Information about the 150km long river Garonne and the Gironde Estuary

Garonne Gironde Estuary map France

The Garonne rises in the Pyrenees and drains a large part of the Aquitaine basin. It is navigable as a tidal river, and also in two short sections. The section in Toulouse is 5 km long and includes one lock. The second section extends from the confluence with the Baïse at Saint-Léger to the junction with the Lot outlet canal at Nicole, a distance of 4.7km. Here the river was made semi-navigable in 1995 by clearing a narrow channel through the sill of marl above the confluence of the Lot. The river was thus to provide the vital navigable link between the Baïse and Lot navigations. The works proved inadequate, however, and no passage can be made during low flows. An alternative link to the Lot will eventually have to be provided. From Nicole to Castets-en-Dorthe, a distance of 73km, the shifting channel presents numerous obstacles to navigation, and depths vary considerably. Navigation is possible only during moderate floods or in light craft only.Garonne Gironde region map

The river becomes fully navigable as a tidal stream at its junction with the Canal de Garonne at Castets-en-Dorthe. From this point downstream the river forms part of the main waterway route across southern France from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. At the Pont de Pierre in Bordeaux the river becomes a maritime waterway. At Bec d’Ambès the Dordogne enters on the right bank, the river widens considerably and changes its name to Gironde. The distance from Castets-en-Dorthe to Bordeaux is 54km, Bec d’Ambès is a further 25km downstream and the length of the Gironde from Bec d’Ambès to the sea is 71km. Navigating the tidal stream presents no exceptional difficulty, but careful attention is required and use of one of the waterway guides covering this river is recommended. It should further be noted that a bore (mascaret) sometimes forms during low flow periods over a distance of up to 40km upstream from Bordeaux.

History – Commercial navigation extended upstream of Toulouse from the Middle Ages, but the river was never canalised. Only a short length was made navigable through Toulouse after the weir at Le Bazacle mill was raised to supply water to the Canal de la Garonne. Now navigation is effectively limited to the tidal river.


Key Waterway Dimensions

  • Max Height: 6.50m
  • Max Draught: 1.80m


Local Waterway Links


Navigation

Locks – None.

Draught – Depths are variable and subject to the tides. Local advice should always be obtained, but if the tidal stream is properly worked, vessels drawing up to 1.80m (the maximum authorised draught on the lateral canal) are generally able to make the passage between Bordeaux and Castets-en-Dorthe.

Headroom – The bridges leave a minimum headroom of 6.50m above the highest navigable water level.

Towpath – There is no towpath.

Authority – VNF – Direction territoriale Sud-Ouest
Unité rivière de Cadillac
–    12, rue Adolphe Homeau, 33410 Cadillac (PK 0-49)

Click to enlarge

Garonne Gironde waterway strip

Route description

Baïse-Lot section
PK 0.0    Junction with river Baïse l/b, d/s of Saint-Léger lock
PK 0.5    Bridge (Saint-Léger)
PK 3.3    Narrow channel through marl sill
PK 4.0    Confluence of river Lot, r/b (no access)
PK 4.7    Junction with river Lot navigation, r/b Nicole lock

Continuation of Mediterranean-Atlantic route, east to west
PK 0.0    Junction with Canal de Garonne
PK 0.3    Castets-en-Dorthe bridge, village l/b
PK 2.0    Quay (Mondiet) r/b
PK 5.4    Saint-Macaire quay r/b, village 800m
PK 7.6    Langon quay and small town l/b
PK 7.7    Former bridge piers
PK 7.8    New road bridge (D1113)
PK 7.9    Railway bridge, quay d/s l/b
PK 11.2    Quay (Garonnelle) r/b
PK 12.6    Preignac quay l/b, village 500m
PK 14.1    Barsac quay l/b, village 1500m
PK 18.8    Cadillac bridge, quay u/s r/b, night €10, water, electricity, shower, slipway, village 500m r/b
PK 19.8    Quay (Cérons) l/b
PK 20.5    New road bridge (D13)Castets-en-Dorthe junction plan
PK 22.2    Podensac quay and village l/b
PK 26.4    Quay (Lestiac) r/b
PK 27.6    Quay (Arbanats) l/b
PK 31.0    Bridge, quay d/s r/b, pontoon moorings, Langoiran 300m r/b
PK 32.3    Portets quay l/b, village 700m
PK 36.8    Quay (Baurech) r/b
PK 38.3    Cambes quay r/b, village 300m
PK 39.6    Quay (Esconac)
PK 40.6    River divides (Île de la Lande), navigation in r/b arm, pontoons for 12 boats, water, electricity, shower, slipway (mooring free)
PK 42.2    Downstream tip of island
PK 45.6    Private quay (Camblanes) r/b
PK 46.5    Quay (Port de l’Homme) r/b
PK 47.2    Upstream tip of island (Île d’Arcins), navigation l/b
PK 48.1    Bègles boat harbour (Port Garonne) l/b, 6 berths, night €23.11, fuel, water, electricity, showers, crane 10t, slipway, repairs

