The river Rhône is one of the richest and most varied European waterways. This unique and grandiose waterway flows through Switzerland, France and finally into the Mediterranean.

The Rhône connects the Alpine parts of these countries with their southern regions, offering not only extraordinary biological and geographical diversity, but also unique opportunities to explore the local culture and immerse oneself in the river’s rich history.

During this trip, we will discover the sources of the Rhône in Switzerland, the Lake Geneva, the french upper Rhône and its green valley, crossing the metropolitan area of Lyon, its modern hydraulic facilities and its route towards the Provence and of Mare nostrum, the Mediterranean.

During this trip, we will discover the sources of the Rhône in Switzerland, Lake Geneva, the French upper Rhône and its green valley, the crossing of the metropolis of Lyon, its modern hydraulic installations and its route towards Provence and Mare nostrum.

Once we reach the Mediterranean shores, we will be amazed by the incomparable natural beauty of the Rhône delta, which has been shaped for thousands of years by the river’s sediments.

Geography and economy of the Rhône river

The Rhône river is one of the main European rivers that flows into the Mediterranean Sea in France.

The source of the river is in the Swiss Alps at an altitude of 2,034 meters, more precisely on the glacier of the same name in the Saint-Gotthard Massif.

Geography of the Rhône river

Tracing its history back to its source, the Rhone river flows through a watershed of 97,800 km2 (square kilometers) that covers the southeastern part of France (90,000 km2) and a small portion of Switzerland (7,800 km2). It stretches for a total of 812 kilometers before flowing into the Mediterranean Sea between the city of Marseille in the east and Montpellier in the west. With an average flow of 1,710 m3 (cubic meters), the Rhône ranks 8th in Europe*.

Economic evolution of the Rhône river

Over the centuries, the development of the river has evolved to control the issue of rise in water level and floods and was gradually more and more navigable for commercial and industrial purposes.

After undergoing major changes from the 19th century onwards, it was subsequently developed for irrigation, flood control, electricity production and river navigation.

Characteristics of the Rhône river

The Rhône river has a total length of 812 kilometers and flows through the mountainous Alpine landscape in Switzerland before passing through Lake Geneva and the French departments of Haute-Savoie and Ain to the metropolis of Lyon. It then flows through the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur regions.

Length and flow of the Rhône river

267 kilometers in Switzerland, 545 in France where it flows through the Rhône valley between the Central Massif and the Alps up to the Mediterranean.

The upper course of the river measures about 345 kilometers while the lower course measures 467 kilometers. It feeds the largest alpine lake, Lake Geneva, and collects several tributaries along its course, the most important of which is the Saône in France.

The flow of the Rhone is between 1,500 and 3,000 m3/second, with an average of 1,690 m3/second at Beaucaire between 1920 and 2011*.

Other streams and tributaries of the Rhône river

The main tributaries that flow into the Rhône river are:

  • The Vispa and the Grande Eau in Switzerland
  • The Saône, the Isère, the Ardèche, the Durance and the Gard.

These tributaries offer a formidable reservoir of water which feeds the river and contributes to numerous uses such as irrigation and drinking water supply in the South-East of France.

Developments and activities linked to the Rhône river

Numerous developments have been carried out on the river to control floods, allow river navigation and irrigate the territories crossed by the river.

Developments on the Rhône river

Over the centuries, dams and canals have been built to control floods and supply water to the riverside populations. After the Second World War in the last century, hydroelectric power plants were developed.

Today we countmore than 50 barrages, locks Andcentral built on the course of the Rhône river as well as numeroussay built to impose better water management.

Today, there are more than 50 dams, locks and power plants built on the Rhône river, as well as numerous dikes built to impose better water management.

Structures on the Rhône
Structures on the Rhône

A variety of activities are associated with the Rhône river such as fishing, boating, mining and the hydroelectric industry.

In addition, it is used as a waterway to link various European tourist sites between Switzerland and the Mediterranean, varying according to the size of the boats.

  • Map of the Rhône waterways :
Waterways of the Rhône river
Waterways of the Rhône river
Waterways of the Rhône river (legend)
Waterways of the Rhône river (legend)

Along the Rhône