Loire (French pronunciation: [lwaʁ]; Occitan: Léger;
Breton: Liger) is the longest river in
France and the 171st longest in
the world. With a length of 1,012 kilometres (629 mi), it
drains an area of 117,054 km2 (45,195 sq mi), or more
than a fifth of France's land area, while its average discharge is
only half that of the Rhône.
It rises in the highlands of the southeastern quarter of the Massif
Central in the
Cévennes range (in the department of Ardèche) at
1,350 m (4,430 ft) near Mont Gerbier de Jonc; it flows north
Nevers to Orléans, then west through
it reaches the
Bay of Biscay
Bay of Biscay (Atlantic Ocean) at Saint-Nazaire. Its
main tributaries include the rivers Nièvre, Maine and the
its right bank, and the rivers Allier, Cher, Indre, Vienne, and the
Sèvre Nantaise on the left bank.
Loire gives its name to six departments: Loire, Haute-Loire,
Loire-Atlantique, Indre-et-Loire, Maine-et-Loire, and Saône-et-Loire.
The central part of the
Loire Valley, located in the Centre-Val de
Loire region, was added to the
World Heritage Sites
World Heritage Sites list of
December 2, 2000. Vineyards and châteaux are found along the banks of
the river throughout this section.
The human history of the
Loire river valley begins with the Middle
Palaeolithic period of 90–40 kya (thousand years ago), followed by
modern humans (about 30 kya), succeeded by the
Neolithic period (6,000
to 4,500 BC), all of the recent
Stone Age in Europe. Then came
the Gauls, the historical tribes in the
Loire during the Iron Age
period 1500 to 500 BC; they used the
Loire as a major riverine
trading route by 600 BC, establishing trade with the
the Mediterranean coast. Gallic rule ended in the valley in 56 BC
Julius Caesar conquered the adjacent provinces for Rome.
Christianity was introduced into this valley from the 3rd century AD,
as missionaries (many later recognized as saints), converted the
pagans. In this period, settlers established vineyards and began
Loire Valley has been called the "Garden of France" and is studded
with over a thousand châteaux, each with distinct architectural
embellishments covering a wide range of variations, from the early
medieval to the late
Renaissance periods. They were originally
created as feudal strongholds, over centuries past, in the strategic
divide between southern and northern France; now many are privately
2.1 Prehistoric period
2.2 Ancient Rome,
Alans and the Vikings
5 Discharge and flood regulation
11.2 Wine making
12 See also
15 External links
The name "Loire" comes from
Latin Liger, which is itself a
transcription of the native
Gaulish (Celtic) name of the river. The
Gaulish name comes from the
Gaulish word liga, which means "silt,
sediment, deposit, alluvium", a word that gave French lie, as in sur
lie, which in turn gave English lees.
Liga comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *legʰ-, meaning "to lie,
lay" as in the Welsh word Lleyg which gave many words in English, such
as to lie, to lay, ledge, law, etc.
Loire as it flows through Blois.
Studies of the palaeo-geography of the region suggest that the
Loire flowed northward and joined the Seine, while the
Loire found its source upstream of
Orléans in the region of
Gien, flowing westward along the present course. At a certain point
during the long history of uplift in the Paris Basin, the lower,
Loire captured the "palaeo-Loire" or
Seine Loire"), producing the present river. The former bed of the
Loire séquanaise is occupied by the Loing.
Loire Valley has been inhabited since the Middle Palaeolithic
period from 40–90 ka.
Neanderthal man used stone tools to
fashion boats out of tree trunks and navigated the river.[citation
needed] Modern man inhabited the
Loire valley around 30 ka.
By around 5000 to 4000 BC, they began clearing forests along the
river edges and cultivating the lands and rearing livestock. They
built megaliths to worship the dead, especially from around
3500 BC. The
Gauls arrived in the valley between 1500 and
500 BC, and the
Carnutes settled in
Cenabum in what is now
Orléans and built a bridge over the river. By 600 BC the
Loire had already become a very important trading route between the
Celts and the Greeks. A key transportation route, it served as one of
the great "highways" of
France for over 2000 years. The Phoenicians
Greeks had used pack horses to transport goods from
Lyon to the
Loire to get from the Mediterranean basin to the Atlantic coast.
Alans and the Vikings
The Vikings invading in 879
The Romans successfully subdued the
Gauls in 52 BC and began
developing Cenabum, which they named Aurelianis. They also began
building the city of Caesarodunum, now Tours, from AD 1. The
Romans used the
Loire as far as Roanne, around 150 km
(93 mi) downriver from the source. After AD 16, the Loire
river valley became part of the Roman province of Aquitania, with its
capital at Avaricum. From the 3rd century,
through the river basin, and many religious figures began cultivating
vineyards along the river banks.
In the 5th century, the
Roman Empire declined and the
Franks and the
Alemanni came to the area from the east. Following this there was
ongoing conflict between the
Franks and the Visigoths. In 408, the
Iranian tribe of
Alans crossed the
Loire and large hordes of them
settled along the middle course of the
Loire in Gaul under King
Sangiban. Many inhabitants around the present city of Orléans
have names bearing witness to the Alan presence – Allaines.
