The Canal du Centre is a canal in France. Fun fact: Belgium also has a own Canal du Centre. The Canal du Centre connects the Saône to the Loire. It’s 112 km long and has 61 locks.
The 112 km long Canal du Centre, originally Canal du Charollais, was first proposed in the 16th century. This idea came after Strabon had suggested that a link was needed between Saône and the Loire. The demand for this connection remained unanswered, because king François I had other priorities.
In 1555 Adam de Craponne worked out detailed plans for the new channel, this time under the umbrella of Henry II. Nothing happened until 1632, because only then did the king, this time Louis XVI, send engineers to explore the site.
On January 31, 1776 the project is finally established by Emiland Gauthey and it was officially assigned to him on May 8, 1783. A month later, work started. The first stone was laid in 1784 by the Prince de Condé. These works proceed well until 1788, when an attack of dysentery, The French Revolution and severe flooding in the Loire region in 1790 slows them down. Yet three years later work is completed. The original canal held 80 locks.
In 1791, the Canal du Centre is completed, but no ships were allowed to access it. Because of leaks, the canal couldn’t be filled enough to make navigation possible. After several repairs, the first boats were allowed on to the canal in January 1793. The Canal du Centre made it possible to navigate from the north to the south of France.
The new channel blew new life into the area, soon many people settled on the banks. The canal thanked most of its traffic to the coal mines in Montceau-les-Mines. Still, the Canal du Charollais was too dependent on the Loire. It was expected that more traffic could be possible after the opening of the Canal latéral à la Loire. This happened in 1838 and increased the coal transport significantly.
In the 80s there was a severe decline in freight traffic and it largely disappeared when the last mines closed in 2000.