7km from L'Echappée Belle B&B is a remarkable monument!
Located in the small town of Briare, this architectural monument is also a magnificent natural site where water is omnipresent and the Loire is its ambassador.
Crossing the Loire can be difficult! Between the sandbanks, the low and high tides, the freezing of the river in winter, the floods... there were several deaths every year. So a solution had to be found to cross the Loire. A side canal was built and to get from one bank to the other, the canal bridge was the obvious solution!
This canal bridge over the Loire was built in four years, from 1890 to 1894, by 2,000 workers to cross the wild river and facilitate commercial navigation to Paris.
Because of its length and weight (13,000 tonnes), the Briare Canal Bridge was built in metal. More specifically, mild steel with a low carbon content, which is more flexible.
Gustave Eiffel's workshops, which at the time were building the tower of the same name, were partly involved in the construction of this structure. They contributed to the foundations and the 14 stone piers that support the metal part, spaced 40 metres apart.
The Briare Canal Bridge is 662.69 metres long, making it the longest metal bridge in Europe.
Its width of 11.60 metres does not allow the passage of boats, which had to wait to pass in one direction and then cross in the other. At the end of the 19th century, around thirty boats crossed every day.
Today, the donkey-drawn barges have been replaced by pleasure boats and you can take a trip on the canal bridge. The wide pavements that have replaced the towpath allow you to cross it on foot or
by bicycle, admiring the landscape but also the remarkable metalwork. The charm of this place is enhanced by the presence of various works: cast-iron barriers, statues, lampposts...
At nightfall, the Briare canal bridge is illuminated. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was the only place in the Loiret to be illuminated by electricity, thanks to turbines and dynamos located in a special room. Many people from the surrounding area came to see the lighting of the canal bridge!
You can also see the Briare power station, built at the same time as the canal bridge, which provided a permanent water supply.
Do you know...?
- The workers worked by hand and right-handed people were paid more than left-handed people.
- About five million rivets were needed to assemble the metal part of the bridge.
- Briare has another speciality: enamels.
If you are interested in this story and would like to learn more, you can visit the Musée des deux Marines, at the entrance to Briare from L'Echappée Belle. The Musée des Émaux de Briare is also nearby.