It’s no secret that the Rhône, like its valley, plays a central role in linking transport and river tourism in France and Europe. As a link between north and south, here’s the first part of the river’s exciting connections between canals, rivers, the Mediterranean Sea and even the Atlantic Ocean. Would you like to sail on the Rhône?

Sailing on the Rhône

The navigable network of the Rhône river

Although it has its source in the Swiss Alps, the Rhône River is beginning to be fully navigable on Lake Geneva. Private boats and public transport on the river with the CGN sail alongside each other along the 72 kilometres and 200 kilometres of shoreline of this binational stretch of lake.

Sailing on Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva, also sometimes known as Lac de Genève, is the main area for river tourism on the way to the Rhône, with numerous ports and regular services operated by the Compagnie Générale de Navigation (CGN).

There’s plenty to do on the water, from pedalos and paddleboats to boat hire and river tourism, with day trips and mini-cruises a tradition since the days of the steam engine.

And to find the sailing ports and water leisure beaches, here’s a map of Lake Geneva with their locations:

And for more information on sailing on Lake Geneva, here are some links to consult:

  • Harbours, towns and greenways on the Lake Geneva map
  • Sailing on Lake Geneva, Haute-Savoie Prefecture
  • Navigation and Harbour Master’s Office, Canton of Geneva
  • Law on navigation in Geneva waters
  • Lake Geneva, navigation regulations (PDF format)

The downstream Rhône after Lake Geneva

Downstream of Lake Geneva on the Swiss side and on the French border, navigation is still possible, but with different conditions and seasonal restrictions on certain sections and dams limiting traffic.

To illustrate boating on the Rhône and Arve rivers between Vessy and Chancy-Pougny, here is a map published by the canton of Geneva:

The Upper Rhône in France

The journey continues through the Usses valley, where the Rhône meanders peacefully between forests and hills.

Seyssel, on the administrative border between Haute-Savoie and Ain, is a picturesque stop-off point. This small river town, with its suspension bridge and welcoming quayside, is the ideal starting point for escapades in the region, from local wine tasting to greenways and walks.

Upstream of the Seyssel dam, the Rhône River is once again accessible to river tourism, with the port and stopover at Seyssel, on the banks of the Ain and Haute-Savoie rivers.

The port of Belley is a convenient stop-off point for refuelling and discovering the region’s culinary specialities.

Along the ViaRhôna, this stretch of the river passes through the Haut-Rhône nature reserve.

Upper Rhône navigation map

Taken from the boater’s guide published by the Syndicat du Haut-Rhône, here is a map of motorised navigation on the river, between Seyssel and Groslée, along the river’s ports and rest areas.

As you continue down the Rhône, the landscape changes with the appearance of the foothills of the Bugey. This region offers a palette of colours and sensations, from terraced vineyards to hilltop villages.

Nature lovers will be charmed by the Dombes region to the north, between the Rhône and Saône rivers, with its mysterious lakes and bird sanctuaries.

Sailing the Rhône downstream to Lyon

From the port of Groslée, you can sail to the port of Montalieu-Vercieu.

Beyond that point, motorised navigation is no longer possible, as indicated on the VNF river map:

From Sault-Brénaz to kilometre point PK7 at the Tête d’Or, passing through the Miribel Jonage Park, the Rhône is closed to motorised navigation, apart from local exceptions.

The last stage before the city of Lyon is marked by a change of scenery. The Rhône, widened and tamed, bears witness to the importance of the area it crosses. Lyon, a point of convergence for cultures and exchanges, announces itself with its urban dynamism.

It should be noted that the Ain river closes the tributary of this section, at the downstream end of the Arve in the Upper Rhône, with its confluence* at the Anthon commune.

To continue the river tourism thread on the Rhône, it’s in the city of Lyon that you need to take to the water again, at the confluence of the Rhône to the south and the Saône to the north.

The recently rehabilitated Confluence district symbolises this transformation, offering visitors a successful mix of modern architecture, green spaces and cultural venues, all on the banks of the river.

And for those who’d like to sail the Saône for a while, the Vaporetto offers a river shuttle from Confluence to Lyon’s historic city centre.

River tourism in Lyon
Barge on the banks of the Rhône in Lyon / Romain Behar

What next?

With the Mediterranean to the south and the Saône to the north, Lyon is a hub for navigation on the Rhône. From here, the river route continues with the canals, tributary rivers and larger-gauge transport boats that cross France and Europe. Would you like to continue navigating the Rhône?

For information and maps on navigation on the Rhône, go to the dedicated page:

Web link

Along the Rhône

  • Location: confluence of the Ain and Rhône rivers
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Activities, visits, tickets, leisure
Activities, visits, tickets, leisure