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Rivers to the north of the region

Rivers to the north of the region

In the northwest of Poitou-Charentes lie the two rivers after which the département of Deux-Sèvres was named. As its own name suggests, the Sèvre Nantaise flows towards the city of Nantes and the mighty Loire, but it actually trickles into life near Parthenay (whose own Thouet River valley offers a peaceful haven for both walkers and cyclists).

thouet-visit-deux-sevresYou’ll find the Sèvre Niortaise further south, where it flows through the city of Niort and onwards into the heart of the nearby Marais Poitevin. It’s then joined by its tributary, the Vendée, before reaching the Atlantic at the Point de l’Aiguillon north of La Rochelle. The open countryside between the Marais and the coast is home to countless bird species, and you never know what you might see here.

Meanwhile, if you’re staying in the northeast of the region, you’ll have three more rivers to explore. The eastern most is the Gartempe, which flows briefly through the department of la Vienne, putting in high-profile public appearances at Montmorillon, Saint-Savin (where it flows past a huge abbey listed by UNESCO for its medieval frescoes as a World Heritage Site) and the historic spa town of La Roche-Posay. You can see another side of the Gartempe’s normally placid personality when it becomes a boiling inferno as it tumbles through the rugged canyons known as the Portes d’Enfer (‘Gates of Hell’), a remote spot some 15km southeast of Montmorillon. Not surprisingly, it’s a popular spot for advanced kayakers, and the river is clearly in a hurry, for it has a pressing appointment with the river Vienne. One of southwest France’s most important rivers, its 363km journey takes it from the wild Plateau des Millevaches and past Limoges (both in neighbouring Limousin) all the way up to the Loire at Candes-Saint-Martin.

By the time it passes through Poitou-Charentes the Vienne is already wide enough to create quite an impact, which you can see to best effect from the river crossings at Chabanais and Confolens (in the Charente département) and further north at L’Isle-Jourdain, Lussac-les-Châteaux, Chauvigny and Châtellerault (in the Department of la Vienne). But for all its might, the river has a mellower side, revealed when evening sunlight turns the stonework of L’Isle-Jourdain’s graceful, multi-arched former railway viaduct to gold and the whole structure appears to be floating weightless upon the surface of the waters. 

Further south: Through Deux-Sèvres and Charente Maritime >>

Close up on Charente territory >>

Getting on the river >>