The Chelles Canal

Le Canal de Chelles

The Chelles canal is a small derivation of the canalised Marne River built to avoid natural obstacles.

The waterway connects la Marne to la Marne.

Navigation on the Chelles Canal starts at Vaires-sur-Marne and ends at Neuilly-sur-Marne.

Construction began in 1848 and ended in 1865.

The Chelles Canal is 9.20 kilometres long (5.72 miles) with a total of 9.20 kilometres of navigable waterway.

There is a total of 2 locks, with an average of 1 lock every 4.6 kilometres (2.86 miles).

The highest point on the Chelles Canal is 43.00 metres (141′ 1″ ft) above sea level and the lowest point is at 40.00 metres (131′ 3″ ft) above sea level.

From Vaires-sur-Marne to Neuilly-sur-Marne

The water draft is 1.80 metres (5′ 11″ ft) and the air draft is 4.40 metres (14′ 5″ ft).

There are "Large" lock types.
Lock length 51.00 metres (167′ 4″ ft)
Lock width 7.20 metres (23′ 7″ ft)

Despite being only 9 kilometres long, the short Chelles canal took more than half a century to be completed. During the reign of Emperor Napoleon I, there was a project to improve navigation on the Marne River. Navigated for centuries, the Marne was crucial to transportation to and from Paris. However, because of financial difficulties and regime changes, proper canalisation works only started in 1837. The different sections of the canalised river were progressively put in service during the next three decades. Several sections were considered too expensive and difficult to canalise. The engineers decided that creating a derivation canal would be more efficient. A total of four derivations were built: Chalifert, Saint-Maur, Chelles and Saint-Maurice. Only the first three remain today. Near the city of Chelles, the river is rocky and of little depth. The construction began in 1848 but had to stop halfway because of a lack of funding. It only resumed in 1861 and was completed four years later. For 9 kilometres, from Vaires-sur-Marne to Neuilly-sur-Marne, the canal enables barges to bypass safely and swiftly this natural obstacle.

Located in the Metropolis of Greater Paris, the canal crosses an exclusively urban landscape except for the Haute-Ile park between Chelles and Neuilly. Chelles hosts a great typical French market several days a week, the perfect occasion to stroll downtown before exploring some of the local churches or the Alfred-Bonno Museum and its art and archaeological collection.


  • (2012), « Canal de Chelles » in Blog de l’association Riverains bords de Marne [Online].
  • (s.d.), « Rivière Marne » in Projet Babel [Online].

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