The Rhône: Destination or Superhighway?

Passing under the TGV viaduct near Avignon

As we headed down the Rhône we couldn’t help but notice how many pleasure boats seemed to be cruising the river as fast as possible. It is more typical of craft on the inland waterways to linger, move slowly, and savor life in France’s slow lane. But for many the Rhône seemed to be something to complete quickly as if there was a time limit. For sure, with long cruising days, a boat can cover the entire length of the Rhône in three or for days. But why would they want to? Why do boaters hurry past the Rhône?

Before the advent of roads and railways, rivers provided the first reliable means of heavy goods transportation. Naturally civilization tended to follow and develop along the path of the rivers. Indeed, the Romans followed the Rhône up from the Mediterranean Sea in the process establishing numerous historic cities along the way. The Roman legacy and influence is still apparent in many communes along the Rhône. Indeed, it is a big part of what makes this region interesting. It is a big part of why the Rhône offers more than just a transportation link.

The confluence of the Rhône and Saône in Lyon

Riverside industry

The Rhône Valley can be windy, but there are also still evenings.

If history is not your thing there’s always the food and wine. The through-navigable Rhône links Provence to France’s gastronomic capitol of Lyon, in the process traversing regions world famous for their food and produce. The Rhône Valley is also home to some of France’s most sought after and well-known vineyards. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Hermitage, Condrieu, Côte-Rôtie and other famous wine locales all line the hillsides of the Rhône. Eating and drinking your way through the valley of the Rhône is a time-consuming task, though rewarding, mission.

In 2017, in part through circumstances outside of our control, we cruised the River Rhône as a goal rather than a thoroughfare. Our stops were longer and our cruising days were shorter than most of the other boaters we talked to. There’s no doubt that the complexities of mooring on the Rhône increase the challenge of slow travel. But in our opinion, it was worth the effort. The Rhône is vastly underrated as a destination waterway.

Big locks

And big boats

Wanderlust heads up the Rhône arm above the confluence with the Saône: The river is navigable for a few kilometers.



One thought on “The Rhône: Destination or Superhighway?

  1. Amen to the sentiments you express here. I just hope our bow thruster is working when, sometime in the future, we set off down the Rhône. Thanks for all the details of things to do and how to use the moorings. We’ll certainly have them in our bag of references when the time comes. Delicious photos of course!

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