When we were away last month we visited Clamecy, a small town at the junction
of the Yonne and Beuvron rivers, and at the head of the Canal du Nivernais. It
is also in the middle of the Morvan national park, which was once the source
of the firewood burnt in the fireplaces of Paris from the middle of the 16th
The problem of how to get the wood to Paris was solved by Jean Rouvet, a Parisian trader, who realised that the wood could be floated along the Yonne to the Seine, and then on to Paris. The logs were built into rafts 75 meters long and 4.5 meters wide and containing about 200 cubic meters of wood. The rafts were crewed by "flotteurs" who built their temporary homes on the rafts. A statue to commemorate the flotteurs is on the bridge over the canal and river.
Up to 3,500 rafts were built on the banks of the Yonne every year, and the
Canal du Nivernais was built to encourage trade in 1843. The decline of the
firewood trade was brought about by the increased use of coal in Paris and the last raft was in 1923.