In the 9th century, the Vikings began invading the west coast of
France, using long ships to navigate the Loire. In 853 they attacked
Tours and its famous abbey, later destroying
raids of 854 and 872. In 877
Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald died, marking an end
to the Carolingian dynasty. After considerable conflict in the region,
Foulques le Roux of
Anjou gained power.
Château de Montsoreau built directly in the
Loire riverbed, 1453
Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War from 1337 to 1453, the
Loire marked the
border between the French and the English, who occupied territory to
the north. One-third of the inhabitants died in the epidemic of the
Black Death of 1348–9. The English defeated the French in 1356
Aquitaine came under English control in 1360. In 1429, Joan of Arc
persuaded Charles VII to drive out the English from the country.
Her successful relief of the siege of Orléans, on the Loire, was the
turning point of the war.
In 1477, the first printing press in
France was established in Angers,
and around this time the
Chateau de Langeais
Chateau de Langeais and
Chateau de Montsoreau
were built. During the reign of
François I from 1515 to 1547, the
Renaissance had a profound influence upon the region, as
people adopted its elements in the architecture and culture,
particularly among the elite who expressed its principles in their
In the 1530s, the
Reformation ideas reached the
Loire valley, with
some people becoming Protestant. Religious wars followed and in 1560
Catholics drowned several hundred
Protestants in the river.
Wars of Religion
Wars of Religion from 1562 to 1598,
Orléans served as a
prominent stronghold for the
Huguenots but in 1568,
Orléans Cathedral. In 1572 some 3000
slaughtered in Paris in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. Hundreds
more were drowned in the
Loire by Catholics.
An 1840 poster advertising excursions on the river
For centuries local people used wooden embankments and dredging to try
to maintain a navigable channel on the river, as it was critical to
transportation. River traffic increased gradually, with a toll system
being used in medieval times. Today some of these toll bridges still
remain, dated to over 800 years. During the 17th century,
Jean-Baptiste Colbert instituted the use of stone retaining walls and
Roanne to Nantes, which helped make the river more
reliable, but navigation was still frequently stopped by excessive
conditions during flood and drought. In 1707, floods were said to have
drowned 50,000 people in the river valley, with the water rising
more than 3 m (9.8 ft) in two hours in Orléans. Typically
passenger travel downriver from
Nantes took eight days,
with the upstream journey against the flow taking fourteen. It was
also a dumping ground for prisoners in the
War in the Vendee
War in the Vendee since
they thought it was a more effective way of killing.
Soon after the beginning of the 19th century, steam-driven passenger
boats began to ply the river between
Nantes and Orléans, making the
upriver journey faster; by 1843, 70,000 passengers were being carried
annually in the Lower
Loire and 37,000 in the Upper Loire. But
competition from the railway, beginning in the 1840s, caused a decline
in trade on the river. Proposals to develop a fully navigable river up
Briare came to nothing. The opening of the Canal latéral à la
Loire in 1838 enabled navigation between
continue, but the river level crossing at
Briare remained a
problem until the construction of the
Briare aqueduct in 1896. At
662.69 metres (2,174.2 ft), this was the longest such structure
in the world for quite some time.
The Canal de
Digoin was also opened in 1838. It was nearly
closed in 1971 but, in the early 21st century, it still provides
navigation further up the
Loire valley to Digoin. The
261 km (162 mi) Canal de Berry, a narrow canal with locks
only 2.7 m (8.9 ft) wide, which was opened in the 1820s and
Canal latéral à la Loire
Canal latéral à la Loire at
the river Cher at Noyers and back into the
Loire near Tours, was
closed in 1955.
Today the river is officially navigable as far as Bouchemaine,
where the Maine joins it near Angers. Another short stretch much
further upstream at
Decize is also navigable, where a river level
crossing from the
Canal latéral à la Loire
Canal latéral à la Loire connects to the Canal du
The monarchy of
France ruled in the
Loire Valley for several
centuries, giving it the name of "The Valley of Kings". These rulers
started with the Gauls, followed by the Romans, and the Frankish
Dynasty. They were succeeded by the kings of France, who ruled from
the late 14th century till the French Revolution; together these
rulers contributed to the development of the valley. The chronology of
the rulers is presented; in the table below.
Period of reign
Iron Age. Settled in
Cenabum (Orléans) and Arabou. Trading along the
52 BC-5th century
Christianity among communities living along the
Benedictine Order prospered.
Frankish Dynasty and feudal lords
Power struggles among feudal states.
Charles Martel defeated
Muslim incursions. Attila, leader of
stopped from entering the
Was defeated by England. Ceded territory to the English Crown
Ruled during the peak of Hundred Years' War. Was known as the mad king
or ‘le fou’. Married his daughter to Henry V, the King of England,
and who was also declared heir to the throne of France.
He was helped by the famous
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc to ascend the throne of France
and ruled from Chinon. He also had an officially recognized mistress
named Agnès Sorel.
An authoritarian ruler, reigned from Amboise, and had two queens
He had strange marriages, including Anne, a four-year-old bride who
married the heir of Charles VIII after his death.
Anne de Bretagne
Anne de Bretagne after divorcing Jeanne de Valois. Anne
Blois till her death in 1514. Louis died in 1515
Second cousin of Louis XII. Activity centred at Amboise. Literary and
architectural attainments. Influence of
Renaissance architecture and
scientific ideas. Secular ideas prevailed over religious ethos.
