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Franche-Comte Rivers & Waterways


Guide to natural sites in France
  Rivers and Waterways in Franche-Comte  
Jura waterfall map

Franche-Comte, above all, has 5,500 km (3,438 miles) of streams, rivers and waterways, 320 km (200 miles) are navigable. Some can be enjoyed in canoe or kayak, while others offer river cruises.
A few have been labelled the most beautiful rivers in France. They are teeming with all freshwater fish species. Fishing is therefore very diversified, fly-fishing especially. The Loue, Doubs and Dessoubre rivers are a fisherman's paradise.

Doubs River
The Doubs springs up at Mouthe (alt. 937 m). At times, it flows through lush limestone gorges, at times, it lingers through plains and meanders. It forms lakes Saint-Point and Chaillexon as well..
Doubs River Doub river loop in Besancon
River loop formed around the city of Besancon

At Villers-le-Lac, the Doubs spreads out in large pools and soon turns into an impressive 27 meters waterfall, called Saut du Doubs (the Doubs Sault). Boat cruises are available from Villers-le-Lac.

The river gave its name to the Doubs department and makes its mark along its course. Its name (Doubs) originates in the Latin word "Dubius" meaning "doubtful". To achieve a distance of 90 km (56 miles) from its source to the point where it flows into the Saône river, it changes direction three times and flows 430 km (270 miles) with 190 km (120 miles) of navigable waterways.

Saone River

The river gave its name to the Haute-Saône department and is considered one of the most easily navigable, especially at the city of Gray, a major center. From its source in the Vosges mountains to Lyon (where it flows into the Rhone river), it provides 356 km (222 miles) of navigable water of which 110 (69 miles) of it flows through the Haute-Saone with only 17 locks. It becomes navigable at Corre. While modest in size until it reaches Port-sur-Saone, the Saone keeps gaining strength and widening until it becomes a major river at Gray.

Ain River

The Ain is a beautiful and powerful river. It springs up on the Nozeroy plateau (alt. 750 m) in a beautiful forestry setting. It forms a huge funnel whose water level varies with the seasons. It soon rushes into a deep, narrow gorge and disappears under a chaos of boulders. This is called the "Perte de l'Ain" (Loss of the Ain). It resurfaces further down as an attractive waterfall and begins its 190 km (120 miles) course.

It flows through the Jura department over 114 km (71 miles), hemmed in by steep hills, and passes by only one city, Champagnole. It cascades, foams over rapids and edges its way through masses of rocks.

Since the Vouglans Dam was built (1968), the Ain Gorges are submerged over 35 km (22 miles). The Ain river and its tributaries supply over 15 hydroelectric power stations.

A tributary of the Ain River, the Bienne, follows a very picturesque course, mostly through gorges (canyons). It springs up as a torrent near the town of Les Rousses (alt. 1,100 m) and flows through the cities of Morez and Saint-Claude, where it comes together with the Tacon river.

Loue River

One of the most beautiful rivers in France. It springs up near the village of Ouhans, leaps from the rock and forms a waterfall. The Loue course is very attractive and canoeing downstream is very easy, it looses 229 m (4,507 ft) of altitude over some 20 km (12 miles).
The Loue Valley is probably one of the most beautiful sites of the region, specially the stretch between its source and its capital, Ornans. From lookouts to blind valleys, it offers a succession of surprising panoramic views and shelters numerous picturesque villages.

Loue river source

Loue river canoeing

Town of Ornans

Ornans is a privileged fishing site. This little burg houses the "Maison Nationale de l'Eau et de la Pêche" (National House of Water and Fishing), which is a meeting center, a professional training center and a unique museum in France with a collection of over 4,000 fishing-related objects.

Dessoubre River

It springs up from a limestone rock face and turns into an abundant cascade. It joins the Doubs river at Saint-Hyppolyte, a town of beautiful medieval and Renaissance houses.

Ognon River

It has its source in the Ballon des Vosges regional natural Park (alt. 1,060 m). It exits a steep rocky gorge after overcoming hurdles, and scatters into a magnificient 14 m waterfall called the "Saut de l'Ognon" (Sault of the Ognon).

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