The Dordogne: Canoeing France’s Most Beautiful River

by Julie Blakley on May 10, 2009

by Julie Blakley | May 10th, 2009  

dordognecanoeIn all of my trips to France, one of my favorite things I’ve done is canoe the beautiful Dordogne River. Despite the jaw-dropping views and incredible scenery, this region in southwestern France is mysteriously off of most tourists’ radar. With castles and old stone villages sprinkled throughout the green hillsides and cliffs dropping into this beautiful river, you will be floored at the spectacular panoramas of the Dordogne.

The river valley is also home to the famous prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux, as well Gallo Roman ruins and Medieval castles, proving that even the earliest humans found this region to be a great place to live. And, if the amazing scenery and historic castles aren’t enough to get you to this area, perhaps the food will. Southwestern France is known for its incredible cuisine and is home to duck confit, great pates (foie gras anyone?) and rich, bold red wines (learn more about France’s Wine Regions). The food alone would get me to this area.

Canoeing the river is the best way to see this fairy-tale like countryside. The Dordogne River is wide and slow moving, making it a relaxing float and great way to see the surrounding area. The river is also slow moving enough that canoeing is the perfect activity for everyone from families with children to young adventure travelers to retired folks. Anyone can do this. Literally. After a near canoe flip in alligator infested waters in the Florida keys the year before, I was hesitant to ever get in a canoe with my father again—but even he did fine on this Dordogne canoe venture. All you have to do is sit and maybe do a little directional paddling.

Drifting slowing down the river allows you to see some of the beautiful quiet sections of the river that are not accessible any other way. For just a few Euros, you can rent a canoe and be on your way for a beautiful and cheap day in France’s most scenic region. Shop in a market and stock up your canoe with a picnic of local food and wines and stop for a picnic along the banks of the river. Find a great place to take a dip. Explore the caves and admire the waterfalls dropping into the river.

Where to Rent

There are several canoe companies along the Dordogne that along with providing transportation upstream and picking you up downstream will also give you life jackets and a large plastic tub to keep your picnic and camera dry. Because you are floating downstream the entire time there is not much paddling and the scenic trip require very little physical effort. Check with the local tourism offices in town, as they will probably have a comprehensive list of canoe suppliers in town.

  • Canoes Roquegeoffre

    This company leaves from Port d’Enveaux, approximately 6 km from Beynac.

  • CanoeEric

    You can either chose to canoe the Dordogne of the nearby Vezere from this rental company located in Le Bugue.

Photo by tom maisey

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