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The Garonne River

The Garonne {gah-ruhn'} River rises in the Maladeta massif on Spain's Pyrénées Mountains and flows northeast and then northwest 312 mi. (503 km) through southwest France. It reaches the Atlantic Ocean 16 mi. (26 km) north of Bordeaux through the 45-mi.-long (72-km) Gironde Estuary. Its principal tributaries include the Ariège River in the Pyrénées and the Tarn, Lot, and Dordogne rivers in France. Although the river is navigable only on its lower course, the Canal du Midi links it at Toulouse with the Mediterranean. The Garonne Lateral Canal, which is 120 mi. (193 km) long, runs parallel to the river from Toulouse to Castets.


Bridge at Villeneuve la Garenne, by Alfred Sisley

Bridge at Villeneuve la Garenne
(Hauts-de-Seine #92
by Alfred Sisley
28x20 Fine Art Poster


The Isère River

The Isère {ee-zair'} River rises in the Alps of southeastern France at an elevation of 7,900 ft. (2,400 m) above sea level. It flows west and then southwest for 180 mi. (290 km), until it joins the Rhône River above Valence. Its major tributaries are the Arly and the Arc. Grenoble is the largest city along the Isère, and the river is important for hydroelectric power.

Source: Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia v9.0.1., Grolier Interactive Inc., Danbury, CT.

The Loire River

The Loire {lwar} River, with a total length of 625 mi. (1,006 km), making it the longest river in France, rises on Mont Gerbier de Jonc in the Massif Central. Initially, it flows north toward the Paris Basin, but at Orléans it arcs toward the west, passing Blois, Tours, and Nantes before flowing through a 35-mi. (56-km) estuary to the Atlantic Ocean at St. Nazaire on the Bay of Biscay. Its tributaries include the Maine, Vienne, Cher, Allier, and Indre rivers, and its drainage area is 45,000 sq. mi. (116,550 sq km), more than a fifth of France.

The Loire has an irregular flow and is subject to sudden floods. Much of the river is lined by levees. Formerly, commercial navigation along the Loire and the canals that connect it with the Rhône and Seine river systems was very important to the prosperity of the surrounding region. Today, however, the valley of the Loire is famous for its châteaux, especially those of Chambord, Chenonceaux, Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau, and Chinon.

Source: Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia v9.0.1., Grolier Interactive Inc., Danbury, CT.
Bibliography: The Loire, James Bentley, 1987. Chateaux of the Loire, Ian Dunlop, 1969 (out-of-print).

Recommended reading: Knopf Guide: the Loire Valley, (Knopf Guides). Eyewitness Travel Guide to The Loire Valley, Jack Tresidder (Editor), Deni Bown. Chateaux of the Loire Valley, Jean-Marie Perouse de Montclos, Robert Polidori (Photographer).

The Marne River

The Marne River, located in northern France, rises in the Plateau de Langres and arcs northwest over a winding course of 326 mi. (525 km) to join the Seine River at Charenton-le-Pont, an eastern suburb of Paris. Navigable for more than 220 mi. (354 km), the Marne is connected by canals with the Aisne, Rhine, and Saône rivers. During World War I the Allies twice repulsed German drives toward Paris at the Marne. Heavy fighting took place in the river valley again during World War II (1944).

Source: Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia v9.0.1., Grolier Interactive Inc., Danbury, CT.

The Marne-Rhin Canal

Linking the Marne and Rhine Rivers in Alsace, this canal is popular for leisurely boat cruises. A remarkable engineering feat, the Arzviller boat lift was designed to replace 17 locks, and can raise a boat 148 feet (45 meters) in about 20 minutes. One of the recommended ports of call is Saverne — the château of the Rohans, built in the reign of Louis XV; you can stop for the night by the castle's walls.

The Meuse River


Bieres de la Meuse, by Alphonse Mucha

Bières de la Meuse
by Alphonse Mucha
28x40 Fine Art Poster


The Meuse {möz} River, known as the Maas in Dutch and Flemish, is approximately 560 mi. (900 km) long, rising in the Langres Plateau of northeastern France and flowing north past Sedan (the head of navigation) and Charleville-Mézières into southern Belgium. It is joined by the Sambre River at Namur. From Namur the Meuse winds eastward skirting the Ardennes, passes Liège, and turns north, where it forms part of the Belgian-Dutch border before swinging westward through southeastern Netherlands (where it is called the Maas). Near Hertogenbosch it branches out to form a common delta with the Rhine River. One branch joins with the Waal River near Gorinchem to form the Merwede River, which flows into the North Sea. The other branch, called the Bergsche Maas, flows into an inlet of the North Sea south of Dordrecht. The Oude Maas (Old Meuse), which is a branch of the Waal, and the Nieuwe Maas (New Meuse), which is a continuation of the Lek River, actually belong to the Rhine estuary.

The Meuse is linked with the Belgian port of Antwerp by the Albert Canal and with Rotterdam and other Dutch ports by the intricate system of Dutch waterways; thus it is one of the chief thoroughfares of Europe. The Belgian section of the Meuse valley, especially around Namur and Liège, is an important industrial and mining region. A strategic line of defense, particularly in Belgium and France, the valley has been a battleground in many wars, and most of the cities along its course have been strongly fortified since the Middle Ages.

Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, Paul Lagasse, Lora Goldman, Archie Hobson (Editors).

Next page >> Moselle, Oise, Rhine & Rhône Rivers, and the Rhine Canals


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