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was patronized who settled in
Amboise in 1516.
Captured in the war in 1525 with the Italians.
Reformist era, Wars of Religion
Internecine fights and killings among the Catholics,
Fled from Louvre. Took refuge in
Tours and eventually killed by a monk
First King of Bourbon Dynasty, Adopted the Catholic faith, Decreed the
Edict of Nantes.
Saumur was established as a prominent academic
Loire valley declined
Decline of monarchy or rule of Kings. Many Châteaux of
valley destroyed and many converted into prisons and schools. Reign of
terror between 1793 and 1794 saw killing of counter revolutionaries by
sinking ships carrying them forcibly in the Loire.
The source of the river lies in the eastern Massif Central, in springs
to the south side of
Mont Gerbier de Jonc
Mont Gerbier de Jonc at 44°50′38″N
4°13′12″E / 44.84389°N 4.22000°E / 44.84389;
4.22000. This lies in the north-eastern part of the southern
Cévennes highlands, in the
Ardèche commune of Sainte-Eulalie of
southeastern France. It is originally a mere trickle of water located
at 1,408 m (4,619 ft) above sea level. The presence of an
Mont Gerbier de Jonc
Mont Gerbier de Jonc gives rise to multiple sources,
three of them located at the foot of Mount have been highlighted as
river sources. The three streams converge to form the Loire, which
descends the valley south of Mount through the village of
The river port of Roanne
Loire changed its course, due to tectonic deformations, from the
original outfall into the
English Channel to its new outfall into the
Atlantic Ocean thereby creating the presently seen narrow terrain of
Loire Valley with alluvium formations and the long stretch
of beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. The river can be divided into
three main zones; the Upper
Loire which is the area from the source to
the confluence with the Allier, the middle
Loire Valley which is the
area from the
Allier to the confluence with the Maine, about
280 km (170 mi), and the Lower
Loire which is the area from
Maine to the estuary. In the upper basin the river flows through a
narrow, incised valley, marked by gorges and forests on the edges and
a distinct low population. In the intermediate section, the
alluvial plain broadens and the river meanders and forks into
multi-channels. River flow is particularly high in the river area near
Vichy up to the confluence with the Allier. In the
middle section of the river in the
Loire Valley, numerous dikes built
between the 12th and 19th century exist, providing mitigation against
flooding. In this section the river is relatively straight, except for
the area near
Orléans and numerous sand banks and islands exist.
The lower course of the river is characterized by wetlands and fens,
which are of major importance to conservationists given that they form
unique habitats for migratory birds.
Confluence of the
Allier and the Loire
Loire flows roughly northward through
Orléans and thereafter westward through
Tours to Nantes, where it
forms an estuary. It flows into the
Atlantic Ocean at 47°16′44″N
2°10′19″W / 47.27889°N 2.17194°W / 47.27889; -2.17194
Saint-Nazaire and Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, connected by a bridge
over the river near its mouth. Several départements of
named after the Loire. The
Loire flows through the following
départements and towns: Ardèche, Haute-Loire: Le Puy-en-Velay,
Loire: Feurs, Roanne, Saône-et-Loire: Digoin, Allier, Nièvre:
Decize, Nevers, La Charité-sur-Loire, Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire, Cher:
Sancerre, Loiret: Briare, Gien, Orléans, Loir-et-Cher: Blois,
Indre-et-Loire: Amboise, Tours, Maine-et-Loire: Saumur,
Loire-Atlantique: Ancenis, Nantes, Saint-Nazaire.
Loire Valley in the
Loire river basin, is a 300 km
(190 mi) stretch in the western reach of the river starting with
Orléans and terminating at Nantes, 56 km (35 mi) short of
Loire estuary and the Atlantic Ocean. The tidal stretch of the
river extends to a length of 60 km (37 mi) and a width of
3 km (1.9 mi), which has oil refineries, the port of
Saint-Nazaire and 40,000 hectares (99,000 acres) of wetland whose
formation is dated to 7500 BC (caused by inundation by sea waters
on the northern bank of the estuary), and the beaches of Le Croisic
La Baule along the coastline.
