Information about the 5km of navigable river from Palavas to Lattes; and about Montpellier.
For much of the short journey up from the Canal Rhone a Sete the river is twisty, narrow and bounded by reeds and small d-i-y pontoons (for little day boats). Keep to the centre, or the marked channel (there are buoys at places). From half-way along onwards there are high embankments; benign and calm in summer, in winter the River Lez can flood dramatically – Port Ariane has very large flood gates that are closed each night, even in summer.
See also general notes (foot of page).
- The river is navigable up to Port Ariane, Lattes, a distance of 5km. There is one ecluse, just below Lattes, rise/fall 2.5m. There were plans to restore and open the other disused ecluses, to facilitate access up to Montpellier but these would appear to have been abandoned.
- Judging by the boats moored in Port Ariane, depth should be ok up to about 1.4m draft, probably more. Check with the capitainerie. The ‘book’ actually says 2m.
- Minimum air draft is 3.3m at the passarelle 1km along the river from the canal. This is quite low.
- Using a pilot-guide book is strongly recommended: Breil Guides or Fluviacarte (Navicarte) Guides.
0-1km – narrow, lots of little boats tied to the bank and to diy pontoons
1.0km – large day-boat yard, private pontoons.
1.5km – Carrefour supermarket adjacent the river, fuel immediately adjacent. Pontoon. At time of writing, the service station (credit cards only) had a petrol hose long enough to reach a boat, but not diesel. This is apparently planned to change. However, the pumps themselves are right beside the pontoon so using jerrycans is not a hardship.
2.0km- pontoon. There are other pontoons, but they are all broken (winter floods). This particular one is between steel piles and can accommodate 2-3 boats.
4.0km – Ecluse (see photo above). A good pontoon and a good place to stay overnight if you arrive too late (as we did). The lock is controlled via CCTV from Port Ariane’s capitainerie – there is an intercom on the little control building by the ecluse; it doesn’t always work, or seems not to. Call 04 67 81 86 07 or 06 26 98 55 82. The lock is open from 8:00 to 12:15 and from 14:00 to 17:30 – as is Port Ariane itself. The ecluse is oval and has vertically dangling chains to attach to.
5.0km- From the ecluse proceed upstream and under the bridge, turn right past the capitainerie building into the port. Visitor pontoon (fingers of varying length) immediately to the right.
We were not sure about the idea of mooring in the midst of blocks of apartments. In the event we stayed for some weeks and liked it a lot; it is surprisingly quiet and peaceful. All usual services and haul-out might also be possible using the slipway and the hire boat company’s large boat trailer. The pontoon in the foreground is for hire boat (Locaboat) and visitor use. Longer-term moorers move to the pontoon behind or on the left. Excellent weekly market close by, shops and supermarket. Buses into Montpellier and the airport (regular flights to the UK) is quite close.
Montpellier is one of France’s most modern, young and vibrant cities and yet it is very old, with constant reminders of its history. It has Europe’s oldest school of medicine (1180), its university was founded in 1220 and it was founded on a richly civilised and tolerant mixture of Muslims, Jews, Cathars and Protestants. And yet it has no Roman (or older) history; it was effectively created anew in the 10thC to supersede Maguelonne, then the major population centre but also the easy object of attack by pirates. The old quarter is memorable and so is the new quarter, created comprehensively in the last fifteen years under the direction of the Catalan architect, Ricardo Bofil, on the former site of a huge army barracks . The guided walking tour of the old quarter (see the Tourist Office) is highly recommended by us. As are the electric trams that whizz around and through the city in two intersecting figure-of-eight routes.