By barge or electric boat for the less experienced, choose your mode of discovery to descend the canal from Roanne to Digoin. A kept promise as evidenced by the tranquility and natural beauty of the banks. Without forgetting the locks: always an attraction during the trip.

Navigation stop from 13/11 to 31/12

Due to the unemployment of the Roanne to Digoin canal, navigation is interrupted from November 13 to December 31, 2023, in both directions.

Canal de Roanne à Digoin
Canal from Roanne to Digoin © Guillaume Masseron / RT

The canal from Roanne to Digoin: The quiet canal

Built between 1830 and 1836, the Roanne-Digoin canal links the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region to that of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. A stone's throw from the great Loire river, the canal dug 56 kilometers to Digoin invites everyone to enjoy the surroundings and recharge their batteries in the heart of a gentle countryside.

It is also possible to explore the canal on foot or by bike from the towpath. An interpretive trail, in the shade of the trees, allows you to discover this preserved heritage, in communion with nature.

Key figures

  • 56 kilometers long,
  • 37 meters of difference in height between Roanne and Digoin,
  • 10 locks,
  • 120 boats are moored at the port of Roanne,
  • 2378 pleasure boats used the canal in 2018.
Canal de Roanne à Digoin à vélo et en péniche

Hiking, cycling and mountain biking

Fellow walkers, departing from Roanne, you will find the hike “ Between Loire and canal of 15 kilometres. From the city center, you will discover the riches of Roanne, its shopping streets, its gardens, the museum, the port, the Loire and finally the canal.

A paradise for slow lovers, the canal also hosts on its banks a 25-kilometer greenway from the port of Roanne to Charlieu via the port of Briennon: the Véloire. You pedal at your own pace and carefully choose the little corner of your picnic break (or nap!). This greenway also allows people with reduced mobility and rollerblading enthusiasts to enjoy the beauty of the landscapes.

Formerly used to pull boats by force of arms or horses, the towpath is now a real playground for mountain bikes.

Navigation or fishing, the choice is yours !

Come and enjoy the calm while sailing on your electric boat from the port of Roanne: it can be piloted without a license and can accommodate 5 to 7 people. A peaceful activity to do with family or friends.

The Roanne to Digoin canal has two fitted out fishing routes: one in Roanne and the other in Mably. Both for coarse fishing enthusiasts and for those who enjoy itinerant fishing, the canal offers many possibilities. In particular to search for predators. Perch, pike and pike perch are present in the canal.

Port de Bully
Port of Bully © Roannais Tourisme

The services offered

To accommodate boaters and tourists in the best conditions, the municipalities have made arrangements:

  • At the port of Roanne : harbor office, playground, motorhome area, toilets

The port of Roanne enjoys an exceptional location. 5 minutes walk from the city center, it welcomes boaters in a green area close to all shops.

  • At the nautical stops at Mably, Melay, Artaix, Chambilly and Luneau : camper van reception areas, picnic tables and toilets.

In the Brionnais, other neighboring municipalities such as Marcigny or Iguerande also enjoy a strong tourist potential.

  • At the port of Digoin : harbor office, shower, picnic area, toilets

Special feature in Digoin: the canal bridge. 243 meters long, it allows the lateral canal to the Loire to cross the Loire.

In Digoin, you will find the company The Canalous which offer river cruises and boat rentals without a license.

And if you want to extend your stay in the Charolais-Brionnais region, 20 minutes from Digoin, the city of Paray-le-Monial will welcome you to show you around its basilica, its museum and its heart of town.


You hear a buzzer ringing, you make out a flashing light: no doubt a lock activating and a boat maneuvering. Once the boat is hooked up in the lock, the valves start to raise or lower the water according to the direction of flow. A funny elevator that always puts on a show!

The fauna and the flora along the Roanne canal in Digoin

By paying attention to the sounds of nature, to the flora and fauna that animate the bank and the surface of the water, you quickly feel like you're going elsewhere. So, watch in the sky and you will certainly see giant egrets, gray and white herons or even storks! And on the bank from the towpath, you will notice the presence of beavers or nutria.

And if you are interested in nature, maybe you will be surprised by this peculiarity. Many rivers pass under the canal to join the Loire but only one passes above: the Oudan river. This peculiarity is very rare.


Between the years 1975 and 1980 the state had planned the closure of the canal to transform it into a fast lane (2 × 2 lanes). But, fortunately, local elected officials, associations and residents have come forward to preserve this canal. They won their case.

Balade à vélo ou à bateau sur le canal de Roanne à Digoin ?
Bike or boat ride? © Clovis Huet / RT

The history of the canal from Roanne to Digoin

Go back to the XIXe century. At that time, goods were transported by boat. The canal was built to make up for the inadequacy of the Loire in the face of the growing demand from booming industry. Its second function will be to supply the Canal Latéral à la Loire.

This canal crosses 3 departments: Loire, Saône-et-Loire and Allier. It now links two regions, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. The canal is managed like other canals in France by VNF, waterways of France.

Key dates

  • De 1830 à 1836 : construction of the Becquey gauge canal,
  • De 1890 à 1905 : widening of the channel to the Freycinet gauge,
  • 1992 : stop of commercial exploitation,
  • 1993 : start of tourist development.
Péniche sur le canal Roanne à Digoin
Barge on the Roanne canal in Digoin © lisa42lisa


The canal lives to the rhythm of barges and boats, but not only. Each year, events highlight it:

  • In April, the spring of the canal organized by the Roanne Fluvial Association,
  • End of June, summer waterways organized by the Association le Canal de Roanne in Digoin.

L'avis de Frédérique

Frederique's opinion

If you need calm and recharge, I have a great plan for you. Take the time to contemplate the boats. At noon, during my lunch break, I sometimes sit on a bench in the port of Roanne, counting the boats. On Sundays with the family, take advantage of the Véloire to sit on a bridge over the canal. We wait for the barges and we say hello to the boaters.
And if I have one piece of advice for you, it's to take the time to see a lock in action. For young and old, it's guaranteed wonder.

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