Map of the
Loire basin showing the major tributaries
Main article: Tributaries of the Loire
Its main tributaries include the rivers Maine,
Nièvre and the Erdre
on its right bank, and the rivers Allier, Cher, Indre, Vienne, and the
Sèvre Nantaise on the left bank. The largest tributary of the river
is the Allier, 410 km (250 mi) in length, which joins the
Loire near the town of
Nevers at 46°57′34″N 3°4′44″E /
46.95944°N 3.07889°E / 46.95944; 3.07889. Downstream of
Nevers lies the
Loire Valley, a
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site due to its
fine assortment of castles. The second longest tributary is the
372 km (231 mi) Vienne which joins the
Candes-Saint-Martin at 47°12′45″N 0°4′31″E /
47.21250°N 0.07528°E / 47.21250; 0.07528, followed by the
367.5 km (228.4 mi) Cher, which joins the
Cinq-Mars-la-Pile at 47°20′33″N 0°28′49″E /
47.34250°N 0.48028°E / 47.34250; 0.48028 and the 287 km
(178 mi) Indre, which joins the
Loire near Néman at
47°14′2″N 0°11′0″E / 47.23389°N 0.18333°E /
Sèvre Nantaise (in Nantes)
Erdre (in Nantes)
Èvre (in Le Marillais)
Layon (in Chalonnes-sur-Loire)
Maine (near Angers)
Mayenne (near Angers)
Oudon (in Le Lion-d'Angers)
Verzée (in Segré)
Ernée (in Saint-Jean-sur-Mayenne)
Sarthe (near Angers)
Loir (north of Angers)
Braye (in Pont-de-Braye)
Aigre (near Cloyes-sur-le-Loir)
Yerre (near Cloyes-sur-le-Loir)
Conie (near Châteaudun)
Ozanne (in Bonneval)
Vaige (in Sablé-sur-Sarthe)
Vègre (in Avoise)
Huisne (in Le Mans)
Thouet (near Saumur)
Dive (near Saint-Just-sur-Dive)
Losse (near Montreuil-Bellay)
Argenton (near Saint-Martin-de-Sanzay)
Thouaret (near Taizé)
Cébron (near Saint-Loup-sur-Thouet)
Palais (near Parthenay)
Viette (near Parthenay)
Vienne (in Candes-Saint-Martin)
Creuse (north of Châtellerault)
Gartempe (in La Roche-Posay)
Anglin (in Angles-sur-l'Anglin)
Salleron (in Ingrandes)
Benaize (in Saint-Hilaire-sur-Benaize)
Abloux (in Prissac)
Brame (in Darnac)
Semme (in Droux)
Petite Creuse (in Fresselines)
Clain (in Châtellerault)
Clouère (in Château-Larcher)
Briance (in Condat-sur-Vienne)
Taurion (in Saint-Priest-Taurion)
Indre (east of Candes-Saint-Martin)
Indrois (in Azay-sur-Indre)
Cher (in Villandry)
Sauldre (in Selles-sur-Cher)
Rère (in Villeherviers)
Arnon (near Vierzon)
Théols (in Bommiers)
Yèvre (in Vierzon)
Auron (in Bourges)
Airain (in Savigny-en-Septaine)
Tardes (in Évaux-les-Bains)
Voueize (in Chambon-sur-Voueize)
Beuvron (in Chaumont-sur-Loire)
Cosson (in Candé-sur-Beuvron)
Loiret (in Orléans)
Vauvise (in Saint-Satur)
Allier (near Nevers)
Sioule (in La Ferté-Hauterive)
Bouble (in Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule)
Dore (near Puy-Guillaume)
Allagnon (near Jumeaux)
Senouire (near Brioude)
Ance (in Monistrol-d'Allier)
Chapeauroux (in Saint-Christophe-d'Allier)
Nièvre (in Nevers)
Acolin (near Decize)
Aron (in Decize)
Alène (in Cercy-la-Tour)
Besbre (near Dompierre-sur-Besbre)
Arroux (in Digoin)
Bourbince (in Digoin)
Arconce (in Varenne-Saint-Germain)
Lignon du Forez
Lignon du Forez (in Feurs)
Furan (in Andrézieux-Bouthéon)
Lignon du Velay
Lignon du Velay (in Monistrol-sur-Loire)
The geological formations in the
Loire river basin can be grouped into
two sets of formations, namely, the basement domain and the domain of
sedimentary formations. The basement domain primarily consists of
metamorphic and siliceous fragmented rocks with groundwater occurring
in fissures. The sedimentary domain consists of limestone and
carbonaceous rocks, that, where saturated, form productive aquifers.
Rock outcrops of granite or basalt also are exposed in the river bed
in several stretches.
The middle stretches of the river have many limestone caves which were
inhabited by humans in the prehistoric era; the caves are several
types of limestone formations, namely tuffeau (a porous type of chalk,
not to be confused with tufa) and
Falun (formed 12 million years
ago). The coastal zone shows hard dark stones, granite, schist and
thick soil mantle.
Discharge and flood regulation
Loire at Decize
Loire spanned at Nantes
The river has a discharge rate of 863 m3/s
(30,500 cu ft/s), which is an average over the period
1967–2008. The discharge rate varies strongly along the river,
with roughly 350 m3/s (12,000 cu ft/s) at
900 m3/s (32,000 cu ft/s) at the mouth. It also depends
strongly on the season, and the flow of only 10 m3/s
(350 cu ft/s) is not uncommon in August–September near
Orléans. During floods, which usually occur in February and March
but also in other periods, the flow sometimes exceeds
2,000 m3/s (71,000 cu ft/s) for the Upper
8,000 m3/s (280,000 cu ft/s) in the Lower Loire.
The most serious floods occurred in 1856, 1866 and 1911. Unlike most
other rivers in western Europe, there are very few dams or locks
creating obstacles to its natural flow. The flow is no longer partly
regulated by three dams: Grangent
Dam and Villerest
Dam on the Loire
Dam on the Allier. The Villerest dam, built in 1985 a few
kilometres south of Roanne, has played a key-role in preventing
recent flooding. As a result, the
Loire is a very popular river for
boating excursions, flowing through a pastoral countryside, past
limestone cliffs and historic castles. Four nuclear power plants are
located on the river: Belleville, Chinon, Dampierre and Saint-Laurent.
