06 October 2021

Entre Saint-Aignan et Tours : le Cher canalisé

I learned yesterday that there are 16 dams with locks and lock-keeper's houses on the Cher river between Saint-Aignan/Noyers and Tours. That's a distance of about 40 miles (65 km). I had no idea there were so many of them. According to the web site of Les Amis du Cher Canalisé, it was in the 16th century that large boats began to ply the waters of the Cher, moving cargo downriver only by taking advantage of river currents when the water level was high enough. Then mills began being built along the river and passageways for boats were provided, often for a fee. There was such a mill on the bridge in Saint-Aignan until about 1976, when it was finally torn down.

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The river wasn't actually "channeled" (canalisé) by the construction of dams (barrages) and locks (écluses)
in the 1830s and '40s. Each of the 16 dam/lock sets also had a lock-keeper's house (une maison éclusière)
to provide living quarters for the people who operated the lock and maintained the dam.

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Each lock-keeper's house was what we would call a duplex — each provided housing for two families,
since it took two people to do the work. The houses had bread ovens and itinerant bakers would
come by a couple of times a week to make bread for the families. In 1846 as many as 4700 boats
passed through the locks. By the 1920s, cars, trucks,and railroads put an end to river traffic.

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Some of the lock-keeper's houses are rented out as gîtes ruraux nowadays. The three such gîtes in the Saint-Aignan
area can each accommodate 12 to 15 guests. Les Amis du Cher Canalisé is an association that advocates for
preservation and renovation of the river's dams and locks as well as for modifications to ensure
that migratory fish and eels, as well as canoes and kayaks, are able
to move freely up and down the river.


  1. One of these days, the Cher will be put back to work as an environmental necessity since it is equipped with locks that make it navigable. Trucks responsible for green-house gases will be replaced by barges on navigable waterways. The Canal de Berry may be brought back to life? The Canal Seine-Nord Europe will be a high-traffic such waterway.

  2. Wow, I have never thought about any of this kind of thing, dealing with rivers, before. Very interesting! I like the duplex house, too.

  3. As always great pictures Ken. It's interesting to learn about this part of history that's right there in front of us, but could easily go unseen.

  4. The gatehouses look very interesting! Rural gites - great idea - on the water!
    Yes, chm, you are predicting a future that I can envision as well.
    Nice photos, Ken! A different vision of Saint-Aignan and its environs.

  5. I like chm's idea for the rivers, and France is well equipped with them. Plus, so many canals in various areas.

    1. From St-Aignan/Noyers out to Bourges and Montluçon, there is a lateral canal along the Cher. The river itself is not navigable upstream from Saint-Aignan. The channeling of the 19th century made the river downstream from Saint-Aignan navigable for many more months out of the year than when it was still sauvage — unimproved.


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