Key points about this information item Canal du Midi, Toulouse, Midi-PyreneesInformation Description:
The Canal du Midi was built in the 17C and in conjunction with the Canal lateral de la Garonne it forms the Canal Deux Mers linking the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
The main objectives of the canal were to shortcut the long sea journey around Spain and avoid the hostile Spanish waters.
The Canal du Midi is a massive feat of engineering, overcoming large variations in height on its route from Toulouse to the Etang de Thau and the town of Sete on the Mediterranean coast. The problem of supplying water to the highest points of the canal had prevented its building for centuries, until 1662 when Pierre-Paul Riquet, a local farmer, thought he had the solution and convinced Louis XIV to commission the construction of the canal. Sadly, Riquet died just a year before the canal was completed.
To ensure that the canal was supplied with sufficient water, a massive dam was constructed at Saint Ferreol, creating the Bassin de St Ferreol. The basin was linked to the canal via a 25Km channel, which successfully replaced the water that was constantly draining away to the two seas.
The canal climbs 620 ft (190 metres) which is achieved through 91 locks and in total has 328 structures, including not only the locks but also bridges, dams and a tunnel.
Commercial traffic continued to use the canal until the mid 1980s, but the canal is now only used for leisure and tourism.
The canal is easily accessible in Toulouse and there is a 40 Km tarmac cycle path from the Grand Rond to Port Luaragais. The path becomes very busy during weekends and bank holidays so try and go during the week.
The canal can also be enjoyed by boat, with a large number of companies offering anything from a short tour to a two week holiday.
The Canal du Midi was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 and is one of only two listed sites in the Midi-Pyrenees, the other being the Episcoplal City of Albi.
The Canal du Midi Museum illustrating the construction and maintenance of the canal is located at Saint Ferreol reservoir.
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