In 1700 the port of
Nantes numbered more inland waterway craft than
any other port in France, testifying to the historic importance of
navigation on France’s longest river. Shallow-draught gabares and
other river craft continued to transport goods into the industrial
era, including coal from Saint-Étienne loaded on to barges in
Orléans. However, the hazardous free-flow navigation and limited
tonnages meant that railways rapidly killed off the surviving traffic
from the 1850s. In 1894 a company was set up to promote improvements
to the navigation from
Nantes to Briare. The works were authorised in
1904 and carried out in two phases from
Angers to the limit of tides
at Oudon. These works, with groynes and submersible embankments,
survive and contribute to the limited navigability under present-day
conditions. A dam across the
Loire at Saint-Léger-des-Vignes
provides navigable conditions to cross from the
Canal du Nivernais to
the Canal latéral à la Loire.
As of 2017[update], the following sections are navigable:
Loire maritime: 53 km from the
Atlantic Ocean at
Nantes, no locks
Loire: 84 km from
Bouchemaine near Angers, no locks
Canal latéral à la Loire: 196 km from
Briare to Digoin, parallel to
the river, 36 locks
Roanne à Digoin: 56 km from
Digoin to Roanne, parallel to
the river, 10 locks
French language adjective ligérien is derived from the name of
the Loire, as in le climat ligérien ("the climate of the Loire
Valley"). The climate is considered the most pleasant of northern
France, with warmer winters and, more generally, fewer extremes in
temperatures, rarely exceeding 38 °C (100 °F). It is
identified as temperate maritime climate, and is characterised by the
lack of dry seasons and by heavy rains and snowfall in winter,
especially in the upper streams. The number of sunny hours per year
varies between 1400 and 2200 and increases from northwest to
Loire Valley, in particular, enjoys a pleasant temperate climate.
The region experiences a rainfall of 690 mm (27.2 in) along
the coast and 648 mm (25.5 in) inland.
The Centre region of the
Loire river valley accounts for the largest
forest in France, the "Forêt d'Orléans", covering an area of 38,234
hectares (94,480 acres), and the 5,440-hectare (13,400-acre) forested
park known as the "Foret de Chambord". Other vegetation in the valley,
mostly under private control, consists of tree species of oak, beech
and pine. In the marshy lands, ash, alder and willows are grown with
duckweed providing the needed natural fertilizing effect. The Atlantic
coast is home to several aquatic herbs, the important species is
Salicornia, which is used as a culinary ingredient on account of its
Greeks introduced vines. Romans introduced melons,
apples, cherries, quinces and pears during the Middle Ages, apart from
extracting saffron from purple crocus species in the Orléans. Reine
Prunus domestica italica) tree species was planted in the
gardens of the Château.
Asparagus was also brought from northwestern
The river flows through the continental ecoregions of Massif central
and Bassin Parisien south and in its Lower course partly through South
Atlantic and Brittany.
With more than 100 alga species, the
Loire has the highest
phytoplankton diversity among French rivers. The most abundant are
diatoms and green algae (about 15% by mass) which mostly occur in the
lower reaches. Their total mass is low when the river flow exceeds
800 m3/s (28,000 cu ft/s) and become significant at
flows of 300 m3/s (11,000 cu ft/s) or lower which occur
in summer. With decreasing flow, first species which appear are
single-celled diatoms such as Cyclostephanos invisitatus, C.
meneghiniana, S. Hantzschii and Thalassiosira pseudonana. They are
then joined by multicellular forms including Fragilaria crotonensis,
Nitzschia fruticosa and Skeletonema potamos, as well as green algae
which form star-shaped or prostrate colonies. Whereas the total
biomass is low in the upper reaches, the biodiversity is high, with
more than 250 taxa at Orléans. At high flows and in the upper reaches
the fraction of the green algae decrease and the phytoplankton is
dominated by diatoms. Heterotrophic bacteria are represented by cocci
(49%), rods (35%), colonies (12%) and filaments (4%) with a total
density of up to 7010140000000000000♠1.4×1010 cells per litre.
European eel (Anguilla anguilla)
Nearly every freshwater fish species of
France can be found in the
Loire river basin, that is, about 57 species from 20 families. Many of
them are migratory, with 11 species ascending the river for spawning.
The most common species are the
Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), sea
trout (Salmo trutta), shads (Alosa alosa and Alosa fallax), sea
lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) European river lamprey (Lampetra
fluviatilis) and smelt (Osmerus eperlanus). The
European eel (Anguilla
anguilla) is common in the upper streams, whereas the flounder
(Platichtys flesus) and flathead mullet (Mugil spp.) tend to stay near
the river mouth. The tributaries host brown trout (Salmo trutta),
European bullhead (Cottus gobio),
European brook lamprey
European brook lamprey (Lampetra
planeri), zander (Sander lucioperca), nase (
Chondrostoma nasus and C.
toxostoma) and wels catfish (Siluris glanis). The endangered species
include grayling (Thymallus thymallus), burbot (Lota lota) and
Rhodeus sericeus) and the non-native species are
represented by the rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris).
