le Canal des Vosges

The Vosges Canal

Le Canal des Vosges

From Corre in the Haute-Saône to Neuves-Maisons in Meurthe-et-Moselle, the Vosges Canal winds its way through the Vosges. This 123 kilometres long canal flows through beautiful green and hilly countryside. It is the southern branch of the canal de l’Est, which was renamed in 2003 while the northern branch is known as the Meuse Canal.

The waterway connects la Moselle to la Saône.

Navigation on the Vosges Canal starts at Neuves-Maisons and ends at Corre.

Construction began in 1875 and ended in 1887.

The Vosges Canal is 123.00 kilometres long (76.43 miles) with a total of 123.00 kilometres of navigable waterway.

There is a total of 93 locks, with an average of 1 lock every 1.32 kilometres (0.82 miles).

The highest point on the Vosges Canal is 361.00 metres (1184′ 5″ ft) above sea level and the lowest point is at 210.00 metres (688′ 12″ ft) above sea level.

From Neuves-Maisons to Corre

The water draft is 1.80 metres (5′ 11″ ft) and the air draft is 3.50 metres (11′ 6″ ft).

General lock size

There are "Freycinet" lock types.
Lock length 39.00 metres (127′ 11″ ft)
Lock width 5.20 metres (17′ 1″ ft)

Self-drive boats cruising on the Vosges Canal

Fleet Cruise route
Nicols Alsace View the Nicols boats

The annexation of the Alsace and Moselle regions by Germany following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 provoked an upheaval in the navigation in Eastern France. The usual fluvial route for the industrial centres of Lorraine and the Vosges was to use the Marne-Rhine and Rhone-Rhine canals, including Strasburg. These two canals allowed relatively fast and cheap navigation to the Rhone basin and the northern waterways. However, the peace treaty amputated France from some 250 kilometres of waterways. The government was looking to create a new canal connecting the Saone and the Moselle rivers to help the aggrieved industries after the war.

The Romans, who were keen to develop natural rivers to make them more navigable, had already thought of a possible waterway connecting these two rivers. According to Roman author Tacitus, an official named Lucius Verus offered Rome a project to join the Moselle to the Saone. Although this project was never accepted or started, the idea did not die with Verus or even with the Roman Empire. Almost every century since witnessed similar ideas taking seeds in the mind of leaders, aristocrats, merchants, and engineers. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the marquis de Vauban, who knew that navigation of these rivers had always existed and was economically important, made plans for a junction. His ideas inspired further plans in the following two centuries but, for political and financial reasons, the canal was not constructed. In the early 19th century, the constantly developing industry made it critical to find a way to connect the Moselle and the Saone. Lecreulx (1795), Cordier (1828) and Lacordaire (1842) were all skilled engineers who created detailed plans showing that it was feasible with sufficient funding. It was the urgency provoked by the loss of territories that prompted the government to act fast. In 1872, the Assembly approved the construction of the canal de l’Est based on the plans of a French engineer who, coincidentally, was born in Prussia: Henri Félix Frécot. This canal would be the masterpiece of a long career dedicated to civil engineering. The construction was relatively fast, considering its impressive lenght

The northern branch, now known as the Meuse Canal, takes root from the Meuse begins in the Ardennes, at Givet. It flows along the Meuse, sometimes blending with the river, as it slowly meanders towards the Vosges. At Troussey, 10 kilometres before Toul, it merges with the Marne-Rhine canal. Then, at Toul, it merges with canalised Moselle River until it reaches the industrial centre of Neuves-Maisons, 27 kilometres south.

There start the canal des Vosges, the southern branch. For 123 kilometres, the canal flows alongside the Moselle until it reaches Epinal. This beautiful city truly is the heart of the Vosges. Rightfully boasting of its rich history, Epinal also offers many cultural activities thanks to art museums, a planetarium, and an important WW2 American military cemetery. There are water activities as well and the surrounding countryside is a perfect occasion to walk or cycle alongside the Moselle or into the more forested areas near Epinal. Sport amateurs will be just as pleased as those who enjoy more cultural activities. Farther south, the canal enters a more rural region of France. It is the perfect occasion to appreciate the beautiful, hilly and forested Western Vosges before entering the region of Franche-Comté through the Haute-Saône. The canal ends at Corre, a small village with a nice port at the confluence with the Saône River.


  • Créton, H. (1932), « Les voies navigables de l’Est de la France » in Annales de géographies, n°234, pp. 583-599 [Online].
  • Mignot, Jean-Louis (2007), « Les axes Nord-Sud en Haute-Saône : vers un retour de la Franche-Comté en position de carrefour » in Revue Géographique de l’Est, vol. 47 [Online].
  • Viansson-Ponté, Louis (1882), Histoire du canal de l’Est, 1874-1882, Nancy, Berger-Levrault, 556 p. [Online].
  • (s.d.), « Canal de l’Est » in Projet Babel [Online]

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