What Lies Beneath the Canal Saint Martin

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What Lies Beneath the Canal Saint Martin
Mention the Canal Saint Martin in Parisian circles and you’ll likely conjure up talk of favorite coffee shops, shabby-chic brunches, trendy boutiques and sun-soaked apéros with friends. Nowadays however, locals are heading over to admire a different side of the canal — the underside, to be exact. Every 15 years, in a mix of city mandate and local tradition, the Napoleon-era waterway is drained of its seven feet of water and 20 species of fish– to be thoroughly cleaned and repaired. The byproduct of such an event is a feast for the eyes—a veritable post-apocalyptic wasteland that offers passersby a mud-slathered exhibit of all that’s been dumped into the canal for the past decade and a half. Leading up to the drainage, the city was abuzz with speculation of what would be uncovered. The findings didn’t disappoint: so far items have included dozens of Vélib’ rental bicycles, baby strollers, traffic cones, office equipment, shopping carts, and even a handgun that was promptly turned over to the police department. For now, rare is the pedestrian who doesn’t pause over the iron footbridges to peer at the canal’s bizarre nakedness. There’s almost a voyeuristic quality to it all, in addition to a sense of being witness to a brief moment in Paris history. The cleaning and rehabilitation project is set to last three months and cost nearly 10 million euros, after which the Canal Saint Martin will once again flow through the 10th arrondissement clean and clutter-free… for a short time at least. The countdown will then be reset to approximately the year 2030, at which point future Parisians will have the pleasure of discovering their own batch of discarded treasures from days past.  

Lead photo credit : cleaning the Canal Saint Martin by Corey Frye

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Corey is a highly sought-after tour guide and travel writer based in Paris. It all started on an NYC subway platform: he was strumming his guitar and singing a tune, she was a young Parisienne waiting for the train…and the rest is history. Corey also shares his discoveries on his blog A French Frye in Paris, as well as his Facebook page where he live-streams free weekly tours of the city. Private tours can be booked through his blog or by contacting him at [email protected].


  • Edifi
    2020-08-06 05:42:50


  • Sandy Carrigg
    2016-01-29 19:42:43
    Sandy Carrigg
    Why would people throw in those Velib bicycles?


  • Edna Walker
    2016-01-22 02:47:41
    Edna Walker
    Thanks for the great pictures!! My best friend and I are traveling to Paris in March 2016! Any tips or places we should visit? Are you available in March??


  • Richard McDonough
    2016-01-15 05:17:31
    Richard McDonough
    New to me, as well. Thanks. I remember one night several years ago when the faithful gathered at the canal on a high holiday. A nonbeliever, I was quite moved to see this old readition in my favorite city.


  • Linda Grzeika
    2016-01-09 19:11:22
    Linda Grzeika
    I don't think you'll ever run out of interesting things to write about! I've never heard of this dredging, but I can see that it is indeed fascinating. Thanks again for giving me a ringside seat to your Paris discoveries.