After the Upper Rhône and the crossing of the capital of Rhône-Alpes, this is the last leg of the journey on the Rhône, from Lyon to the Mediterranean. Vienne, Valence, Avignon, Arles and the Camargue, culminating in Port-Saint-Louis-Rhône: afloat to the south of Europe.

Pleasure craft, river navigation

Sailing in the Rhône valley

In common geographical parlance, this is the Rhône valley, which begins at Lyon and its confluence with the Saône. From Saint-Fons south of Lyon to Port-Saint-Louis-Rhône, the river stretches for around 320 kilometres, heading due south.

Once you’ve passed the regional capital of Lyon, the navigable Rhône follows its course all the way to the Mediterranean; here’s the next part of our journey along the river.

In this new stage of navigation on the Rhône, the river crosses the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region before slipping between the Occitanie and Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur regions in the Camargue to form the Rhône delta.

From Lyon to the Mediterranean

And as we head south, here is an extract from the map of river tourism in France published by VNF* for the stretch between Lyon and the Mediterranean:

From Lyon to the Mediterranean on the Rhône / Source VNF

There are three main stages on this most imposing part of the Rhône, where goods transport, river tourism and hydroelectric power stations all come together: from Saint-Fons to Valence, from Valence to Arles and then on to Port Saint-Louis-du-Rhône.

Sailing from Lyon to Valence

After Saint-Fons, you leave the urban area at the pretty town of Vienne, an ancient city with the famous arena where an internationally renowned jazz festival is held. Further downstream, at La Roche-de-Condrieu, you’ll find the first marina in a small town famous for its water sports centre.

As you go, the hillsides of a region renowned for its vineyards take shape: Côte Rôtie, Condrieu, Cornas, Croze-Hermitage… all the way to the Table du Roy and the Rhône between Tain and Tournon. Then the Valence plain begins, with the town of Valence and the port of l’Épervière as possible stops.

From Valence to Arles

The navigation continues between the river and the Rhône canal, following the dams and hydroelectric power stations, with a few possible stops at the following marinas and river stops:

  • Cruas, and its impressive nuclear power station on the banks of the river;
  • Laudun, a marina that is currently closed;
  • Avignon, city of the Popes, with its famous bridge over the Rhône;
  • Aramon and the Estères river relay station, in the Gard department;
  • Beaucaire, opposite Tarascon, the starting point for the Rhône-Sète canal;
  • Arles, ancient city and link with the Petit Rhône in the Camargue.

From Lyon to Arles, it’s a total river distance of 283 kilometres, with 12 locks to cross along the Rhône.

Beaucaire and Arles are characterised by a junction with the Canal du Rhône à Sète (French), which joins the Canal du Midi, and a junction with the Petit Rhône, both of which cross near Saint-Gilles in the Gard department.

  • Map of the Beaucaire and Petit Rhône branches:
Source: VNF, map of navigable waterways in the Rhône-Saône basin

From Arles to Port-Saint-Louis-Rhône

The last section of navigation on the Rhône river runs for 43 kilometres to Port-Saint-Louis-Rhône and 47 to Fos-sur-Mer via the Rhône navigation canal at the port of Fos; it should be noted that the Barcarin lock, which links the Rhône to the Mediterranean, is only accessible to commercial and freight vessels.

Known as the Grand Rhône, this part of the river borders the Camargue Regional Nature Park and flows into the Gulf of Fos, the Etang de Berre and, formerly, Marseille via the Rove tunnel*, which was closed in 1963.

Map of ports near the Rhône River:

Port-Saint-Louis-Rhône, Fos-sur-Mer, Port-de-Bouc and Martigues are still accessible from the Rhône, depending on the vessel.

Source: VNF, map of navigable waterways in the Rhône-Saône basin

And to make it easier for you to navigate the Rhône from Lyon to the Mediterranean, to consult practical information and river alerts, the NAVI application allows you to be consulted live on your connected telephone:

  • Boat traffic;
  • Notices to skippers;
  • Flood zones;
  • Locks, ports, terminals, quays and parking;
  • Water kiosks and rubbish dumps;
  • Kilometre points (KP).
Extract: map of the NAVI application in Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône

What next?

Heading north up the river, you cross Lyon towards the Saône or the Parc de la Tête d’Or and Miribel Jonage :

Web link

And for the Upper Rhône and Lake Geneva, water for sailing on the Rhône upstream of Lyon:

Web link

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

Web link

Along the Rhône

  • The Rhône valley from Vienne to Tain, morphology (French)
  • Rove tunnel, Wikipedia
Activities, leisure, Rhone River
Hotel, rental
Activities, visits, tickets, leisure
Activities, visits, tickets, leisure