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Wonderful Waterways: The Rivers of Eastern France

From the Rhône to the Loire and the Seine, these rivers wind through some of the most scenic countryside, captivating châteaux, charming villages and vineyards.

So, if you're looking for a unique way to explore all France has to offer – why not start with its rivers? We've already looked at the main rivers of Northern France, and today we're heading East.

In this instalment of our Wonderful Waterways series, we're exploring the principal rivers of Eastern France. Of course, we'll also include local suggestions for exciting activities and cool campsites nearby.

Ready? Let's jump in; the water's waiting…

Rhine

At over 760 kilometres, the Rhine (or the Rhin) is one of Europe's great rivers. It begins in Switzerland and defines most of the French-German border before flowing through Germany's Rhineland and into the Netherlands – where it finally drains into the North Sea.

The Rhine was a vital waterway for the Roman Empire, with various castles, châteaux and defences built along its banks ever since.

Great for: family fun

If you're exploring France with the whole family, you can't go wrong with Camp Au Clair Ruisseau. Situated on the banks of the Rhine (near the town of Erstein), your little ones will love spending time at the mini-farm, riding horses or swimming and rowing in the safe, shallow lake.

City of Strasbourg
City of Strasbourg

Saône

Rising in the Vosges department, it joins the Rhône in the city of Lyon. The charming name comes from the Gallic goddess "Souconna", who was the guardian of the river.

At just over 470 kilometres, it flows through some of France's most historic towns and cities – including Auxonne, Mâcon, Anse and, of course, Lyon, with its fantastic museums, old town and churches.

Great for: fishing

If you fancy a spot of angling, head to Sites et Paysages Kanopée Village. Fishing is possible (with a permit) on the Saône.

Many camping pitches have pretty river views, with a path along the riverbank leading to the nearby town. You're also ideally situated for a quick visit to UNESCO-listed Lyon… what's not to love?

Cityscape image of Lyon
Cityscape image of Lyon

Doubs

The Doubs flows through forested hills and verdant valleys for 450 kilometres, eventually ending up in the Saône at Verdun-sur-le-Doubs.

The Doubs is the tenth longest river in France and boasts a small waterfall (known as "Saut du Doubs") on the French-Swiss border. There's also a four-kilometre-long lake nearby, formed by damming from landslide debris. Both the lake and the falls are accessible by passenger boat or on foot.

Great for: hiking and biking

Le Domaine d'Aucroix is a wonderful choice if you love exploring the great outdoors. Based near Baume Les Dames on a pretty site next to the Doubs, there's so much to see.

The EV6 "Rivers Route" cycle path passes nearby, and there are over forty way-marked paths through the forest-covered hills surrounding the site.

City of Besancon
City of Besancon

Durance

At 320 kilometres long, the Durance is one of South-Eastern France's major rivers. It's also an old and important trade route.

From its source in the Montgenèvre ski resort (part of the Alps mountain range), the Durance flows through some of France's most beautiful scenery before joining the Rhône near Avignon. The name simply means "flowing one".

Great for: outdoor activities

If you want to get that pulse racing, head to Camping la Vallée Heureuse. It's located on a stunning site amidst a valley of outstanding natural beauty surrounded by steep cliffs and tree-covered hills.

It's a popular spot for climbers, with professional climbers even giving lessons on-site. Marked footpaths, cycle tracks, and an attractive lake (perfect for swimming) are all nearby.

Sisteron in Provence
Sisteron in Provence

Isère

Last but not least is the 286-kilometre-long Isère. It flows from a glacier known as the Sources de l'Isère, near the iconic ski resort of Val-d'Isère on the Italian border.

Attesting to the river's popularity and beauty, many French riverside towns have adopted the river as part of their name. The department of Isère, as well as Romans-sur-Isère and Sainte-Hélène-sur-Isère, are all named after its waters.

Great for: swimming and water sports

Situated next to a beautiful lake just over a kilometre away from the banks of the Isère, Camping Lac du Marandan offers all the water-based activities you could hope for.

The inviting water is shallow and safe, surrounded by a fine sandy beach. There are loads of fun activities around the lake, with canoeing, fishing and swimming all possible on-site.

Village of Pont-en-Royans
Village of Pont-en-Royans
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