As with other canals and waterways connecting the Loire and Seine basins, the primary purpose of the Loing canal was to ensure Paris could be sufficiently supplied with cereals and other goods. This was an important part of the policies of the royal government in the early 17th century, as can be seen by the decision of Henri IV and his successor Louis XIII to support the construction of the Briare canal. At Buges, where the Briare canal ends shortly after Montargis, barges used to navigate on the Loing river to reach the Seine. However, this river was partially difficult to navigate because of its narrowness near the Seine and its periodic floods. To add to this difficulty, the old flash locks and watermills on the river had become a nuisance.
Overall, the Loing was unable to sustain traffic that was constantly increasing. Since the Middle Ages, the Loing was a key waterway not only for commercial navigation but also for the transportation of passengers from Paris to the Rhone through the Loing and the Loire.
In 1720, Duke Phillippe of Orléans, then regent of France after the death of the Sun King, considered creating a canal along the Loing river to alleviate the flow of navigation and open up the Briare and Orléans canals to the Seine. The task was given to Jean Baptiste de Règemorte, an engineer of Dutch descent who had worked for the marquis de Vauban. Règemorte died in early 1725, shortly after the completion of the Loing canal the year before. From Buges, the canal follows and sometimes blends with the Loing until it flows into the Seine at Saint-Mammès. It had a relatively impressive gauge compared to other similar canals. Indeed, locks were 60 metres long and up to 12 metres wide. The dimensions were modified to the smaller Becquey gauge in the 1820s, and later to Freycinet by the end of the 19th century. Then, the network of canals and rivers of central France and lower Burgundy was key to commercial navigation in the country and, especially, around Paris. The canal du Loing was an essential link. However, as waterways had long lost their advantage of being the fastest and most efficient communication route, commercial traffic declined gradually during the middle of the 20th century. In 1967, the State, that owned the canal, thought of modernizing the canal by reducing the number of locks from 21 to only 7. The project was not pursued.
This 49-kilometre-long canal and the rest of the central waterways offer an idyllic and peaceful cruise. At Nemours, on the left bank of the canal, there is a 12th-century castle transformed into a museum with a fantastic pottery collection. Still on the left bank, while approaching the connection with the Seine lies the forest of Fontainebleau. The city of Fontainebleau and its great chateau, home to kings and emperors for 8 centuries, is just a few kilometres up north.
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- Tarbé de Saint-Hardouin, F. (1884), Notices biographiques sur les ingénieurs des ponts et chaussées, Paris, Librairie Polytechnique, pp. 30-31 [Online].
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