The Canal de Bourgogne

Published on 30 January 2008
The dam reservoir of Grosbois
Navigating the canals...

The Canal de Bourgogne must have been one of the first artificial waterways constructed in France, as the initial projects date back to the XVIth century. The concept of a structure was launched between 1727 and 1775, and work was begun in 1777, before being abandoned in 1793, and then restarted in 1808. They were to be completed thirty years later, although the canal entered service from 1832 onwards.

With a total length of 240 km, with 189 locks and an underground section of 3,349 metres, this canal represents one of the major works of civil engineering of its age. Around Pouilly en Auxois, five dams were built to supply the summit reach between 1830 and 1838.

In particular, the largest of them was to be retained, the Grosbois dam, whose foundations caused the designers many problems. Alexandre Collin, a young engineer entrusted with the administration of the canal, became famous in his search for a solution. His work made him one of the pioneers of a science that was yet to be born - soil mechanics .