42,000 Canal du Midi Trees Threatened by Fungus

By Maggie LaCoste

One of the best-known and most popular bike routes in France is dealing with an environmental tragedy that will impact the route for many years to come.  A microscopic fungus called canker stain was first discovered on trees along the canal in 2006.  This fungus is easily transported so it quickly spread along the Canal. There is no cure for the fungus and once a tree has been infected, it dies within several years.  Through 2011, over 2500 trees had already been destroyed. Since there is no treatment for this fungus, a decision was made last year to ultimately destroy and replace all 42,000 plane trees that line the canal.

Trees along the Canal du Midi

The Canal du Midi was built between 1667 and 1697 and is regarded as one of the most technologically significant canals in the world, incorporating lock staircases, reservoirs, aqueducts, dams, bridges and tunnels.  The 240 km canal connects the Garonne River near Toulouse with the Etang de Thay on the Mediterranean. The Canal was closed to commercial traffic in 1989. In 1996, the Canal was named a UNESCO World Heritage site and since that time, the Canal has been a popular destination for bicyclists, hikers, barge cruisers and artists, all who marvel at the majesty of the endless banks of plane trees.

A major redevelopment project is underway to replace the beautiful plane trees that were planted in the 1830’s to help stabalize the canal banks.  The “Replanting the Canal du Midi” program plans to replace the plane trees that line the banks of the Canal from Toulouse to Etang de Thau, preserving the renowned beauty of this popular area.  From 2013 forward, the plan is to cut down 4,000 diseased trees a year, replanting them as they are cut down.  The scope of this project is enormous and expensive.  It is projected that the effort will span 10-15 years and cost over 200 million Euro.  Fundraising campaigns are already underway, as is an extensive media plan to educate the public of this important project and the need to preserve the natural beauty of this World Heritage site.

So if you are planning on bicycling along the Canal du Midi, you will witness first-hand the huge project underway along the Canal.

Plane tree removal along the Canal du Midi

Removal of trees along the Canal du Midi

As the scope of this project unfolds, I will keep you up to date on how it will impact travel along the Canal pathways.  Needless to say, it will have an impact on bicyclists visiting this area.  I for one am planning to bike along this route in 2013.  In the meantime if you are interested in reading more about the project, there is a website that has been set up to provide information to the public.  It can be found at www.replantonslecanal.fr.

Posted by Maggie LaCoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow way....by bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.

  1. What a sad story. The canals are so beautiful. Good that they are being replaced though.

    1. Yes, it really is a very sad story. There is great concern regarding the impact this is going to have on the Canal.I am hopeful that with trees being replaced over a 10-15 year period of time that the visual impact will not be terrible. Regardless of the pace of replacement, there will definitely be disruption to bicyclists and I will try to stay in touch with local tourism officials to monitor where this impact will be the most at different periods of time.

      Maggie LaCoste
      Experience France by Bike

  2. […] One of the best-known and most popular bike routes in France is dealing with an environmental tragedy that will impact the route for many years to come.  A microscopic fungus called canker stain was first discovered on trees along the canal in 2006.  This fungus is easily transported so it quickly spread along the Canal. There is no cure for the fungus and once a tree has been infected, it dies within several years.  Through 2011, over 2500 trees had already been destroyed. Since there is no treatment for this fungus, a decision was made last year to ultimately destroy and replace all 42,000 plane trees that line the canal. Read more […]