The Gorges d’Ardèche

Canoeing down the Gorges d’Ardèche is a well-known tourist attraction in France. The Ardèche valley is very scenic and in the height of summer, literally thousands of families take to the river to canoe through the gorge. So we waited until a couple of weekends ago, when the kids had gone back to school.

Pont d'Arc, Gorges d'Ardèche

Starting Point: Pont d'Arc, Gorges d'Ardèche

Some tips: given that it’s a gorge, I expect that in high summer it’s unbearably hot. You can always jump into the water to cool off, but do use plenty of sunscreen and do wear a hat and/or sunglasses. Remember there is a lot of glare off the water. Expect very sore shoulders. Paddling is hard work! Take lots of water, and drink regularly. Avoid the school holidays if at all possible. We were told there are upwards of 3,000 canoes on the river in high season. There are a few rapids. While they aren’t particularly tricky, do be prepared to fall in.

You can hire everything you need when you get there. Watertight barrels are provided for your belongings. There are dozens of companies to choose from. But get there early. The system is that they bus you and your hired kit upriver to the starting point, and then you paddle with the current back down. The busses leave around 9am. Get there any later, and you might find yourself paddling upstream!

You can choose from stretches of varying length. The shortest is just a few kilometres, the longest 32 kilometres. We shared a canoe, and did the 25km version. It was a long, but very enjoyable day.

The weather was perfect, there weren’t too many other canoes, and there was enough water not to have to get out and push. The scenery is spectacular, and keep an eye out for the fishies. There are lots and some of them are a good size.

Route through the Gorges d'Archèche

Route through the Gorges d'Archèche

Some tips: given that it’s a gorge, I expect that in high summer it’s unbearably hot. You can always jump into the water to cool off, but do use plenty of sunscreen and do wear a hat and/or sunglasses. Remember there is a lot of glare off the water. Expect very sore shoulders. Paddling is hard work! Take lots of water, and drink regularly. Avoid the school holidays if at all possible. We were told there are upwards of 3,000 canoes on the river in high season. There are a few rapids. While they aren’t particularly tricky, do be prepared to fall in.