10 August 2014: The one remaining bridge for the widening of the Leie in Kortrijk (see 12 April 2010 item below) has finally been installed. The official end of the widening project is projected for October 2014.
2 April 2013: Some additional links have been added to the sources page.
30 September 2012: The New York Times had a nice article on a towpath ride at A Soft-Pedaled Escape from Paris.
14 September 2010: Paul Vine reports that the towpath along the River Dender is now complete all the way from Dendermonde to Ath.
12 April 2010: Karel Roose reports that the widening of the Leie at Kortrijk is nearly complete. There is one bridge to go.
2 September 2009: Go to maps.google.com to preview a route, or see if towpaths continue into neighboring countries. In the satellite view the towpaths are usually visible.
18 July 2009: Hans Tille reports that the first part of the Turnhout Canal has reopened.
20 May 2009: The Fietsnet routeplanner now includes a comprehensive mapping of all numbered junctions in the Flemish area, and some extensions into the Netherlands. Pick origin and destination junctions and it maps out the route for you. And you can now download routes in GPX, a GPS file format. The map is a fabulous mash-up with Google maps, visible with a map or satellite photo background. Most of my waterway routes can be mapped using this planer. Currently in Dutch only (use Google translator for a fairly good conversion), with consideration being given to English, German, French and Spanish versions. It would be wonderful if people in adjacent French and German language areas would add to the network for their areas.
11 May 2009: Luc Beeusaert is writing a site describing off-road cycling routes particularly in the Waloon region of Belgium but also including some in neighboring regions. Mostly in French.
30 December 2008: Hans Tille reports that the first part of the Turnhout Canal is closed. From its condition, he suspects that the towpath from Schoten to Sint-Job-in-'t-Goor may be entirely closed for reconstruction.
4 December 2008: Kenny Moens reports that the south bank of the Albert Canal by the Olem lock is again open; and that the south (later east) bank of the Nete appraching Lier is open.
20 Nov 2008: first systematic addition of canal junction numbers to the guide, in this case for the Kempen area. Information is added on the planned reactivation of the rail line between Maastricht and Lanaken for a new tram line (Albert Canal).
13 August 2008: Google Translate provides a surprisingly good translation from English to Dutch.
9 July 2008: Routeplanner maps out a route using the junction (or node or jonction or knotenpunkt) network that now covers much of the Flemish region of Belgium. Click on a starting junction and a destination junction and it will give you a list of the junctions to follow. Or you can click in sequence on the junctions you wish to visit and it will give you a list with distances. (For those not familiar with this new network: instead of numbering routes like the LF network, it numbers junctions. So instead of following say LF-5 east, you follow a list of junctions - 1 to 3 to 9 to 15, or whatever. Works very well and is much more flexible than route numbers.) But the network does not include all the waterways I describe.
30 June 2008: Fiets een rondje met een pontje 2008 (cycle with ferries) is a directory to many pedestrian and bicycle ferry services in the big rivers area of the Netherlands and Belgium. In Dutch, but you should be able to figure out the schedules with the knowledge of only a few words. Most do not operate only in the summer, but a few are year-round (gehele jaar).
8 October 2007: André Maes reports an entirely new (created in 2007) bike path through the island section of the Antwerp docks to the Nederlands town of Bath on the Schelde.
4 September 2007: Paul Hellings has provided a description of Ourthe River, which I missed.
6 July 2007: The work on the N 16 south of Leest has been completed and the detour is no longer necessary. This included the N 16 bridge across the Zenne/Senne. (Kenny Moens)
25 May 2007: Eurostar (the one under the Channel, not the Italian trains) is accepting bicycles as checked luggage. They do not necessarily travel on the same train - availablity is only promised at the destination within 24 hours of turning them in at the origin. (But Ian Vallely reports that you may be able to get the bike on the same train if you check it in some hours in advance. Ask at the station.) The TGV web site says that is is often possible to take bicycles, but the details are extremely vague. The SNCF web site says bikes can be taken on most other trains. Timetables are supposedly marked with a bicycle symbol, except for those in the Ille de France region around Paris. Bikes cannot be taken on trains in the Ille de France during rush hours. Check carefully in advance of plannng to use French trains. From the web site, it appears that bicycles are still not allowed on Thalys. (But see 27 Feb item below.) Deutsche Bahn (Germany) seems to take bicycles on any train, but long distance (EC, IC, D) trains require advance reservation. Bicycles can be taken on local trains (IRE, RE, RB and S-Bahnen) at any time. In any case there is a small fee. In the Netherlands, you can take a bicycle but should first purchase a Dagkaart fiets for EUR 6. Bicycles can generally be taken on Belgian trains, for an additional fare. In all these cases, you should be able to take a folding bicycle like any other piece of luggage, with no charge. A cover may be required.
