Canal de l’Ourcq!!!

So moving right along in this hot days of June 2020, and realise have written on the wonderful waterways of and around Paris including some of the canals but not on the one closest to me as it passes by Meaux. Let me tell you a bit more on the Canal de l’Ourcq.

One of the most if not the most emblematic canals of Paris. At least is my favorite for more than just a cruise. I have driven thru around many of the towns that crosses and taken cruises on canauxrama which are wonderful. For reference cruise trip here: Canauxrama on Canal de l’Ourcq

There are many cruises to do here all wonderful into nature and the very essence of water in Paris. You will do well to take one, and I mean into the canals not just the mundane tour around the islands of the city center Paris.   Hope you enjoy it as we did and will relish as me on the history as I like it.

The canal de l’Ourcq before starting at Mareuil-sur-Ourcq to reach the Bassin de la Villette in Paris, the Ourcq river is canalized and navigable from the Port aux Perches in the town of Silly-la-Poterie. With the Canal Saint-Denis, Bassin de la Villette, and the Canal Saint-Martin, it constitutes the network of Parisian canals, 130 km long and which belongs to the city of Paris. Its construction began in 1802 and ended in 1825. It was the subject of several modifications, notably the addition of five locks, a factory supplying the canal with water at Trilbardou and the widening of the gauge on the first eleven kms. Originally, the main objective of the canal was to supply Paris with drinking water; today, its use is reserved for waterways.


The Ourcq river takes its source in a wet meadow south of Courmont (Aisne dept 02) a few steps from the A4 highway in the Aisne department 02. From the small village of Silly-la-Poterie, at a place called Port-aux-Perches at the edge of the Retz forest, begins the channeled part of the river. This small river follows a wide valley and flows into the Marne, at Mary-sur-Marne, near Lizy-sur-Ourcq, after a course of approximately 87 km. The pipeline works diverted the river from Mareuil. Most of its water then goes to Paris via a canal on its own site, the Ourcq canal proper, with a length of 97 km. On entering Paris, the canal passes under the lifting bridge on rue de Crimée to widen in the large water station at La Villette. It then feeds the Saint-Martin and Saint-Denis canals.

A bit of history I like

When Paris was still Lutèce, the inhabitants of the Ile de la Cité used the water supplied by the Seine. In the 4C, work was started on the Arcueil aqueduct, attributed to the Emperor Julian. He brought spring water from the hillsides of Rungis, L’Haÿ, Cachan and Arcueil to the thermal baths of Cluny by the Roman road from Orleans (now rue Saint-Jacques). There was also a second aqueduct that ran along the Seine. The Merovingians, as much as the Carolingians, drew water from the Seine, the sources of Belleville and Pré-Saint-Gervais for four centuries. The abbeys of Saint-Laurent and Saint-Martin-des-Champs diverted the waters of the Prés Saint-Gervais from the heights of Romainville and Ménilmontant. The monks established fountains near their convent.  Philippe-Auguste, by establishing the Halles de Paris, brought the water from the Prés Saint-Gervais there to distribute it in two fountains, one of which was that of the Innocents. It was first placed at the corner of rue aux Fers and rue Saint-Denis and attached to the Church of the Saints-Innocents. It was rebuilt in the middle of the market in 1786 then placed in the middle of the Square des Innocents. At the beginning of the 17C, the La Samaritaine pump was built and work was ordered on the new Arcueil aqueduct. During this same period, in 1749, the Duke of Orleans entrusted the mission of modernizing the navigation works of the Ourcq. This is how the river was endowed with real airlock locks to replace the trenches and ponds with sailor doors that had equipped it from the start. These works ended around 1756 with the construction of a large lock in the park of the castle of Lizy-sur-Ourcq, on an artificial diversion of the Ourcq.

Jean-Antoine Chaptal, count of Chanteloup, speaking with Napoléon Bonaparte, he said to him: “I intend to make Paris the most beautiful capital in the world … I want to do something big and useful for Paris. What would be your ideas? “’ Give it water” Chaptal responded. Once the decree of 29 Floréal year X (French revolution diversions of the calendar) or May 19, 1802 was promulgated, studies for the layout of the canal began quickly: the first stone was laid on September 23. After impoundment of the Villette basin in 1808, by 1809 the waters of the Beuvronne flow to the Fontaine des Innocents in Paris, then in 1813, the first boat leaves from Claye-Souilly and arrives at La Villette.

A post-boat service was instituted in 1838. It made it possible to connect the Bassin de la Villette and Meaux (saw the canal de l’ourcq plenty here of course) in three hours, in conditions of comfort far superior to stagecoach or to the railway, which will be put into service in 1849. The latter, faster, will seal the fate of this river connection. The Meaux train station and the landing stage would have been neighbors, on both sides of the regional beltway road 603, if the river service had survived.  Commercial navigation stopped in 1962 on the navigable part of today, the canal de l’Ourcq remains a place of excursion very appreciated by cyclists, who appreciate the cycle path arranged from Bassin de la Villette to Claye-Souilly (and great shopping center here), then the towpath to La Rosée in Claye-Souilly and Meaux (my wife native town) , which represents around fifty kms of canal; recreational boating replaced the old traffic from 1983.

