At the end of a drizzly day of cruising we arrived in Montbéliard France, a town of around 26,000 roughly seven miles from France’s border with Switzerland. Wanderlust had now made it past the halfway point on her cruise from the Saône to the Rhine. The water divide between the Rhône and the Rhine river basins is just a little more than 12 miles ahead as a crow flies from Montbéliard. We’d get there, eventually. But for now the commune promised to be a pleasant stop.
On this day Wanderlust traveled almost entirely on manmade canal, segments of which became increasingly frequent as we neared the water divide. Indeed the only time Wanderlust was on river this day was a short siltation-prone crossing near the confluence of the River Allan and the River Doubs. Past the confluence the canal’s water source switches from the Doubs to the Allan. This change was necessary as near Montbéliard the Doubs turns south towards the Swiss border; the river’s waters would no longer be helpful to boats trying to reach the Rhine to the east.
On this section of the Canal du Rhône au Rhin we infrequently encountered other moving boats. It was far more common to see bikes on the bike path alongside the canal. The canal’s paved and often-pristine towpath is employed as part of the 2,270-mile long Euro Velo 6 bike route. EV6, the “Rivers Route”, runs from the mouth of the Loire River on France’s Atlantic coast to the Black Sea in Romania. From the Saône to Montbéliard, the route is scenic and well protected from road traffic; it’s perfect for long distance cycle tourists. Even on a drizzly day there were numerous cyclists out. They too were enjoying the bucolic canal side scenery as we all slowly worked our ways through the Jura countryside.
We arrived and found the port in Montbéliard to be particularly agreeable. The commune, the administrative center of the Doubs department, is Goldilocks’ size: It’s big enough to have a reasonable range of services but not so big that it suffers from urban intensity. This corner of France is the country’s historic center of automobile production, the French answer to Detroit, if you will. Today the plants near Montbéliard still crank out trainloads of Peugeots, Citroëns, and Opels but otherwise there is little to compare this relatively quiet corner of the Doubs department in France to the grittiness of Detroit.
Wanderlust’s main engine ran for 6.2 hours to navigate the 24 kilometers from L’Isle-sur-le-Doubs to Montbéliard. There are 11 locks and two lifting bridges operated by the VNF on this segment. We stayed six nights in Montbéliard on the way out and five nights on the way back.
The port is nicely located. It should be even better now after its needed end of the year (2019) renovation.
Montbéliard has several destination-worthy attractions including the commune’s château, the Musée de l’Aventure Peugeot and L’usine PSA de Sochaux. (Peugeot started in this area of France.) On the way out we learned too late that a tour of the auto production facilities was possible. Fortunately we were able to fit this in on our way back. Also in the area is the strategic town of Belfort with its massive hilltop fortifications. A visit to Belfort is well worth the short train ride.
A map of the route from l’Isle-sur-le-Doubs to Montbéliard: