Argens - VNF, Damien Lachas

From Pechlaurier lock to the beginning of
the long canal pound in Argens-Minervois

Before reaching Argens-Minervois, the canal flows past Pech Laurier hill. There is a lock and aqueduct here bearing the same name. The lock is 2.5 kilometres lower, after the village of Argens-Minervois, and this is where the longest canal pound of the Canal du Midi begins its 54 km stretch with no locks.

Pechlaurier lock and aqueduct
upstream from Argens-Minervois

1 km upstream from the village of Argens-Minervois is Pechlaurier double lock, named after the highest of the two hills on either side of the Aude river and the canal ('puech' is a word from Occitan dialect meaning hill or mountain).

It was necessary to find a passage through the series of hills between the Minervois and the Narbonne plains, and so Pierre-Paul Riquet opted for this route already mapped out by the Aude river, overlooked by Pech Laurier hill. This has been a strategic route for a very long time, as you can see by the ruins of a protohistoric oppidum on the top of the Pech Laurier hill.

Upstream from the lock is an aqueduct that was built in around 1690 to provide access to the Four stream. This is one of the 49 aqueducts in Vauban's construction plans of 1686.  The Four stream ran dry for a big part of the year and the aqueduct arch was high enough to provide a solution for people and animals to cross the canal (this aqueduct was not the only one to have this second use). There was something special about this one though, because there was a spring in the same location that provided drinking water for locals and boatmen.

From the top of Pech Laurier, there's a great view of the Canal du Midi, Aiguilles lake and the surrounding area.

Le Pech Laurier hike

Argens-Minervois, beginning of the long canal pound

Close to the lock slightly downstream is the beautiful village of Argens-Minervois overlooked by a château that once belonged to the De Niquet family.

Antoine de Niquet (born in around 1640 – died in Narbonne in 1727) was a military engineer working under Vauban to implement the Vauban construction work of 1686 as General manager of the Languedoc fortifications and engineering structures of the Canal Royal (former name of the Canal du Midi). He remained in charge of the canal engineering structures until his death in 1726. He was behind many of the improvements made to the canal over these four decades.

Below the village, a marina was built in the 1990s so that recreational boaters could stop to explore the area. There is a boat hire company there.

Argens lock, around 1 km further downstream, towards the Mediterranean, has to deal with a lot of traffic. This is the departure point of the long canal pound on the Canal du Midi. This is the longest section between two locks on the Canal du Midi. It ends 54 km further on at Fonseranes lock in Béziers where boats can cross a height difference of over 20 m.