Along its wonderful route, the canal de l’Ourcq crosses many towns and communication routes. In Paris these are Rue de Crimée (wonderful sight) ,Rue de l’Ourcq , Boulevard Macdonald ,Pont du canal de l’Ourcq , and the boulevard périphérique BP of Paris. At our hide out in Pantin you see upon leaving a path bordered by a bike path on the north side and various activities on the south side. Then goes by Avenue du Général-Leclerc; rue Delizy, Rue Raymond-Queneau, in the Petit-Pantin neighborhood. Another memorable road warrior town and the canal de l’Ourcq is Bobigny; here the canal is first crossed by the railway bridge from the Paris-Est line to Strasbourg-Ville, then immediately by the grand ceinture of Paris. It is then crossed by the Pont de la Folie on which passes avenue Jean-Jaurès, and leads, south side, towards rue du Parc in Noisy-le-Sec. The other towns memorable to me (there are others) crossed by the Canal de l’Ourcq are:Tremblay-en-France (also part of CDG airport), Villeparisis; Claye-Souilly, Isles-lès-Villenoy, Villenoy (mom in law was born here), Meaux (wife was born here and Mom in law died), Trilport, Poincy, Varreddes, Lizy-sur-Ourcq, Mareuil-sur-Ourcq, and Silly-la-Poterie.

Of all, my most memorable reading on it as was getting to know the region was the book by Paul Féval (father), in the novel Les Habits noirs or the black habits, in the chapters “L’Aigle de Meaux no 2”   or the eagle of Meaux, bishop Bossuet   and the “Un brochet de quatorze livres” or a pike of fourteen pounds, the intrigue of which takes place on the banks and on the canal de l’Ourcq, including the narrative of the Aigle de Meaux No. 2, post boat (see above) , a passenger boat, fast, pulled by two galloping horses.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and its worth the detour are

Paris tourist office on the Canal de l’Ourcq in English: Paris tourist office on the Canal de l’Ourcq

Paris tourist office on things to do around or near the Canal de l’OurcqParis tourist office on things to see around or near Canal de l’Ourcq

Official association on behalf of the Canal de l’Ourcq in French: Au fil de l’Ourcq

Sweet water cruises by Marin d’eau douce on the Canal de l’Ourcq in French: Marin d’eau douce on the Canal de l’Ourcq

Cruising on Paris Canal, on the Canal de l’Ourcq in French: Paris Canal on the Canal de l’Ourcq

Now let me tell you if you have a car or a bike, the nicest way to see the Canal de l’Ourcq and be close to it is as follows:

You leave Paris by car by Porte de Pantin, and get on the national road N3, for the scenic drive even if more traffic than the autoroute A4, but for the thrill of roadster will give this route. Go direction Bobigny. Then, Noisy-le-Sec and then Bondy,Livry-Gargan, Villeparisis, Claye-Souilly (good rest stop and eating), You then immediately back on the N3 before Charmentray take right the D139 once in town turn left into the D54A follow it you have the Marne river on your right hand side. Get into city center Tribardou and get on the D27 road or Rue du Maréchal Gallieni continue to get back on the road N3 direction Meaux.  Once in Meaux, the road becomes the D603 but same road name rue de la Chaussée de Paris and into Avenue Gallieni with the train station of Meaux on your right hand side, and continue to past in front of it descending into quai de Victor Hugo with the Marne river on your right hand side, same road becomes quai Jacques Prévert, you see the Le Péniche boat, and right there you make a left turn into cours Raoult and into parking Henri IV, you are in city center Meaux. Happy motoring!


Or you leave Paris by bike as told by friends, never done it and do not imagine me doing it but, go by the La Villette going behind the Zénith entertainment complex in La Villete you are on the road galerie de l’Ourcq. You continue on quai de l’Aisne (there is an inner road closer to the water call Chemin de Halage you can take this too) and turn left over the Ourcq into quai de l’Ourcq or continue the Chemin de Halage, and past Rue Délizy, you passed the Guinguette des Grandes Sérré and immediately turn left into Chemin Lateral de l’Ourcq, you will be riding with the Ourcq on your right.  You will go under the highways A85 and the then N186 and after you will see on our right hand side the Conforama Bondy you crossed the Ourcq again this time the water will be on our left. You will go under the Pont de la Forêt and continue the road is Chemin de Halage but hardly noticeable you go straight. You will go over the Passage Freinville over the Ourcq to be on the right hand side of the water again; reaching the town of Sévran turn left into the road D44 into centre ville  but make a quick right into rue d’Estienne d’Orves all the way into the parc forestier de la Poudriere forest go thru it , you will be again on the left side of the water. Go into Mitry-Mory on the D84 and cross the water again to be on the right side of the water. You cross the N3 national road on Place du canal road crossing the La Beuvronne creek at Claye-Souilly on the D422 road. It will zig zag you into and out the N3 road going under and above it. You will be then on the D404 road with La Beuvronne creek on your right hand side direction Précy-sur-Marne thru centre ville city center and will be on the D54a road which is also, Rue des Deux Jumeaux but before getting into city center Charmentray turn right over the water and will past the town on your left hand side and water on your left. You will be at Tribardou! and into the Marne river with the Château de Tribardou on your left. You continue the D27 into the towns of Vignely, Isles les Villenoy,  get on the Chemin du Bac towards the town of Esbly and get on Rue Victor Hugo,  then quick left into rue de Condé  cross the water and this is the nice wonderful Canal de Meaux à Chalifert go into Chemin de Saint Germain into the Le Grand Morin wonderul natural country green and hilly; the Canal de Morin will on your right hand side. At city center go back on the road D85P to the chemin de halage and the Marne river on your left hand side which is also the Canal de Meaux à Chalifert. After a couple of km your will turn right on Chemin des Rouazes, then left into rue de Condé leaving behind the town of Quincy-Voisins and direction and into city centre Mareuil-les-Meaux, this road has the number D5A1 continue here past the Mairie and continue until connect with the road D360 direction Meaux. You will cross the Marne river to get into city center Meaux. Hope you can do it, me can’t.

Nice waterways of my belle France and this one really close to the heart. Hope you enjoy the Canal de l’Ourcq and do try the bike or car route very scenic.

And remember , happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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