Finding a mooring for the night on the Rhône can be a challenge, particularly for a larger boat. If all else fails, there is usually one last possibility, the lay-by for the next lock.
Staying the night at the waiting pontoon above or below one of the 12 deep locks on Rhône is a generally reliable option. Indeed some boats traveling the Rhône use this as their primary mooring option.
There are “rules” for mooring at the locks. Approval from the lockkeeper is generally required. Overnight stays are supposed to start after 6 pm. Moored boats must depart in the morning. But it’s France and the rules are often massaged a bit. The 6 pm cutoff is sometimes 4 pm. Nevertheless boats reliably stay for the one night. For through traffic that’s a good thing as it keeps the mooring places turning over.
Mooring at lock may not sound attractive but is not a bad option. The waiting pontoons below the lock are usually well protected from the strong Mistral winds. Isolated from the roads and passersby it tends to be quiet at the base of the dams. Commercial river traffic moves slowly in and out of the locks; their wakes are minimal. Though there are no services, the scenery is interesting, at least if you like looking closely at impressive feats of concrete construction.
We preferred to moor at the lock only if we could not find another place for the night, as we preferred to stay closer to towns and it kept the lock moorings open for those who really needed them. Only once during our round trip to the Mediterranean on the Rhône did we choose to spend a night on a layby.
Wanderlust’s only Rhône lock mooring was below impressive Châteauneuf écluse. The base of Châteauneuf is unusual in that there were two waiting pontoons for pleasure boats rather than the typical one. It was a good thing, as the normal waiting pontoon was occupied when we arrived.
Nineteen meters in depth, the Écluse du Châteauneuf is one of the deepest locks on the Rhône and indeed in France. (The deepest lock, the 23-meter deep Écluse de Bollène is the next lock downriver.) This necessitated the construction of a tall metal staircase to allow boaters get from the water level below the lock to the shore above. Our canine companion Gigi wasn’t fond of the metal grating on the stairs, but she was happy to get some untethered shore leave.
For us staying below the lock was visually interesting and pleasantly secluded. It was a quiet place to spend the night. We might have chosen to stay two nights, if we could have.
There are 52 kilometers and three locks between Valence to the Châteauneuf lock. Wanderlust’s engine ran 7.7 hours.
Wanderlust stayed below the Châteauneuf lock on the 16th of August 2017.
Clicking on this link will bring up a map of the route.