The channel bridge (or aquaduct) of Briare, worthwhile a visit

Did you know that a hundred or so canal bridges have been built in France over the centuries?
The Briare canal isthe oldest canal in France, having been built under Henry IV.
And its famous bridge, the Briare Canal Bridge, is in 4th place in the TOP 5 of the French people’s favourite monuments!

Opened to navigation in 1642 between Briare and Montargis, this canal is punctuated with remarkable engineering structures. Its canal bridge, at Briare, is a jewel in the crown of French river heritage, built in particular by the Eiffel company between 1890 and 1896. Taking this great avenue of water lined with pilasters and lampposts obviously triggers a “wow” effect.

channel bridge Briare
channel bridge Briare

How to cross the Loire (fully clothed) at Briare

The reputation of the this canal-bridge comes from the technical, human and aesthetic prowess of the construction engineers. The mission of the canal-bridge was to span the Loire River to allow barges to link the Berry Canal and the Canal Latéral à la Loire directly with the Briare Canal, thus connecting the Saône and Seine basins.

The construction of the canal bridge considerably facilitated the transport of goods for boats which, until then, had to make a perilous crossing of the Loire via a kilometre-long dammed channel across the river, between the Mantelot (left bank) and Combles (right bank) locks.

aquaduct Briare
aquaduct Briare

The Briare canal bridge , one of the largest

The result is commensurate with the ambitions and the means employed: no less than 662 metres long, supported by 15 spans of 40 m long and 11.50 m wide, all suspended 11 m above the river and weighing 13,680 tonnes (30% heavier than the Eiffel Tower!). For a long time the “title” holder, the canal bridge is now one of the largest in the world.

A luminous idea, lit by electricity at the end of the century. Its 62 candelabras and its four lantern-carrying obelisks trace a luminous path in the night which is reflected in the water. Listed in the supplementary inventory of historic monuments, the Briare canal bridge is now mainly used for pleasure craft, but also for walking on the esplanades on either side of the canal, with a unique view of the Loire and Briare.

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