Garonne confluence Lot

This tug was intended to power boats through a gap in the natural sill on the Garonne just upstream of the confluence of the Lot. The vessel is now practically redundant, as passage is unfeasible for most of the season. © Bord à Bord.com

PK 48.8    D/s tip of island
PK 49.0    Bridge (François Mitterrand), ring road (N230), u/s limit of Port of Bordeaux
PK 52.7    Railway bridges, old Eiffel bridge and new bridge
PK 52.8    Bordeaux bridge (Pont Saint-Jean), wharves, moorings and waterway authority d/s l/b
PK 53.8    Bridge (Pont de Pierre), tramway line A, limit of inland waterway, mooring for passenger ships 400m d/s l/b
PK 57.2    New bridge (Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas) with lifting span
PK 57.4    Entrance lock to docks, l/b, Conservatoire International de Plaisance (museum) in second basin, 5 berths, crane, repairs, restaurant
PK 59.3    Lormont quay and village (Bordeaux suburb) r/b
PK 59.6    Bridge (Aquitaine suspension bridge, ring road A630), yacht harbour (halte nautique) u/s l/b
PK 63.3    Bassens wharves r/b
PK 74.0    Oil refineries and power station r/b, wharves
PK 75.2    Tip of island, channel r/b side (danger, submersible dyke)
PK 79.3    Bec d’Ambès, confluence of Dordogne, river changes name to Gironde

Bordeaux yacht harbour

Yacht harbour beside the former submarine basins in the port of Bordeaux © jpm1

PK 88.6    Lamarque ferry terminal l/b beyond tip of island, village 800m
PK 90.8    Blaye ferry terminal and town r/b (wharves u/s), mooring for 6 boats, water, electricity, shower
PK 100.3    Pauillac quays and town l/b, mooring for 10 boats, night €25, diesel, water, electricity, showers, crane 15t, slipway
PK 103.6    Oil refinery, tanker berths l/b
PK 106.6    Nuclear power plant (Blayais), r/b
PK 108.3    Saint-Estèphe quay l/b, village 1000m
PK 114.5    Saint-Sorlin-de-Conac (Port de Vitrezay) r/b, moorings for 4 boats, water, electricity, shower, slipway, restaurant
PK 119.9    Saint-Christoly l/b (former quay)
PK 129.0    Mortagne-sur-Gironde quay for 10 boats r/b, (accessible high tide), night €20.54, water, electricity, showers €1, crane, slipway, pump-out, repairs, village 1200m
PK 132.4    Lighthouse (Phare de Richard) l/b
PK 142.8    Meschers-sur-Gironde quay r/b, accessible high tide, night €20, water, electricity, shower, slipway, pump-out, repairs
PK 144.8    Le Verdon-sur-Mer (Port-Médoc) l/b, night €19-27, fuel, water, electricity, showers, crane 45t, slipway, pump-out, repairs, restaurant, wifi
PK 148.7    Port-Bloc ferry terminal l/b
PK 149.8    Royan ferry terminal r/b, tourist resort, marina opposite the Pointe de Grave l/b, limit of sea, night €24.45, fuel, water, electricity, showers €2, crane 24t, slipway €3, repairs