Camping le Martinet Rouge

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The Canal du Midi

The Canal du Midi, a Renaissance

The Canal du Midi, which passes to the south of your campsite near Carcassonne, is a remarkable technical achievement for a 17th-century construction, linking the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. It’s state-owned, and after a long period of neglect, it’s been regaining its glory since 1990, when river tourism took off in a big way. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this canal is one of the oldest in Europe.

camping le Martinet rouge-Canal du midi

From the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

This dream became a reality thanks to the pugnacity of Pierre-Paul Riquet, the 17th-century engineer who first thought of using the tributaries flowing down from the Pyrenean mountains to feed the canal.
The Canal du Midi crosses several of Occitanie’s departments: Tarn, Haute-Garonne, Aude and Hérault.

The project was the largest of its kind in the kingdom of France, starting in 1666 and finishing in 1681, fifteen years later.

Initially, it was used to transport the kingdom’s goods, particularly wheat, avoiding the land routes along Spain, which were frequently attacked by barbarian bands.

Canal du Midi map

Up to 12,000 workers were needed on this titanic site, wielding shovels and pickaxes to dig the canal. The engineer Riquet came up with the idea of monthly payments, which were exceptional for the time, to retain workers and avoid falling behind.

It also provides unprecedented social rights: sick leave, pay for days off (rain), Sundays and public holidays. The employment contract is individual and is based on open recruitment.

Today, management of the canal is still problematic due to its recurrent silting up, with a lot of alluvial silt clogging up navigation. A maintenance team is on hand all year round to prevent any risk of leakage or breach.

The Canal du Midi, star of tourism

From the 1970s onwards, goods transport stopped on the canal, replaced by river tourism, which was booming with the development of the leisure society. It is now busier than the Seine, with 80% of users from abroad and 10,000 boat passages per year. Ports and locks punctuate the river’s course, offering you a truly cultural journey along the way. All along the canal, you’re offered a path of knowledge lined with magnificent landscapes. In fact, there’s no shortage of engineering structures to be found along the way: locks, bridges and aqueducts.

canal du midi locks for boat cruises

241 km long, the Canal du Midi stretches from Toulouse to the Etang de Thau, crossing the Lauragais region before following the Aude valley from Carcassonne to Ginestas, then on to the Etang de Thau via Béziers and Agde.

The majestic finish is in Narbonne, where you glide under the medieval Pont des Marchands (Merchants’ Bridge) before continuing on through ponds and lagoons to finally reach Port Nouvelle, on the Mediterranean.

The Canal du Midi is home to a wealth of flora and fauna, and the murmur of your boat’s glide will be so gentle that you’ll be able to observe a multitude of animals at your leisure.

Take advantage of your stay at your campsite to enjoy a soothing break near the banks of the Canal du Midi.

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