|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the French Wikipedia. (March 2012)|
Pont d'Arc over the Ardèche River.
|Avg. discharge||65 m³/s|
|Basin area||2,430 km²|
The Ardèche (Occitan: Ardecha) is a 125 km long river in south-central France, a right-bank tributary of the River Rhône. Its source is in the Massif Central, near the village of Astet. It flows into the Rhône near Pont-Saint-Esprit, north-west of Orange. The river gives its name to the French department of Ardèche.
The valley of the Ardèche is very scenic, in particular a 30 km section known as the Ardèche Gorges. The walls of the river here are limestone cliffs up to 300m high. A kayak and camping trip down the gorge is not technically difficult and is very popular in the summer. The most famous feature is a natural 60m stone arch spanning the river known as the Pont d'Arc (arch bridge).
The source of the river lies at 1467 m above sea level in the Vivarais, near the Col de la Chavade, in the forest of Mazan in the commune of Astet. After the towns of Aubenas and Ruoms, it collects the Chassezac and the Beaume river, subsequently plunging into its famous gorge below Vallon-Pont-d’Arc. It flows into the Rhône (river) at Pont-Saint-Esprit.
Towns along the river
The Ardèche flows through the following departments and towns:
- Ardèche (named after the river): Astet, Vals-les-Bains, Aubenas, Ruoms, Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, Saint-Martin-d'Ardèche
- Gard: Pont-Saint-Esprit.
The most important tributaries and subtributaries to the Ardèche River include:
The river has an average discharge of 65 m3/s (2,300 cu ft/s), but is experiencing severe floods, called « shots of the Ardèche », in spring and fall, and periods of very low water in summer. During flood events in 1827, 1890, and 1924, it reached 7,800 m3/s (280,000 cu ft/s) and its water level rose up to a record 21.4 m (70 ft) in the gorge.
The Ardèche receives water from the Loire river via the "La Palisse" reservoir and the Lake d'Issarlès. Effectively, the water is collected to feed the EDF hydroelectric plant of Montpezat-sous-Bauzon, and is subsequently piped into the Fontaulière river, a tributary to the Ardeche near the town of Aubenas.
- The Ardèche canyon
The Gorges de l’Ardèche (Ardèche canyon) is located between the villages Vallon-Pont-d'Arc and Saint-Martin-d'Ardèche. The road along the north rim of the canyon (Corniche) offers spectacular views into the gorge and on the river.
- Pont d'Arc (arch bridge):
Natural stone bridge across the river near the town Vallon-Pont-d'Arc which forms the natural entrance to the Ardèche canyon.
This limestone cave which is named after its discoverer is located in the Ardèche canyon. It contains early Stone Age cave paintings of great plasticity and expressiveness. Since the cave is not open to the public, photographs of cave paintings are displayed in an exhibition in Vallon-Pont d'Arc.
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