The canal system stretches across more than 100 km (80 miles). The Canal Saint-Martin runs from the Seine river at Port de l’Arsenal. It runs through the largest man-made lake in the city, the Basin de la Villette. And finally, it ties into the Canal de l’Ourcq, which runs from La Villette to just North-East of Paris.
As the years went on, the more factories and businesses began to pop up all around the canals, eager to get their piece of the profits that flowed along their streams.
Although it may seem like dewatering a historic landmark may be a once in a lifetime type of deal, it’s actually happened a few times. On January 4th, 2001, a team of engineers gathers to drain the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris, France.
Just like in the case of the falls, locals weren’t prepared for everything they were about to discover had been hiding underneath this water for so long. After all, Parisians already have the catacombs to think about, would they be able to handle the new discoveries?
Unlike the Niagara Falls, the canal in Paris was originally formed at the hands of men, not Mother Nature. Napoleon I called for the canal’s construction in 1802, to bring the quickly growing city a source of fresh water. The idea had been raised by prefect of Paris, Gaspard de Chabrol. The prefect alerted Napoleon that the canal would not only fill city fountains, but also help them ward off diseases of the times, such as cholera.
The construction of the canals began in 1802, the same year they had been proposed, but putting them in lasted more than two decades. The intricate system uses the Canal Saint-Martin to tie together the Canal de l'Ourcq and the Seine river. Aside from helping Parisians obtain clean water and prevent the spread of disease, the system was also meant for transporting grain and other goods. But the major canal system that was so popular in the 1800’s and early 1900’s would soon find itself dwindling down.
Perhaps one of the reasons constructions on the system took so long was all of the delays it faced early on. Napoleon, who ordered it to begin in the first place, fell during the 1813 Battle of the Nations, which caused rival forces to seize control of Paris in 1814.
Around the same time was the beginning of the Bourbon Restoration. Luckily, they were able to wrap everything up and get it done by 1825.
But what was once a great source of transportation of goods for Paris is used more for leisure these days. In fact, in the 1960’s, the canal was almost filled in with pavement, since traffic has all but screeched to a halt. That is, of course, with the exception of passenger boats full of wine-sipping tourists and locals alike, who flock to the area for its scenic beauty.
There are also all sorts of restaurants and shops along the canal, which makes it an even more popular area with those looking to relax and spend their money.