Reflections of the trees lining the TarnReflections of the trees lining the Tarn
©Reflections of the trees lining the Tarn

A canoe trip in the Gorges du Tarn

One way on foot, one way back by canoe

The Tarn gorges can be explored on foot, by bike or by car, but the canoe descent is certainly one of the most fun!

A word of advice: set off in the cool of the morning. The morning light that caresses the rocks of the Gorges du Tarn as the hours go by is fabulous. A free, natural spectacle!

On the way, numerous signs point out hiking trails: Le rocher de Francbouteille, le Causse Méjean, l’Ermitage Saint Pons. Let’s organize another outdoor outing with a hike! It’s already in my diary!

It takes 2h/2h30 for the canoe descent. No need to rush…. You need to appreciate time and take breaks: swimming, hydration, nap, selfie, jumping, contemplation, snack (if there’s any food left in the canister?!)

The linear trail of the Gorges du Tarn

To reach the village of Les Vignes (starting point of the canoe trip) I take the trail known here as the linear des Gorges du Tarn. This 53-kilometer itinerary on the left bank of the Tarn allows you to reach Florac from Le Rozier.

For today, my aim is not to do the GR 736 route but to reach “Les Vignes” located 12 kilometers from Le Rozier.

The gradient remains gentle and the views are breathtaking. An unusual discovery from the very first kilometers: chairs are set up on the edge of the cliff, inviting you to contemplate a unique panorama. If not a way of the cross…

Refreshment break at La Sablière

Arrival at the hamlet of “La Sablière” is a sign that half the way has been covered… phew! and it’s time for a snack. A few pieces of fruit from the Tarn valley or a nice slice of fouace to last you until lunchtime… or both if you’re a gourmand!

Eat and contemplate the stone houses clinging between the Tarn and the Causse Méjean. Little network, no road axis on this side of the riverbank… but how do they get the groceries back?!

This is the “isolated” village that calls for isolation and resourcing. The calm that reigns here would almost make me want to meditate. This silence is soon swept away by laughter and “woohoo” sounds below on the river! it’s a sign that the paddlers have passed the Sablière “rapid” without difficulty, the most “technically fun” of the course!

Arrival at Village des Vignes in the heart of the Gorges du Tarn

At Les Vignes, I leave some walkers behind as they continue along the linear path to the village of La Malène. I cross the bridge over the Tarn and watch the start of the descent! So cool, we start with a slide! I make a quick calculation of the route so as not to miss the entrance. Oops…

Before boarding, we head for the local mini-market for a quick meal: a slice of farmhouse bread, a slice of ewe’s milk cheese and some local fruit. And don’t forget to stay hydrated… Gourmet and efficient! What I chose will easily fit in the canoe’s watertight canister.

Before the comfort… the effort! The picnic awaits at the most beautiful beach on the route. By then, the slightly sweaty sheep’s cheese will be perfect! After the snack, the watertight can is transformed into a container. I wouldn’t want to leave any trace of my passage…

Canoe or kayak? uh...

The choice won’t be difficult! I’ve chosen to live this experience solo, so it’ll be kayak!

I listen carefully to the instructions and advice from my boat hire company… and especially how not to miss the toboggan at the start!”

I equip myself: closed shoes, helmet on the head, lifejacket and above all sun cream index “j’ai-pas-envie-de-brûler”!

Instruction about the paddle: you paddle from side to side to go straight ahead and plant the paddle on the side you want to turn… so where’s my left…where’s my right?!

The goal is in front of me! I can see the entrance. I let out a little “youhouuu” and let myself be drenched by the “splash” at the end! a start…refreshing!!

The descent of the Gorges du Tarn

At the water’s edge this time, I rediscover the viewpoints I’d contemplated on foot a little higher up.

The canoes follow one another but don’t look alike as they say! Different colors, transparent ones, inflatables… we double up, smile at each other, find each other in the rapids. We’re all kind of in the same boat, hehe!

Swimming breaks are plentiful, as kayaking gives me access to beaches inaccessible on foot. Dive into these crystal-clear waters, watch the river fish or just let yourself go with the current… A pure moment of relaxation in a preserved environment that I respect…the grains of sand and pebbles will stay in their place, I promise!”

Le rapide de la Sablière

The instructor had announced a slightly technical rapid at the hamlet of La Sablière. Imagination takes over and I picture Niagara Falls.(Yes I’m brimming with imagination!)

A few meters before, a sign alerts me: “Danger – vest and helmet mandatory” … not even afraid! the key to success is not to stop paddling!!

First left turn, second right passage and it’s over! A voice says “smile” …but who’s talking to me?! It’s the photographer well placed at the end of the rapid to offer you a memorable souvenir to collect in the center of Le Rozier village.

The breathtaking scenery of the Gorges du Tarn

Don’t forget to look up to observe the canyon. The game is to find the heritage observed during the hike….

Right bank, clinging to the cliffs, we see successively the troglodytic hamlets of Saint-Marcellin and Eglazines. It’s easy to spot Saint-Marcellin with its blue shutters…

The vultures twirl above the Gorges du Tarn forming large circles… it’s almost hypnotic!!

Left bank, this dark stone flow that stands out in the verdant landscape… what’s it all about?!

You have to imagine that a volcano was located at the site of the Cirque d’Eglazines. So it’s a flow of solidified lava known as basalt! At the foot of this flow lies a magnificent sandy beach. Let’s not forget our garbage to preserve it…

The Capluc rock appears in the distance. It’s the peak of the Causse Méjean, at the crossroads of the Gorges du Tarn and the Gorges de la Jonte. A sublime panorama accessible from the village of Le Rozier. Some people like to “bruncher” up there!

The signpost that announces the arrival of the route is the broken bridge in the commune of Le Rozier. Impossible to miss! Historically, this bridge was swept away by a flood on the Tarn during a “Cevenol” episode. Nature knows how to make herself heard sometimes…

Are you interested?

On the way, numerous signs point out hiking trails: Le rocher de Francbouteille, le Causse Méjean, l’Ermitage Saint Pons. Let’s organize another outdoor outing with a hike! For my part, it’s already in my diary.

It takes 2h/2h30 for the canoe descent. No need to rush…. You have to appreciate time and take breaks: swimming, hydration, nap, selfie, jump, contemplation, snack (if there’s any food left in the canister?!)

12 kilometers in the legs and 12 kilometers in the arms: that’s worth a snack, isn’t it? An artisanal ice cream to enjoy by the water, for example.

Practical info

An activity to be enjoyed solo, as a duo, with friends or with your dog…. Allow 2h30 walk (on average) to reach Les Vignes. Canoeing is possible from the age of 5, but you must be able to swim and have no fear of water. That’s the rule! Even the most beautiful “unicorn” armbands worn by your toddlers won’t change a thing!

Continue the adventure