le Canal latéral à l'Aisne

The Aisne lateral canal

Le Canal latéral à l'Aisne

The Aisne lateral canal connects the Ardennes canal and the navigable section of the Aisne River. From Vieux-lès-Asfeld to Celles-sur-Aisne, the canal runs through the countryside of the Ardennes and Aisne departments for 51 kilometres.

The waterway connects le Canal des Ardennes to L'Aisne.

Navigation on the Aisne lateral canal starts at Vieux-lès-Asfeld and ends at Celles-sur-Aisne.

Construction began in 1837 and ended in 1841.

The Aisne lateral canal is 51.00 kilometres long (31.69 miles) with a total of 51.00 kilometres of navigable waterway.

There is a total of 8 locks, with an average of 1 lock every 6.38 kilometres (3.96 miles).

The highest point on the Aisne lateral canal is 76.00 metres (249′ 4″ ft) above sea level and the lowest point is at 45.00 metres (147′ 8″ ft) above sea level.

From Vieux-lès-Asfeld to Celles-sur-Aisne

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)

Opened in 1841 after 4 years of construction, the Aisne lateral canal is a prolongation of the Ardennes canal. It runs along sections of the Aisne River that are both challenging to navigate and have insufficient capacity to support traffic. It starts where the Ardennes canal ends at Vieux-lès-Asfeld and blends into the canalized Aisne River after Celles-sur-Aisne, shortly before the city of Soissons. At Bourg-et-Comin, there is a connection with the Oise-Aisne canal and one with the Aisne-Marne canal at Berry-au-Bac that makes it very easy to navigate to Reims. This development of local waterways was a consequence of a governmental policy to help the industrializing regions by improving commercial navigation.

During the First World War, the frontline cut through the region. There are many names of localities reminiscent of famous battles and engagements such as Berry-au-Bac where the first French tank offensive took place in 1917, Craonne and its mutinies and protest song, the Couleuvres woods, and Cormicy. Canals and rivers were both obstacles and protections for the armies, thus they played an important strategic role. As the region was bombarded and its landscape turned into a moon-like terrain, these waterways suffered heavy damage. The Aisne lateral canal was not spared and had to be rebuilt after the war.  

A quiet cruising route, the Aisne lateral canal is the perfect waterway to explore this region filled with history. WW1 history buffs will love the experience of exploring old battlefields and military cemeteries, while others will be enchanted to visit both old and recent churches. The green countryside offers many walking and cycling opportunities along and near the Aisne waterways.


  • Créton, H. (1932), « Les voies navigables de l’Est de la France » in Annales de géographies, n°234, pp. 583-599 [Online].
  • Lyon, L. E. (1919), « Notes on the inland waterways of France » in Professional Memoirs, Corps of Engineers, United States Army, and Engineer Department at Large, by Society of American Military Engineers, n°59, vol. 11, pp. 589-601 [Online].
  • (s.d.), « Le canal latéral à l’Aisne » in Projet Babel [Online].

More details about The Ardennes region