Although only one native fish species has become extinct in the Loire,
European sea sturgeon
European sea sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) in the 1940s, the
fish population is declining, mostly due to the decrease in the
spawning areas. The latter are mostly affected by the industrial
pollution, construction of dams and drainage of oxbows and swamps. The
loss of spawning grounds mostly affects the pike (
Esox lucius), which
is the major predator of the Loire, as well as eel, carp, rudd and
salmon. The great
Loire salmon, a subspecies of Atlantic salmon, is
regarded as the symbolic fish of the river. Its population has
decreased from about 100,000 in the 19th century to below 100 in the
1990s that resulted in the adoption of a total ban of salmon fishing
Loire basin in 1984. A salmon restoration program was initiated
in the 1980s and included such as measures as removal of two obsolete
hydroelectric dams and introduction of juvenile stock. As a result,
the salmon population increased to about 500 in 2005.
Most amphibians of the
Loire are found in the slow flow areas near the
delta, especially in the floodplain, marshes and oxbows. They are
dominated by the fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra), frogs and
toads. The toads include Bufo bufo, Alytes obstetricans, Bombina
variegata, Bufo calamita,
Pelobates fuscus and Pelobates cultripes.
The frogs are represented by the Parsley frog (Pelodites punctatus),
European tree frog
European tree frog (Hyla arborea),
Common Frog (Rana temporaria),
Agile Frog (R. dalmatina),
Edible Frog (R. esculenta), Perez's Frog
(R. perezi), marsh frog (R. ridubunda) and
Pool Frog (R. lessonae).
Newts of the
Loire include the
Marbled Newt (Triturus marmoratus),
Smooth Newt (T. vulgaris),
Alpine Newt (T. alpestris) and Palmate Newt
Loire hosts about 64% of nesting bird species of France, that is
164 species, of which 54 are water birds, 44 species are common for
managed forests, 41 to natural forests, 13 to open and 12 to rocky
areas. This avifauna has been rather stable, at least between the
1980s and 2000s, with significant abundance variations observed only
for 17 species. Of those, five species were growing in population,
four declining, and other eight were fluctuating. Some of these
variations had a global nature, such as the expansion of the
Mediterranean gull in Europe.
Loire has been described as "constantly under threat of losing its
status as the last wild river in France". The reason for this is
its sheer length and possibility of extensive navigation, which
severely limits the scope of river conservation. The Federation, a
member of the
IUCN since 1970, has been very important in the campaign
to save the
Loire river system from development.
Loire Vivante WWF protests in 1989 against the proposed Serre de la
In 1986, the French government, the Loire-Brittany Water Agency and
the EPALA settled an agreement on flood prevention and water storage
programme in the basin, involving construction of four large dams, one
Loire itself and three on the
Allier and Cher. The French
government proposed a construction of a dam at Serre de la Fare on the
Loire which would have been an environmental catastrophe, as it
would have inundated some 20 km (12 mi) of pristine
gorges. As a result, the WWF and other NGOs established the Loire
Vivante (Living Loire) network in 1988 to oppose the Serre de la Fare
dam scheme and arranged an initial meeting with the French Minister of
the Environment. The
French government initially rejected the
conservation concerns and in 1989 gave the dam projects the green
light. This sparked public demonstrations by the WWF and
conservation groups. In 1990,
Loire Vivante met with the French
Prime Minister and the government, this time successfully as the
government later demanded that the EPALA embark upon major reforms in
its approach to managing the river. Due to extensive lobbying, the
proposal and the other dam proposals were eventually rejected in the
1990s and the Serre de la Fare area has since been protected as a
‘Natura 2000’ site under European Union environmental
A pristine gorge of the Loire
The WWF were particularly important in changing the perception of the
French authorities in support for dam building to environmental
protection and sustainable management of its river basin. In 1992,
they aided the ‘
Loire Nature’ project, which received funds of
some $US 9 million under the EU's ‘LIFE’ programme until 1999,
embarking upon restoration to the river's ecosystems and wildlife.
That year, the Upper
Loire Valley Farmers Association was also
established through a partnership between SOS
Loire Vivante and a
farmers’ union to promote sustainable rural tourism. The French
government adopted the Natural
Loire River Plan (Plan
Nature) in January 1994, initiating the decommissioning of three dams
on the river. The final dam was decommissioned by Électricité de
France at a cost of 7 million francs in 1998. The basis of
the decision was that the economic benefits of the dams did not
outweigh their significant ecological impacts, so the intention was to
restore the riverine ecosystems and replenish great
Loire is unique in this respect as the Atlantic salmon
can swim as far as 900 km (560 mi) up the river and spawn in
the upper reaches of the Allier. The
French government undertook this
major plan, chiefly because pollution and overfishing had reduced
approximately 100,000 salmon migrating annually to their spawning
grounds in the headwaters of the
Loire and its tributaries to just 67
salmon in 1996 on the upper Allier.
