The Rhone River

Visit Avignon France with River Cruise Your Way

About The Rhone River

Near its mouth on the Mediterranean Sea, the Rhone divides into two branches, the Le Grand Rhone and Le Petit Rhone; the resulting delta is the Camargue region.
One of the most significant waterways of Europe, and the only major river flowing directly to the Mediterranean Sea, the Rhone is thoroughly Alpine in character, from its source upstream from Lake Geneva in the Swiss Alps to the French city of Lyon, 505 miles away.
Rhone River cruises typically sail between Lyon and Avignon or Arles, taking in the spectacular landscapes of Burgundy and Provence and visiting the wine-producing regions of Beaujolais and Chateauneuf du Pape. Those whose tastes also run to art, architecture, and history can visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Pope’s Palace in Avignon and the ancient Roman Pont du Gard or stroll in the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh in Arles.
In addition to cruises featuring just the Rhone, many itineraries combine the Rhone with the Saone River, to fully experience both the Burgundy and Provence regions. For those with the time and budget, a truly unforgettable option is to combine a Rhone cruise with Paris and the Seine.

Rhone River Stats

Length: 505 miles
Depth: Up to 13 feet
Source: Rhone Glacier in the Alps of Switzerland
Mouth: Mediterranean Sea near Arles, France
Locks: 13
Countries: Switzerland | France

Learn More About the Rhone River of Europe

The Rhône River, often referred to as the “Mighty Rhône,” is one of Europe’s most iconic and historically significant rivers. Spanning a length of approximately 505 miles (813 kilometers), it winds its way through Switzerland and France, ultimately emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. This majestic waterway has played a vital role in shaping the history, culture, and environment of the regions it traverses, making it a fascinating subject of study and exploration.


Geography and Source

The Rhône River begins its journey in the Swiss Alps, near the Rhône Glacier, which is nestled in the Valais region of Switzerland. As it flows southward, it carves through stunning landscapes, including deep valleys and dramatic gorges, before entering Lake Geneva. The lake serves as a natural reservoir, regulating the flow of the river, and it is here that the Rhône takes on its characteristic turquoise hue due to glacial sediment.


Hydroelectric Power and Sustainability

One of the most significant features of the Rhône River is its role in the generation of hydroelectric power. Switzerland and France have harnessed the river’s energy potential through an extensive network of dams and power stations. This not only provides clean and sustainable energy but also contributes to the economic development of the regions. However, this development has also raised environmental concerns about the river’s ecosystem and its impact on aquatic life.


Wildlife and Biodiversity

The Rhône River supports a diverse range of flora and fauna. Its waters are inhabited by various fish species, including salmon, trout, and grayling. Birdwatchers can spot numerous waterfowl along its banks, such as herons and kingfishers. Additionally, the surrounding wetlands and floodplains are crucial habitats for both resident and migratory bird species.  The Camargue region, where the Rhône flows into the Mediterranean, is particularly renowned for its unique wildlife. This vast delta is home to flamingos, wild horses, and black bulls, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts and ecotourism.


Historical Significance

The Rhône River has played a pivotal role in the history of the regions it touches. The ancient Greeks established colonies along its banks, and it was a vital trade route during the Roman Empire. The city of Arles, located on the river, boasts impressive Roman ruins, including an amphitheater and aqueducts.  During the Middle Ages, the Rhône was used as a trade route for goods such as salt, wine, and silk. The construction of bridges and fortifications along its course reflects its strategic importance. Additionally, the river was a source of inspiration for artists like Vincent van Gogh, who painted some of his most famous works in the picturesque landscapes around Arles.


Cultural Heritage

The Rhône River has left an indelible mark on the cultures and traditions of the regions it flows through. Its waters have inspired countless songs, poems, and stories, serving as a symbol of life, vitality, and continuity. The river’s influence is also evident in local cuisine, with dishes like bouillabaisse, a seafood stew, being a culinary highlight in the coastal towns of Provence.


Modern Navigation and Transportation

Today, the Rhône River remains an essential transportation route, linking the Mediterranean Sea with inland Europe. The construction of locks and canals has facilitated the passage of cargo ships, allowing goods to be transported efficiently from the coast to cities in Switzerland and France. The river also plays a role in the transportation of bulk goods, including grain, oil, and minerals.


Environmental Challenges

While the Rhône River has provided immense benefits, it has also faced environmental challenges. Pollution from agriculture and industry, as well as invasive species, have threatened its water quality and aquatic ecosystems. Conservation efforts are ongoing to preserve the river’s biodiversity and maintain its ecological balance.


Recreational Opportunities

The Rhône River offers a wide range of recreational activities for locals and tourists alike. From kayaking and paddleboarding to river cruises and cycling along its scenic banks, there are countless ways to experience the natural beauty and cultural richness of the regions it traverses.


The Rhône River is more than just a waterway; it is a living testament to the intertwined relationship between nature, history, and culture. Its journey from the Swiss Alps to the Mediterranean Sea continues to inspire and connect the people and places along its banks. As we navigate the challenges of environmental sustainability and preserve the river’s heritage, the Rhône remains a symbol of the enduring power and beauty of nature’s watercourses.

Your Rhone River Cruise Awaits!

Are you ready to start planning your Rhone River Cruise Vacation Your Way? A River Cruise Artist at River Cruise Your Way is ready to be your vacation concierge. Contact us today at 1-800-259-7612 or use the form below and let us know when it is most convenient to call you, we will confirm via e-mail, and then reach out at the agreed upon time and date.