Land and Resources, Rivers
Massif Central, Lake Leman, Garonne, Bay of Biscay, Saone
France has several major rivers. The Seine, in northern France, drains much of the Paris Basin and flows northwest into the Atlantic Ocean. The Seine’s even flow is well suited to navigation, and the river is an important water route to and from Paris. The Loire rises in the Massif Central, flows west across the southern portion of the Paris Basin, and enters the Atlantic Ocean at the Bay of Biscay. The Loire’s water level fluctuates greatly, and floods are frequent. Stretching more than 1,000 km (620 mi), the Loire is the longest river in France. The Garonne rises in the Pyrenees and flows north, draining much of the Aquitane Basin. The Dordogne rises in the Massif Central and flows west, joining the Garonne to form the Gironde estuary, just before the Atlantic. These four great rivers all lie entirely within French territory.
Major rivers with some sources outside of France include the Rhone, the great river of the Mediterranean region of France. The Rhone rises in Switzerland, joins the Saone at Lyon, and crosses the Languedoc Plain en route to the Mediterranean Sea. Draining the French Alps region, the Rhone is the largest river in France measured in terms of volume of discharge. The Rhine, which is one of the world’s most important inland waterways, rises in the Swiss Alps and flows northwest, forming part of France’s eastern boundary. The river then travels through Germany and The Netherlands before entering the North Sea. The Meuse traverses northeastern France and passes through Belgium and The Netherlands before also emptying into the North Sea.
An extensive network of canals connects the major rivers with each other and with other river and canal systems. Nearly all of France’s more than 200 streams are commercially navigable for varying distances. France has only a few lakes. Lake Geneva (also known as Lake Leman), situated along the Franco-Swiss border, lies mainly in Switzerland.
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