La Prise d'Alzeau

Héléne and Penny heading off to explore the river

Hélène and Penny heading off to explore the real source of water for the Midi Canal, " La Prise d'Alzeau " in the communes of Lacombe (Aude) & d'Arfons (Tarn)

" It was here, in the year 1663, during the reign of Louis XIV ( 14th ) - (Le Roi Soleil - The Sun King) while Colbert was his Minister, that Pierre Paul Riquet took control of the waters of the Montagne Noire, directed them to Naurouse and thus solved the great problem of a water source able to supply the (his) Midi Canal linking the two seas.

In 1666 on his own initiative, he embarked upon this monumental task which was later crowned with success.

By 1681 laden boats were able to traverse the canal from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

In memory of Pierre Paul de Riquet Baron of Bonrepos. "

" This tribute declaring respect, admiration and recognition was erected by a descendant of Pierre Paul Riquet, one L.C.V de Riquet, Duc of Caraman, Peer of France, Lieutenant General of the King's armies, Knight of His Royal Order and Ex-ambassador - 1837 "

( Rough translation of the inscription on the monument, or stela/stele, below left, commemorating the major stages of the construction of the Canal. )

Monument to Pierre Paul Riquet at the

The real source of the water for the Midi Canal

The " Prise d'Alzeau ", Literally = ' Taking of Alzeau ', but refers to the collection and diversion of the waters there, for use in supplying the needs of the Midi Canal. This is the highest point but also the furthest point of the infrastructure that is the Midi Canal. In May of 1665 Pierre Paul Riquet obtained authorisation from the " Roi Soleil a"34;, (The Sun King, Louis XIV (14th), then the King of France, to dig a test water course. The operation lasted five months, terminating in success, the proof that it was possible to bring sufficient water to the " Seuil de Narouze ", the high plateau that is the highest point on the Midi Canal. Several years ago a British newspaper reported that the Midi Canal was closed between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, they had missed the point of an announcement issued by the VNF (Voies Navigables de France) that stated that the canal was in fact without water at the " Seuil de Narouze " situated between the two locks " L'Écluse d'Ocean (Atlantic) " (about one and two hundred meters to the West) and " L'Écluse Mediteranée (Mediterranean) ' (a lot further away to the East), the result was that the boat hire companies lost a great many clients that year!

The water course down from the " Prise d'Alzeau " is very gently sloped so that the waters which arrive at the " Seuil de Narouze " are not flowing too quickly, even so there is a huge circular water course at Narouze " Rigole du Canal du Midi ": to further limit the speed of entry of the water into the Midi Canal.

There is a short stretch of tunnel at Alzeau (picture of the entry and exit below) which allows access to a large area of land beside the Guardian's House.

The sluice and entry to the short tunnel

The Guardian's house and exit from the short tunnel

If you have two cars drive to the " Seuil de Narouze ", leave one car there, then pile into the other and drive to the " Prise d'Alzeau ". Parkyour car. You'll find a good restaurant there where you can stoke yourselves before walking, all downhill, following the water course to your first vehicle. You'll need plenty of energy because there are a great many kilometres till you rediscover your first car, actually the walk is best done in two or even three stages, but wandering at about the same speed of the water in the stream you follow, with only the shade of the trees and the bird song to accompany you, you'll experience a great calm.

At the " Seuil de Narouze " the stretch of canal is named " Le Bief de Narouze " or " Les Partage des Eaux " (Bief = pound in English.).


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Revised -- Monday 16 September 2019

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