18 March 2007: The reconstruction on the Turnhout Canal has been completed. The path is now fine from Schoten to Dessel. (Dirk Vande Putte)
27 February 2007: The Director General of Thalys, the high speed train service that serves the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany, said that Thalys intended to include bicycle compartments when extensive refurbishment of Thalys trains starts in 2008. This would solve a serious problem for cyclists, as Thalys trains have entirely replaced traditional trains with luggage cars on route such as Brussels - Paris. (Source: GRACQ press release.)
26 July 2006: A number of pictures by Alex Carr have been added. He took them on his tour of Belgium in May. You can see his trip log at Belgian Bash.
19 June 2006: Work on the towpath from Schoten to St-Job-in-'t-Goor on the Turnhout Canal has been completed. (Dirk Vande Putte)
17 January 2006. André Maes has provided a description and pictures of a new route, the Mark River from Meer to Breda.
21 December 2005. The Wikipedia now has articles on the histories of the Belgium canals, with links to related sights such as the fort at Eban-Emael. Dutch, English French and other languages, but as with Wikipedia generally the text is most complete in the original language. Switching among languages to see which is the longest (and has any illustrations) will show you the original language of the author.
1 December 2005. It is not in Belgium but so beautiful that I must include it: the Falkirk Wheel. This is a completely different barge lift, in Scotland.
21 November 2005. In October two barges ran aground in the Turnhout Canal just east of Turnhout, due to low water and silting. It was quickly announced the whole canal would be dredged in 2006. This is unlikely to cause any serious problem for cyclists. (newspaper articles from Jan Steyaert and André Maes)
26 October 2005. N.V. Aelterman Montage has the contract for replacing a number of lock gates on the Albert Canal. You can see some pictures of that, and other heavy metal projects such as weir gates on the Meuse, on their web site. The company has factories in Gent and along the Gent-Terneuzen canal. Rogiers/Depret has the contract for the Wijnigem lock, as well as a contract for widening the Willebroek canal south of the Vredesbrug. See pictures on their web site. (Karel Roose)
25 September 2005. Jan Steyaert reports that the north bank of the Albert Canal has been mostly repaved and is now rideable the entire distance from Wijnegem to Herentals. The south banks remains closed for some km east of Wijnegem.
28 August 2005. Along and near the Turnhout Canal in the Rijkevorsel area are markers commemorating the crossing of the canal, against strong German resistence, by the British Polar Bears (49th Infantry Division) on 24-25 September 1944. (André Maes)
19 July 2005, Read all about Ken Hoare's tragicomic cycling trip to the Netherlands.
9 July 2005: Karel Roose has found more information on the remain of a bridge near Oupeye on the Albert Canal - it was destroyed on 15 August 1985 when a gas line that cross the bridge exploded.
3 June 2005. A greatly improved map of the currently navigable waterways is available at http://www.binnenvaart.be/nl_html/waterwegenkaarten/fla_kaart.html. Thanks to Sue Kendrick for pointing it out.
18 May 2005. The French section of the Espierres - Roubaix (FR) Canal has been greatly improved and now provides a very fine ride, reports Dirk Vande Putte.
28 Mar 2005. André Maes reports that the section of the Turnhout Canal towpath from bridge 2 to the canal crossing (KP 0) at the east end has been badly damaged during work to strengthen the canal sides. You can get through, but he says it is no fun.
4 March 2005. GPSTracks has a growing collection of routes with GPS directions, in Belgium, France, Netherlands and Germany. Of particular interest to cyclists are Fietsroutes and MTB (mountain bike) routes.
February 2005. Mark Swain arrived by ferry in Calais and attempted to connect to the Leie/Lys river at Armentières. He reports that you can do that only by mostly riding on roads.
18 January 2005. For the section from Huy to Seraing, the RAVeL guide recommends use of the right (east) bank of the Meuse, along the N90 highway.
6 January 2005. Hans Tille reports that the Albert Canal is still unusable from Wijnegem to Oelegem, but is fine from Oelelgem west toward Herentals.
6 January 2005. André Maes reports an entirely new waterway route, along the Mark river from near the town of Meer (Antwerp province) to Breda, Netherlands. The towpath on the right (east bank) has been nicely paved, and is marked for a new regional network called "De Baronie". The network is the work of a consortium of communes in West Brabant (Netherlands) and north Antwerp (Belgium), and uses numbered junctions are the main navigation tool. (That marking system is used in the Maasland area.) A description and of the route will be added to this guide next month.
1 January 2005. For information (in Nederlands), diagrams and an inventory of Bailey bridges in Belgium, see http://www.baileybrug.info/.
