France’s 10 longest rivers

Ballon survolant la Loire

What’s the longest river in France? Here’s a list of the longest rivers in France!

France has thousands of rivers that flow through towns and villages, giving us typical landscapes of our beautiful country, with old bridges, riverside terraces and imposing castles overlooking the valley. Just about every French department takes its name from the rivers that flow through it. But today’s ranking asks which are the longest rivers in France.

10. Vilaine


Photo credit: Wikimedia – XIIIfromTOKYO

We begin this ranking with the Vilaine, which, at 218 km long, is the tenth longest river in France. Its source is located at Lieu-Dit de la Source, in Juvigné, Mayenne, and it flows into the Atlantic Ocean near the town of Muzillac.

Length: 218 km

Basin area: 10,500 km²

Flow: 80 m³/s

Mouth: Atlantic Ocean

Departments: Mayenne, Ille-et-Vilaine, Loire-Atlantique, Morbihan Mayenne, Ille-et-Vilaine, Loire-Atlantique, Morbihan

9. Sum


Photo credit: Wikimedia – Lipinski

The Somme is a river in northern France that flows through just two French departments, the Somme and the Aisne. It rises at Fonsomme in the Aisne, at an altitude of 86 meters, and flows into the English Channel at the Baie de Somme. At 245 km long, it is one of France’s 10 longest rivers.

Length: 245 km

Basin area: 6,550 km²

Flow: 35 m³/s

Mouth: Channel

Departments: Aisne, Somme Aisne, Somme

8. Adour


Photo credit: Wikimedia – Cham

As with many major French rivers, the Adour flows into the Atlantic Ocean after passing through Bayonne. The length of this Basque river has been measured at 308 km, making the Adour the eighth longest river in France.

Length: 308 km

Basin surface area: 16,912 km²

Flow: 350 m³/s

Mouth: Atlantic Ocean

Departments: Gers, Landes, Pynées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées Gers, Landes, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées

7. Charente


Photo credit: Wikimedia – rosier

The Charente is a 381 km-long river. It rises at Chéronnac in Haute-Vienne, at an altitude of 295 meters, and flows into the Atlantic Ocean near the town of Port-des-Barques.

Length: 381.4 km

Basin surface area: 9,855 km²

Flow: 49 m³/s

Mouth: Atlantic Ocean

Departments: Charente, Charente-Maritime, Vienne, Haute-Vienne Charente, Charente-Maritime, Vienne, Haute-Vienne

6. Dordogne


Photo credit: Wikimedia – Luc Viatour

The Dordogne rises in the Puy de Sancy in the Massif Central, at an altitude of 1366 m, and flows for 483 km, ending in the Gironde estuary.

Length: 483 km

Basin area: 23,957 km2

Flow: 380 m³/s

Mouth: Atlantic Ocean

Departments: Puy-de-Dôme, Corrèze, Cantal, Lot, Dordogne, Gironde

5. Meuse


Photo credit: Wikimedia – Thierry Fricotteaux

With a total length of 950 km, of which only half is in France (486 km), the Meuse rises in the Bassigny region (Haute-Marne), at an altitude of 409 m, and flows into the North Sea after crossing Belgium and the Netherlands. France’s fifth longest river is also considered the oldest in the world, having been formed in the Paleozoic era.

Length: 486 km

Basin area: 36,000 km²

Flow: 357 m³/s

Mouth: North Sea

Departments: Haute-Marne, Vosges, Meuse, Ardennes Haute-Marne, Vosges, Meuse, Ardennes

4. Garonne


Photo credit: Flickr – Twin-loc

Rising in Spain at two different points (Pla de Beret, at an altitude of 1860 m, in the Val d’Aran, and Pic d’Aneto, in Aragon), the Garonne flows for 647 km, 521.9 km of which are in France. The Garonne finishes its course in the Gironde, in the Atlantic.

Length: 521.9 km

Basin area: 55,000 km²

Flow: 650 m³/s

Mouth: Atlantic Ocean

Departments: Haute-Garonne, Lot-et-Garonne, Tarn-et-Garonne, Gironde

3. Rhône


Photo credit: Wikimedia – PRA

The Rhône is 812 km long, but only 545 km on French soil, making it the third longest river in France. It rises in the Rhône Glacier in Switzerland’s Valais canton. Crossing Lake Geneva, it continues on to the Bouches-du-Rhône region, where it finally empties into the Mediterranean Sea.

Length: 545 km

Basin area: 95,590 km² (95,000 sq. mi.)

Flow: 1,690 m³/s

Mouth: Mediterranean Sea

Departments: Ain, Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Isère, Rhône, Drôme Ain, Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Isère, Rhône, Drôme, Loire, Ardèche, Gard, Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhône

2. Seine

Musée d'Orsay au coucher du soleil

Photo credit: Flickr – Joe deSousa

The Seine is the second longest river in France. It rises on the Langres plateau at an altitude of 446 metres, in the Côte d’Or department. Famous for flowing through Paris at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, it is also famous for the gentle gradient of its valley, which explains the sinuosity of its course. The river is 777 km long and flows into the English Channel at Le Havre.

Length: 777 km

Basin area: 79,000 km²

Flow: 563 m³/s

Mouth: English Channel

Departments: Côte d’Or, Aube, Marne, Seine-et-Marne, Essonne, Val-de-Marne, Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-St-Denis, Val d’Oise, Yvelynes, Eure, Seine-Maritime, Calvados

1. Loire

Loire Orléans

Photo credit: Shutterstock – RossHelen

The Loire is France’s longest river, at 1012 km. From its source on Mont de Gerbier de Jonc in the Ardèche, it flows into the Atlantic Ocean at the Saint-Nazaire estuary. At this point, its flow is 1000 m3/s. The Loire is famous for the castles that line it between Blois and Nantes.

Length: 1,012 km

Basin surface area: 117,356 km²

Flow: 931 m³/s

Mouth: Atlantic Ocean

Departments: Ardèche, Haute-Loire, Loire, Allier Ardèche, Haute-Loire, Loire, Allier, Saône-et-Loire, Nièvre, Loiret, Cher, Loir-et-Cher, Indre-et-Loire, Maine-et-Loire, Loire-Atlantique

The Loire is France’s longest river, but only the twelfth longest in Europe.