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.