Legend has it that, one fine day, Riquet was watching the waters of the Grave fountain, between the oceanic side and the Mediterranean side. The waters of this fountain are divided into two streams, with one flowing towards the Garonne and the other towards the Aude. This is how Riquet chose it as the highest point for his canal…
The channel on the plain carried water from the Montagne Noire to the famous watershed, the Seuil de Naurouze. It circled the octagonal basin, which has since been filled in, to arrive at the highest point of the entire canal route. It is at this precise point that the water divides in two to flow naturally either towards the Atlantic or towards the Mediterranean.
The avenue of bicentennial plane trees is the start of a particularly pleasant walk. Explanatory panels allow you to follow a route and understand the architecture and the purpose of the site. You should also see the obelisk erected in memory of Pierre-Paul Riquet.
History of the site
Riquet designed a port project in Naurouze at the end of 1668-1669, located at the junction of the canal and the Rigole de la Plaine coming from Revel. The inventor wanted to use the strategic location of the site to design a major development to the glory of the King. He rightly thought that the junction between the canal and the Rigole de la Plaine, if made navigable as far as Revel, would ensure an influx of goods to Naurouze, which would quickly become a commercial hub. The Naurouze basin was completed in May 1673 but Riquet’s great project for a port there never came to fruition. The creation of a competing port at Castelnaudary, coupled with Riquet’s financial problems, caused the project to be abandoned.
Following the excavation in Naurouze, stone was used for the locks instead of brick.
The Toulouse region had few quarries, so the first locks were built using bricks. The discovery of a rocky layer during the work on the Naurouze basin enabled Riquet to save on materials, by replacing brick with stone. Therefore, when the canal was completed, the 18 locks between Naurouze and Toulouse were clad in brick… and, all the locks between Naurouze and the Mediterranean were built in stone. (Michel Adgé).
In order to reduce the cost of transporting this heavy material, which was required in large quantities, the traditional extraction sites closest to the site were then used, as the canal was gradually filled.
Too often silted up and quickly useless, the Naurouze basin was soon filled in, but the old route remains visible thanks to the water surrounding the site.
The Naurouze mill, located at the downstream end of the Rigole de la Plaine, was the first mill to emerge, in 1670. It uses the Rigole’s waters. A canal property, it was transformed into a flour mill in 1832 and operated until 1985.
The Riquet Obelisk
Dating from the 19th century, the obelisk was erected in memory of Pierre Paul Riquet by his descendants. At the base of the column you can see a sculpture of a woman representing the Montagne Noire who is tipping a jar. The waters fall on a rock and flow in two distinct directions. We can see the metaphor of the division of water carved into the stones from Naurouze.