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What is the longest river in France?

Updated on January 12, 2014

What is the longest river in France? is a question which is often asked.  This article gives the answer, along with some information on the river in question. 

What is the longest river in France?

As would be expected from a large country such as france, there are a number of relatively large, long rivers. There are also a number of rivers which are partly in France and partly in another country. What follows is a run down of the five longest rivers in France, along with a bit of info on each.

What is the 5th longest river in France?

The 5th longest river in France is known as the Dordogne. This river is 483km long, and stretches from the Massif Central in the centre of France westwards to the Atlantic Ocean.

The fifth longest river in France cuts a large number of steep gorges near its source. However, as it flows, the gorges disappear and the Dordogne instead flows through a wide, fertile plain as it approaches the sea.

The river passes through several towns on its journey and is globally rare in that it is one of the few rivers worldwide which exhibits a tidal bore.

What is the 4th longest river in France?

The fourth (4th) longest river in France is the Garonne River. The Garonne River starts in the Pyranees (a mountain range between Spain and France) and whilst the exact source is not determined, it is believed to be somewhere in the Spanish region of Catalonia.

From its source in the Spanish Pyranees, France's 4th longest river crosses the border into the French Pyranees and continues north until it reaches the city of Toulouse. During this period, it moves out of the mountainous area into wider, fertile plains.

After leaving Toulouse, the Garonne travels Northwest, through the beautiful French city of Bordeaux and towards the coast where it joins up with France's 5th longest river, the Dordogne, to create the Gironde estuary.

What is the 3rd longest river in France?

The third longest river in France is probaby it's most famous; the Seine which runs through the French capital city of Paris. The river is a central part of Paris life, frrom the thirty seven bridges which cross it, to UNESCO World Heritage Site parks alongside it and even a seasonal beach; however, much like England's longest river, the River Thames which flows through London, there is much more to this river than the small section which runs through one of the world's most major cities.

In total, the river Seine is 776km long from it's source near the French city of Dijon to it's mouth in the English Channel near the city of Le Harve. Near the source of the Seine there are several waterfalls, nearer the coast the river is much more open and is even navigable by large vessels.

The River Seine in Paris at night, with the Eiffel Tower in the background
The River Seine in Paris at night, with the Eiffel Tower in the background | Source

What is the 2nd longest river in France?

The second longest river in France is the Rhone. Whilst sometimes confused for one of Europe's other great rivers, the Rhine, this is smaller and yet just as important for those who live and work nearby.

The Rhone River starts in Switzerland and travels through the south-east of France, until it's mouth in the Mediterranean Sea a full 813km from the source. The exact source is a glacier, conveniently named the Rhone Glacier. From here the river travels through the Alps where it is a raging flow of water, mainly due to the quick fall in elevation. As it travels, a large number of tributaries join the river. It flows into Lake Geneva at one end, and then flows out of the other end of this famous lake through the city of Geneva. It then flows through a gorge in the Alps and into France.

Throughout France it flows through and past a number of large towns and cities, the most important of which are Lyon, Avignon and Arles. A large number of tributaries also join the river as it passes through France. All this together means that by the time it reaches the sea this river is very large indeed.

What is the longest river in France?

The longest river in France is the Loire. Unlike some of the other rivers in this list of the top 5 longest French rivers it is also 100% in France; so there is no debating it is the longest French river. It is 1012km long, which despite it's incredible size only makes it the 170th longest river in the world.

The source of the river is in the Massiv Central, a large plateu in south central France. It starts by travelling north to Orleans, where it turns west through the cities of Tours and Nantes until it reaches it's mouth at the Bay of Biscay (part of the Atlantic Ocean).

The river flows through the Loire Valley, and the central part of this is so important that it has been given UNESCO World Heritage status, partly due to the many historic chateux and vineyards. This makes the Loire and it's valley one of the most visited areas in France.

The Azay-le-rideau Chateu which is in the Loire Valley.
The Azay-le-rideau Chateu which is in the Loire Valley. | Source

Longest river in France poll

Out of all the rivers in France, which is your favourite?

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    • BristolBoy profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Bristol

      Jpcmc, many thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree rivers seem to have become less important from a transport point of view, however they remain great for leisure!

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I haven't been to France and these rivers can be a focal point in an adventurer's agenda. Rivers used to be the highways but since roads were constructed, less attention is given to them.


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