Ready for a festive or a nature escapade? Just one hour to the south of Paris, France's ONLY remaining wild river offers stunning landscapes. With its meanders bordered with alluvial forests, its golden sand banks, its preserved islands and historic quaysides, the River Loire shapes the landscape and regulates life in the towns and villages it runs through. From peaceful and idle, to forceful and turbulent, its waters reflect the fiery skies at sunset. A breathtaking sight!
Europe's last wild river
Can you remember your old geography lessons? The larger river then crosses Loiret from east to west over a distance of over 150km (95 miles). But the Loire is not just a river! It is a vast array of preserved environments, a concrete-free waterway, a refuge for birds, a home for beavers (yes indeed!) and many other animal species. But also an incredible and pleasurable feast for the eyes!
A listed Unesco World Heritage site, the river is waiting to be discovered, on foot along its pathways, by bike over the 'Loire à Vélo' cycle route [lien vers expérience], aboard a canoe or a traditional Loire sailing boat.
Sailors, take to the deck!
Take to your boots and set sail along the River Loire! The once 'Royal River', one of France's vastest natural communication links, has once more become a wild river. Yet, traditional Loire boats in the form of gabares, toues and fûtreaux have reappeared thanks to enthusiasts keen to revive and to share Loire's sailing heritage. Enjoy a unique experience over a medley of relaxation, discovery and ever-changing scenery, aboard one of these amazing and quite charming traditional Loire boats!
Time for festivities!
The banks of the Loire are also full of life! I can particularly recommend a Sunday stroll along the riverbank... you are sure to meet with many locals and other visitors, be they walkers, runners or cyclists! The country atmosphere of the banks of the Loire make them the ideal destination for a makeshift picnic or a glass or two on the water's edge, hand in hand or with friends! There are even a number of typical open-air cafés, called guinguettes, along the Loire!
The river is also home to festivities and events such as the 'Loire Festival' which reunites and brings back to life the Loire's traditional fleets (gabares, toues, fûtreaux, plates...).
Marine de Loire © Christophe Mouton
Marine de Loire © Christophe Mouton
La Loire à Orléans © Ludovic Letot
Découverte de la Loire en bateau traditionnel © Fabien Thouvenin
Make sure you don't miss...
The Guilly meander
The last great meander of the wild River Loire in Loiret, this exceptional site (covering some 400 hectares) is home to a wealth of nature's best. The Conservatoire d'Espaces Naturels Centre-Val-de-Loire has, since 1996, been actively preserving 140 hectares with the introduction, in particular, of 200 'Solognote' sheep. Partly closed to the public, to ensure tranquillity for the animals, the site nevertheless offers a pathway so that visitors can walk through its many natural environments that are quite typical to Loiret. We simply love it!
Pointe de Courpain nature reserve
On a 9km (6-mile) portion of the Loire, the Saint-Mesmin nature reserve is home a great diversity of natural habitats. The Saint-Pryvé-Saint-Mesmin island, Pointe de Courpain at the confluence of the Loire and the Loiret and the Mareau-aux-Prés islands are the 3 most remarkable sites. A total of 570 plant species have been identified here. European beavers, otters and a number of bird species including migratory birds, dragonflies and beetles...can also be seen here.
Visitors can freely stroll along the educational walkway that runs along the banks of the Loire in Mareau-aux-Prés (the path starts at the 'Aire de Loisir des Isles' leisure area). The reserve stretches across 5 communes (Saint-Pryvé-Saint-Mesmin, Mareau-aux-Prés, La Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin, Chaingy and Saint-Ay).
Discover the Loire aboard a traditional boat
Board a traditional gabare or a toue and enjoy the Loire from a truly original and unexpected viewpoint. You can approach its banks, its islands, its sandbanks and even its animals. Along your way, you can wave to the beavers who, after having left the area, have decided to take up residence here once more.
Musée de la marine de Loire
To offer us an insight into Loire's people (mariners, craftworkers, locals, etc.) and their traditions, the Musée de la Marine de Loire is designed around a highly original scenography. The entrance resembles a boarding hall, then the museum continues in the central nave with a boat and a museographical display. Above, the mezzanine is evocative of a quayside with goods waiting to be loaded. Several attic exhibition areas offer an insight into the daily lives of the mariners and all the activities associated with the river.
Scale-models of boats, manuscripts, photographs, tools, typical mariners' furniture, liturgical and day-to-day objects, etc. collectively bear witness to the river's activities, its traditions, its history and its geography. Loire's history of sailing and the typical boats (gabares, sapines, toues and fûtreaux) that transported men and goods along the river, from Nantes to Saint-Etienne, in both directions, is described in detail.
At the start of the Canal d'Orléans, under the Thinat bridge, several traditional Loire boats, from toues to gabares, are regularly berthed by the quayside for visitors to admire. Yet, next to the George V bridge, a quite different vessel has resumed business on the Châtelet quay. The 'Bateau-Lavoir' is a faithful reproduction of a 19th century boat-wash house and is home to a restaurant and bar.
Events around the River Loire
La Maison de Loire
La Chanterie – Boulevard Carnot
Tel: 0033 (0)2 38 59 76 60
Open all year (except over the Christmas period) from Tuesday to Saturday, 9am - 12 noon and 2pm - 6pm.