Visit the Inclined plane of Arzviller, a unique boat elevator!


Saint-Louis-Arzviller inclined plane is located on the Canal de la Marne au Rhin in the Pays de Phalsbourg region. We are here in Lorraine, but just at the border with Alsace. It is one of the most visited river sites in France, and we quickly understand why when we go there: this unique boat elevator in Europe is very impressive to see!

Laurène is the blog's creator. Originally from Brittany but now living in Alsace, she has fallen in love with her adopted region and loves exploring its every nook and cranny to unearth great ideas to share with you!

What is the Arzviller inclined plane?

The inclined plane of Saint-Louis Arzviller is a kind of huge boat elevator. It is managed and operated by Voies Navigables de France (VNF).

Where is the inclined plane in Alsace ?

Error, the inclined plane is not in Alsace but in Lorraine, more precisely near Lutzelbourg in Moselle. It’s right next to the border with Alsace, which is why it’s often confused 😉

History of the construction of the inclined plane

Who built the inclined plane?

The inclined plane was designed by the general engineer of the Ponts et Chaussées, Robert Vadot, who had been in charge of the Moselle river canalization

From the 17 locks to the inclined plane

After 4 years of construction work, the plan was put into service in 1969, enabling a 44.5-metre vertical drop to be negotiated in a very short space of time, which had previously required crossing no less than… 17 locks! That’s right! Two ferries were originally planned for the transport of barges, but only one was finally built and put into operation due to the decline of river transport,

Previously, it took a full day of navigation to cross this part of the Marne-Rhine Canal, compared to a few minutes once the inclined plane is in operation: 4 minutes for the descent/ascent itself and a total travel time of 20 minutes between the entrance and the exit of the plane.

Detour of the Marne-Rhine canal

Following its construction, the canal was diverted and navigation stopped in the Vallée des Eclusiers, which is now a pleasant place to walk or cycle.

How does the inclined plane work?

The principle of the inclined plane is to raise or lower a container containing a boat along an inclined ramp with the help of a balancing counterweight. It sounds simple, but the inclined plane is a unique structure in Europe!

Visit the inclined plane of Saint-Louis Arzviller in Moselle

Different tour options are available. You can opt for a simple visit of the site, including access to the platform allowing to observe the inclined plane in movement as well as the engine room and the museum barge, but also for the visit with a boat tour and/or a small tourist train.

I tested the boat tour, which seems to me to be the nicest option. This way, you can really take the inclined plane while being on board a boat and at the same time benefit from explanations on how it works. The tour lasts about 1 hour, the time to go down by boat through the inclined plane, to make a small tour on the Canal de la Marne au Rhin and then to go up again.

I liked to test the descent and the ascent in this huge boat elevator, it is really impressive! I reassure you, it is impressive to see the speed at which we cross the difference in level but it is not at all frightening: it is very stable, the boat does not move at all in its big tank filled with water!

Ideas of visits in the vicinity

If you come to visit the inclined plane, I also advise you to take the opportunity to walk on the lovely Voie verte de la Vallée des Eclusiers. Another interesting idea for a visit is the Lehrer crystal factory, located right next door, where you can admire the work of the glassmakers making the crystal pieces every day. It’s great to see! If you are with your family, don’t miss the alpine sledging at the inclined plane, also located a few steps away. Want more ideas in the area? Find here my ideas of activities around Dabo and Phalsbourg!

  • Very impressive work
  • Possibility of borrowing the map by boat
  • Interesting explanations during the boat tour
  • Nothing!