass through six of the canal’s fifteen locks. On Monday we cruise during the morning to Châlons en Champagne passing through a further two locks. There are some long straight stretches between locks on this part of the canal; the towpath is good for cycling but  the  distances between locks are possibly too long for all but the keenest  walkers. During our stay at Châlons we visit Reims and the basilica at l’Epine before returning along the canal to Vitry le François, from where visits are made to the Cistercian Abbey of Trois Fontaines and the Champagne House of Bernard Lonclas.



Châlons en Champagne is an important and attractive town, the préfecture of the Marne department.  There are good shops and cafés in the town and passengers are offered a specially translated walking itinerary embracing the principal features  of the town. Many of the traditional champenoise buildings remain and the cathedral and other ecclesiastical buildings are notable.


Chalons en Champagne

Chalôns en Champagne





Vitry le François was built by Francis 1st in the 16th Century as a fortified town to replace  Vitry en Pertois, which had the misfortune to have been repeatedly burnt down in previous centuries by marauding armies. It is now an attractive market town, largely rebuilt after wholesale destruction during the second world war. We arrive at the barge in time for a leisurely stroll before dinner on board. The town has one of the most unusual churches in the region. Dating from the creation of the town, this flamboyant Renaissance pile, having escaped destruction during WW2 now overlooks a beautifully restored square from which we may see one of the original gates into the fortified precincts of the town.


Vitry le Francois

The Place d’Armes, Vitry le François




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