The River Charente

The River Charente in Saintes

The River Charente in Saintes

The sight of the rowing boats sliding on the water and the fishermen quietly settled on the banks in the town centre almost makes you forget that the “gentle Charente and its tranquil waters” is a river of more than 380 km, whose own life has an impact on the cities it flows through. It seems to have all the time in the world, making a thousand twists and turns from its source to the west of the Massif Central. It meanders through Saintes before starting the final part of its journey to the Atlantic. A breath from the ocean orders the tide which is felt as far as Saintes, sometimes reversing the flow of the river. The neophyte should also prick up his ears at the mention of flood plains. The Charente, sometimes cramped in its riverbed, is capable of memorable seasonal floods that delimit the alluvial meadows in the heart of the city.
The protection of these natural habitats, which are crucial for the survival of animal and plant species, has justified the designation of the valley of the Charente as a Natura 2000 zone. On reaching the prairie de la Palu, in just a few steps you pass from a world of antique marble and flamboyant Gothic to the kingdom of the redshank, a wetland wader. It can be discovered, along with many other species, with a naturalist guide. Saintes owes its natural setting to the Charente, which is also responsible for part of its urban development. As a port on an inland waterway since ancient times, the town benefited from a high level of river traffic.
Crusies with the Gabare or the Palissy II

Crusies with the Gabare or the Palissy III

The Prairie de la Palu

The Prairie de la Palu

The gabares (flat-bottomed boats) loaded with barrels of cognac, salt, timber, stone and paper favoured trade and the development of craft activities. With the advent of the train, the bustling commercial port has given way to the tranquillity of a marina and river tourism. Along the banks, mooring rings are an invitation to stop for a while. There are an infinite number of ways to take to the water. Starting from the Place Bassompierre, the gabare “Ville de Saintes” relives the traditional way and the river excursion boat “Bernard Palissy III” takes the modern route.
Those who wish to take the lead will take the helm of the electric boats « the e-boats ». Finally there is the natural approach in a canoe, kayak or rowing boat. Tired of pacing through the town and along the river banks ? Then join the fishermen, with or without tackle, and let the Charente flow past.
Eboat -S. Laval

The e-boats