19 April 2004. Dirk Vande Putte reports that the Blaton-Ath Canal towpath is now practically all paved.
17 April 2004. On the Albert Canal it is not possible to use the north bank between Wijnegem and Oelegem-Ranst due to extensive reconstruction. There is a marked detour. (André Maes)
17 April 2004.Work has started on a new bike path on the east bank of the Turnhout Canal in the Schoten area.
25 March 2004. VRT (the Flemish language national Belgian TV network) is once again planning a summer program on foreigners visiting Belgium. If you are planning on visiting Belgium this summer, particularly to cycle, and would like to be on TV, contact Veerle Bongaerts Veerle.BONGAERTS@vrt.be.
18 March 2004. According to signs posted in the area, the newish bridges across the Dijle and Nete (see 22 March 2002 item below) will be closed from 26 April to 9 June 2004. (Joeri Blyweert)
18 March 2004. On the Kempen Canal there are two monuments, in Dutch, to British soldiers who died in September 1944. They were buried at about the sites of the monuments, and later exhumed. One was reburied at Leopoldsburg. René Proth of the Lommel Historical Museum is trying to find information on the one in Lommel.
18 March 2004. Jan Steyaert reports that a section of the south bank of the Albert Canal is closed just west of the Olem lock (east of Herentals). There is a bridge at the west end of the block, and another east of the lock.
The Brussels - Charleroi Canal just south of Brussels has been made more interesting by a resident flock of sheep. According to a 20 Sep 2003 newspaper article (supplied by Jan Steyaert), a retired Italian named Luigi walks them along the canal south of Anderlecht twice a day.
9 Feb 2004. A project to increase the capacity of the Albert Canal from 6,000 to 9.000 tons will require deepening and widening the canal in many stretches, and the replacement of many bridges. You can see a description of the project at Albertkanal. (André Maes)
Guido Coolens has a marvelous set of aerial photographs of various parts of the waterway network.
9 October 2003. The Verbrandebrug on the Willebroek Canal is again operational. (David Harrison)
13 September 2003. Karel Roose reports that the Evergem bridge at the junction of the Gent Ring and Gent - Terneuzen Canal is closed until about December 2004 for reconstruction. The road on the west bank of the Gent - Terneuzen Canal is also closed from that point north for about one km.
7 September 2003. Karel Roose has pointed out a wonderful new source of additional information on industrial sites such as steel mills and coal mines. It is the photo collection of StahlArt (steel art) by Harald Finster of Aachen, Germany. I have started adding links from the industrial sites I mention (particularly steel) with the related album pages at StahlArt. The captions are in English (and German on a mirror site) and there are links to related industrial archeology sites.
So far in 2003 Karel Roose has ridden about half of the waterway network, providing numerous corrections, updates and pictures.
11 August 2003. The Sambre detour around the Carlam Decaperie industrial complex is no longer necessary - there is now a new cement path along the river. (Karel Roose)
20 July 2003. The work at the south end of the Blaton-Ath Canal has been finished.(Karel Roose)
1 June 2003. The east bank of the Schelde is blocked from central Oudenaarde north to the Lotheringen bridge. You need to use the west bank. (Karel Roose)
30 May 2003. The Kennedy Tunnel under the Sea Schelde has reopened for pedestrians and cyclists. There is now an elevator and a long flight of stairs on each end. (Jan Steyaert)
29 May 2003. The Albert Canal towpath at Oelegem is closed for reconstruction of the side of the canal. Construction is projected to finish in 2005. There is a marked detour through the town center. (André Maes, Jan Steyaert)
27 March 2003. The towpath on the French side of the border on the Espieres/Spiere Canal has been paved. (Hugo De Belder)
20 March 2003. The towpath pavement north of Turnhout has been destroyed during reconstruction of the canal wall. Repaving is expected in summer 2003. (André Maes)
15 March 2003. With the opening of the Westerscheldetunnel from Terneuzen to near Ellewoutsdikj, car ferry service across the Westerschelde has been discontinued. There remains a pedestrian/cycling ferry from Vlissingen to Breskens, every 30 minutes. In early 2004 new fast ferries will improve the service. The tunnel has a bus service that takes bicycles.
1 February 2003. The Comines - Ieper Canal, first added to the guide in November 2002, now has a complete description and map. Description from Karel Roose.
