Loire River Information
The Loire river is the longest one in France with a length of about 1000km (630 miles). The Loire river actually reaches a huge surface of France, draining more than a fifth of France's territory.
Loire river rises in the Cevennes in the Ardeche department at an altitude of about 1300m. The Loire then flows for more than 1000km slightly north through Orleans and then west through cities like Tours or Nantes until it eventually reaches the Bay of Biscay at Saint Nazaire.
The major tributaries of the Loire river are the Maine, the Nievre, the Allier, the Cher or the Indre. The Loire river has given name to six french departments, including Haute-Loire or Loire-Atlantique for example. That shows how big of a part it takes in France territory.
Finally, the Loire river is famous for its beautiful surroundings, refered as the Loire Valley, now belonging to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This area is renowned for its amazing castles and vineyards.
Loire River Geography
The Loire river first originates in the Ardeche department, at the three springs of the Mont Gerbier de Jonc. Due to its important size, changes in the Loire river water level have caused important floodings in the past, especially in 1911 for the last century, when the damages caused by the flooding were quite important.
One of the characteristics of the Loire river is that there are very few dams and locks compared to some other rivers of that size in Europe. Therefore, the natural flow of the Loire river is more preserved than for some other rivers. However, the Villerest dam that has been built in 1985 just a bit south to Roanne has helped preventing a flooding.
Loire River Navigation
The Loire river has been used and considered for over 2000 years as the main way of transport in France. It has been used for any kind of uses, whether it was commercial, as a way of transport or as a way of moving military troops. Due to its central location and to its length, it has been and still is a bit nowadays broadly used. However, since the coming of the railway in the 19th century it has been less and less used as a transport way.
There has been several locks open and closed over time, as the Loire river used to be way more used before as it is now. Additional canals such as the Canal de Roanne a Digoin were opened and closed as well, as it allowed people to navigate further up the Loire valley to Digoin, but went on to be useless when the railworks and roads developped.