The WWF, BirdLife International, and local conservation bodies have
also made considerable efforts to improve the conservation of the
Loire estuary and its surroundings, given that they are unique
habitats for migrating birds. The estuary and its shoreline are also
important for fishing, shellfish farming and tourism. The major
commercial port at
Nantes has caused severe damage to the ecosystem of
Loire estuary. In 2002, the WWF aided a second
project and expanded its scope to the entire basin, addressing some
4,500 hectares (11,000 acres) of land under a budget of
US$18 million, mainly funded by government and public bodies,
such as the Établissement Publique
Loire (EPL), a public institution
which had formerly advocated large-scale dam projects on the
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Loire Valley between
Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes
Allier, Ardèche, Cher, Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher, Loire,
Haute-Loire, Loire-Atlantique, Loiret, Maine-et-Loire, Nièvre,
47°23′56″N 0°42′10″E / 47.39889°N 0.70278°E /
Cultural: i, ii, iv
2000 (24th Session)
Location of Loire
[edit on Wikidata]
Loire Valley (French: Vallée de la Loire) lies in the middle
stretch of the river, extends for about 280 km (170 mi) and
comprises an area of roughly 800 km2 (310 sq mi). It
is also known as the Garden of
France – due to the abundance of
vineyards, fruit orchards, artichoke, asparagus and cherry fields
which line the banks of the river – and also as the "cradle of
the French language". It is also noteworthy for its architectural
heritage: in part for its historic towns such as Amboise, Angers,
Blois, Chinon, Nantes, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours, but in particular
for its castles, such as the
Château de Chambord,
Château de Montsoreau,
Villandry and Chenonceau, and also for its many cultural
monuments, which illustrate the ideals of the
Renaissance and the Age
of the Enlightenment on western European thought and design.
On December 2, 2000,
UNESCO added the central part of the Loire
Sully-sur-Loire in Loiret, to
its list of World Heritage Sites. In choosing this area that includes
the French départements of Loiret, Loir-et-Cher, Indre-et-Loire, and
Maine-et-Loire, the committee said that the
Loire Valley is: "an
exceptional cultural landscape, of great beauty, comprised of historic
cities and villages, great architectural monuments – the Châteaux
– and lands that have been cultivated and shaped by centuries of
interaction between local populations and their physical environment,
in particular the
Architectural edifices were created in
Loire valley from the 10th
century onwards with the defensive fortress like structures called the
"keeps" or "donjons" built between 987 and 1040 by
Foulques Nerra of
Anjou (the Falcon). However, one of the oldest such
France is the Donjon de
Foulques Nerra built in 944.
This style was replaced by the religious architectural style in the
12th to 14th centuries when the impregnable château fortresses were
built on top of rocky hills; one of the impressive fortresses of this
type is the
Château d'Angers, which has 17 gruesome towers. This was
followed by aesthetically built châteaux (to also function as
residential units), which substituted the quadrangular layout of the
keep. However, the exterior defensive structures, in the form of
portcullis and moats surrounding the thick walls of the châteaux'
forts were retained. There was further refinement in the design of
the châteaux in the 15th century before the
Baroque style came into
prominence with decorative and elegantly designed interiors and which
became fashionable from the 16th to the end of the 18th century.
Baroque style artists who created some of the exquisite château
structures were: The Parisian,
François Mansart (1598–1662) whose
classical symmetrical design is seen in the
Château de Blois; Jacques
Bougier (1635) of
Blois whose classical design is the
Guillaume Bautru remodelled the
Château de Serrant (at the
extreme western end of the valley). In the 17th century, there was
feverish pace in the design of châteaux for introducing exotic
styles; a notable structure of this period is the Pagode de Chanteloup
at Amboise, which was built between 1773 and 1778.
The Neoclassical architectural style, was a revival of Classical style
of architecture, which emerged in the mid 18th century; one such
notable structure is the
Château de Menars built by Jacques Ange
Gabriel (1698–1782) who was the royal architect in the court of
Louis XV (1715–74). This style was perpetuated during the reign of
Louis XVI (1774–92) but with more refinements; one such refined
château seen close to
Angers is the
Château de Montgeoffroy.
Furnishings inside the châteaux also witnessed changes to suit the
living styles of its occupants. Gardens, both ornamental
fountains, foot paths flower beds and tended grass) and kitchen type
(to grow vegetables), also accentuated the opulence of the châteaux.
French Revolution (1789), however, there was a radical
change for the worst conditions in the scenarios of the chateaus, as
monarchy ended in France.
Main article: Châteaux of the
The châteaux, numbering more than three hundred, represent a nation
of builders starting with the necessary castle fortifications in the
10th century to the splendour of those built half a millennium later.
When the French kings began constructing their huge châteaux here,
the nobility, not wanting or even daring to be far from the seat of
power, followed suit. Their presence in the lush, fertile valley began
attracting the very best landscape designers. Today, these privately
owned châteaux serve as homes, a few open their doors to tourist
visits, while others are operated as hotels or bed and breakfasts.
Many have been taken over by a local government authority or the giant
structures like those at Chambord are owned and operated by the
national government and are major tourist sites, attracting hundreds
of thousands of visitors each year. Some notable Châteaux on the
Loire include Beaufort- Mareuil sur Cher – Lavoûte-Polignac –
Bouthéon – Montrond –
Bastie d'Urfé –
Château féodal des
Cornes d'Urfé – La Roche –
Château féodal de
Loire – Saint-Pierre-la-Noaille – Chevenon –
Palais ducal de
Nevers – Saint-Brisson –
Gien – La Bussière –
Pontchevron – La Verrerie (near Aubigny-sur-Nère) –
Sully-sur-Loire – Châteauneuf-sur-
Loire – Boisgibault –
Loire – Menars – Talcy –
Château de la Ferté –
Blois – Villesavin – Cheverny – Beauregard –
Château de Chaumont –
Amboise – Clos-Lucé –
Langeais – Gizeux – Les Réaux – Montsoreau – Montreuil-Bellay
Saumur – Boumois – Brissac –
Montgeoffroy – Plessis-Bourré –
Château des Réaux
Amboise on the banks of the
Chateau de Langeais
Blois interior façades in Gothic,
Renaissance and Classic
styles (from right to left).
