23 August, 2011

No Rain, Now Rain

People blame climate change on the extremes in our weather but for me I find it difficult to explain how one moment there is a drought in rural France and the authorities are turning boats back along the Canal du Central yet we in the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne the rain appears every day and the canal is full of water. I do know that the canals of France are highly dependent upon the rain in the areas that feed them while the rivers we have traveled on are dependent not only on the rain but on the amount of snow that falls during the preceding winter.

To alleviate this dependency the designers of the canals during the last century developed some large dams to supplement the water supply. Four artificial lakes provide water for the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne. The most important is the reservoir of the Liez which can be seen from the walls surrounding the town of Langres. It is the largest artificial lake in France and was built in 1880 with a barrage 450 m long made of sand and earth with a protective covering of stone.

The reservoir of Saint Ciergues in the valley of Mouche, feed the canal in the area of the Marne while the reservoir at Charmes is slightly larger.

We passed the 1,200 metre dam wall at Villegusien when we stopped near Piepape. The total capacity of these four reservoirs is 43 000 000 m3 which was just not sufficient to get Malua over the sandbank at Langres. The rain that day just added to the disappointment. Our return on the rivers Saome and Rhome will not be dependent upon the rain or the flow of water in these rivers but in my skill at following the course of the channel within the river. I only hope the sun shines for now we need fine days to explore the land and enjoy riding to the vinyards along the route. For Malua and Sundancer II the driest summer in living memeory will always be in our thoughts when we talk about the depth under the keel over a glass of French wine.

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