January 2003. A description of the Antitank Canal east of Antwerp has been added. Combined with parts of the Albert and Turhout canals, this allows a 40 km waterway route. (André Maes)
December 2002. A dam with path has been built across the entrance to the former Kattendijksluis (lock) at the north end of the old Antwerp docks. It is no longer necessary to cross the Kattendijk bridge - follow the cycle path to and across the new dam. Plans are to replace the bridge with a level crossing across the former dock, and to turn the dock inside the port area (the Rijnkaai) into a yacht harbor. The Red Star warehouse on the north side of the Rijnkaai will be turned into a museum to commemorate the 2.5 million migrants who left from here for the new world. map (André Maes)
5 October 2002. Widening the new channel of the Leie in Kortrijk will cause disruption until 2007 or so. (Karel Roose, AWZ)
5 October 2002. The construction activity on the Leie west of Kortrijk is finished. The towpath on the left (north) bank is again open. (Karel Roose)
6 September 2002. The north landing of the Wintam pedestrian ferry across the Rupel was moved closer to the mouth of the Rupel at the Tolhuisveer. (Thanks to André Maes for the information.)
September 2002. Detailed maps for the major waterway routes in Wallonia can be downloaded from RAVeL. You must first download the DjVu plug-in (link from RAVeL's page) for your browser.
September 2002. The Meuse from Namur south to Agimont is now virtually all proper bike path and signed for RAVeL 2. (Thanks to Chris & Pauline Walker)
On 17 January 2002 a valve failure in lift #1 on the Canal du Centre resulted in substantial damage to both a barge and the lift. You can see a report on the incident at Inland Waterways International. (Thanks to Paul Hellings for the info.)
On 30 August 2002 the new section of the Canal du Centre including the enormous lift at Strépy-Thieu was officially opened. As a result, there is a new option for riding the Canal du Center. (Thanks to Paul Hellings for the notice.)
August 2002. Mark Vandenbraembussche reports that a new bridge over the Compure has eliminated the need for a detour when following the Brugge ring canal; and that a new section of bike path makes the entry into Brugge on the Gent - Brugge canal much more pleasant.
August 2002. Improvements have made the Gent - Brugge canal a fine ride the whole distance. (Marjet Vandenbrande)
May 2002. The Dender River path from Ooiebrug south has been paved. There is now a good paved path from Dendermonde to Aalst. (Jempi Ivens) This new section of bike path was dedicated on 5 juli by Mr Steve Stevaert, Flemish Minister for Mobility, Public Works and Energy. It completed a project started in the 1980s. Included was raising the dyke by 50 centimeters. The completed path provides about 48 km of safe paved biker/hiker path from the Schelde to the region border south of Geraardsbergen.
Also on the Dender, in Aalst there is now a paved path from the northern lift bridge to the Erembodegem bridges. Street riding is no longer necessary. (Wim Wouters August 2001)
22 March 2002. Two new pedestrian/cycle bridges just south of Rumst have revolutionized the connections around the junction of the Rupel, Dijle and Nete, in particular providing a much shorter towpath connection between Boom and Mechelen. (Thanks to André Maes for the information, map and pictures.)
A page on waterway museums and information centers has been added.
2 May 2001. The Dijle towpath is obstructed on the right (east) bank at Mechelen north, due to the construction of a sewage treatment plant. A detour is necessary.
17 March 2001. The old west end of the
Nimy - Péronnes
Canal, from Callenelle to the Escaut, is described.
22 February 2001. I have added a page on organized cycling activities for those who prefer to travel in groups.
7 January 2001. The west bank of the new channel of the Willebroek Canal south of the Wintam lock has now been paved.
5 December 2000. The west bank of the Nete Canal has been paved from just north of the lock at the south end to the railway bridge, providing a new route for bypassing Lier.
31 October 2000. The installation of a pipeline along the Charleroi canal south of Luttre is making the west bank difficult.
27 September 2000. A new route using
the old Dijle through central
Mechelen has been added.
23 September 2000. The IJzer River towpath is now open for an additional 3.9 km east of Elzendammebrug. However, the pavement from Fintele is only moderate and the narrow path is being overgrown with weeds, including the stinging variety. A helmet is necessary as protection again low branches.
24 September 2000. There is new towpath on the west bank of the Lokanaal, at least from Lobrug to Fintele and probably from Lobrug to the next bridge north.
September 2000, from Joe Rine. The west/south bank of the Schipdonk canal now has a good path under the N410. No detour is necessary.
August 2000. A fence has been taken
down on the east side of the lower end of the Brussels
- Charleroi canal, allowing a much safer approach to the
Charleroi city center. Little work would be required to clean up
another 1.5 km of the towpath, making the approach even better.
June 2000. My new Brompton folding bicycle finally arrived. It is as efficient as my mountain bike, although not as good on soft surfaces.
August 2000. The L119 rail trail (Charleroi bypass) is now complete the entire 14 km from the Sambre to the Charleroi canal.
January 2000. A new section on the waterways north of Antwerp has been added.
November 1999. At Boom the towpath east of the bridge is now open. You can follow the dyke along the Rupel and Nete along the right (north) bank, with the exception of two short detours, the entire 8 km between Boom Bridge and Walem Bridge.
Last updated 7 September 2014
Copyright Dan Gamber, 1998
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