Château de Valençay.
Château de Montsoreau
Loire Valley (wine)
Vineyard in the
Sauvignon blanc is the principal grape of
Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé,
found in the
Loire Valley wine region includes the
French wine regions situated
Loire River from the
Muscadet region near the city of Nantes
on the Atlantic coast to the region of
southeast of the city of
Orléans in north central France. In between
are the regions of Anjou, Saumur, Bourgueil, Chinon, and Vouvray. The
Loire Valley itself follows the river through the
Loire province to
the river's origins in the
Cévennes but the majority of the wine
production takes place in the regions noted above.
Loire Valley has a long history of winemaking dating back to the
1st century. In the High Middle Ages, the wines of the
were the most esteemed wines in England and France, even more prized
than those from Bordeaux.
Archaeological evidence suggest that the
Romans planted the first vineyards in the
Loire Valley during their
settlement of Gaul in the 1st century AD. By the 5th century, the
flourishing viticulture of the area was noted in a publication by the
poet Sidonius Apollinaris. In his work History of the Franks, Bishop
Tours wrote of the frequent plundering by the Bretons of
the area's wine stocks. By the 11th century the wines of
a reputation across Europe for their high quality. Historically the
wineries of the
Loire Valley have been small, family owned operations
that do a lot of estate bottling. The mid-1990s saw an increase in the
number of négociant and co-operative to where now about half of
Sancerre and almost 80% of
Muscadet is bottled by a négociant or
Loire river has a significant effect on the mesoclimate of the
region, adding the necessary extra few degrees of temperature that
allows grapes to grow when the areas to the north and south of the
Loire Valley have shown to be unfavourable to viticulture. In addition
to finding vineyards along the Loire, several of the river's
tributaries are also well planted—including the Allier, Cher, Indre,
Sèvre Nantaise and Vienne Rivers. The climate can be very
cool with spring time frost being a potential hazard for the vines.
During the harvest months rain can cause the grapes to be harvested
under ripe but can also aid in the development of
Botrytis cinerea for
the region's dessert wines.
Loire Valley has a high density of vine plantings with an average
of 4,000–5,000 vines per hectare (1,600–2,000 per acre). Some
Sancerre vineyards have as many as 10,000 plants per hectare. With
more vines competing for the same limited resources in the soil, the
density is designed to compensate for the excessive yields that some
of the grape varieties, like Chenin blanc, are prone to have. In
recent times, pruning and canopy management have started to limit
yields more effectively.
Loire Valley is often divided into three sections. The Upper Loire
Sauvignon blanc dominated areas of
Pouilly-Fumé. The Middle
Loire is dominated by more
Chenin blanc and
Cabernet franc wines found in the regions around Touraine, Saumur,
Chinon and Vouvray. The Lower
Loire that leads to the mouth of the
river's entrance to the Atlantic goes through the
which is dominated by wines of the
Melon de Bourgogne grape.
Spread out across the
Loire Valley are 87 appellation under the AOC,
Vin de Pays
Vin de Pays systems. There are two generic designation that
can be used across the whole of the
Loire Valley. The
Loire which refers to any sparkling wine made according to the
traditional method of Champagne. The
Vin de Pays
Vin de Pays du Jardin de la
France refers to any varietally labelled wine, such as Chardonnay,
that is produced in the region outside of an AOC designation.
The area includes 87 appellations under the
Vin Délimité de Qualité Superieure (VDQS) and
Vin de pays
Vin de pays systems. While the majority of production is white wine
from the Chenin blanc,
Sauvignon blanc and
Melon de Bourgogne grapes,
there are red wines made (especially around the
Chinon region) from
Cabernet franc. In addition to still wines, rosé, sparkling and
dessert wines are also produced. With
Crémant production throughout
Loire valley, it is the second largest sparkling wine producer in
France after Champagne. Among these different wine styles, Loire
wines tend to exhibit characteristic fruitiness with fresh, crisp
flavours-especially in their youth.
Loire has inspired many poets and writers, including: Charles
d'Orléans, François Rabelais, René Guy Cadou (fr), Clément
Marot, Pierre de Ronsard, Joachim du Bellay, Jean de La Fontaine,
Charles Péguy, Gaston Couté; and painters such as: Raoul Dufy, J. M.
W. Turner, Gustave Courbet, Auguste Rodin, Félix Edouard Vallotton,
Jacques Villon, Jean-Max Albert, Charles Leduc (fr), Edmond
Bertreux (fr), and Jean Chabot.
Scène of the Loire, by J. M. W. Turner.
La source de la Loire, by Gustave Courbet.
Portrait of the Loire, by Jean-Max Albert, 1988.
Loire at Beaugency, by Jacques Villon, 1959.
Chaumont-sur-Loire, by Raoul Dufy, 1937
Loire by Jean-Jacques Delusse (fr), 1800
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Loire guide, places, ports and moorings on the river in the
navigable length from the Maine to Saint-Nazaire, by the author of
Inland Waterways of France, Imray.
Navigation details for 80 French rivers and canals (French waterways
(in English) Tourist Office Board
(in English) Waterways In Western
Loire – Free Online Travel