Skip to content

France Day 15 Friday the Isere by Keith

  • by
A person in a kayak in the water Description automatically generated

2023 LCC Alpine Paddling Holiday

Day 15 Friday the Isere by Keith

Running through the Rhone-Alps region of Southeastern France, the River Isere is near famous Val d’Isere, the beautiful host of the 1992 Olympic Winter Games. The source of the river Isere is snowmelt from the Graian Alps. From this lofty source the river flows in the Upper Valey called Tarentaise and then continues on to the Rhone River, of which it is a tributary. A dam controls the river releases and make the river Isere available from May to September. The descent starts from Bourg Saint Maurice and goes down to Centron, the whole of the navigable section of the upper Isère. Highlights include the rapids of Aime and the gorges at Centron. It is France’s longest rafting descent!

There are two white water sections on the river Isere. The first from the bottom of the Slalom course to Gothard which is introductory whitewater, grade II-III section. People with previous experience or those looking for a challenge can consider the intermediate, class III-IV section from Gothard down to Centron. The white-water course of Bourg St Maurice is steep and has very tight man-made eddies for slalom. This is technical and is excellent if you want to test your skills. I would grade it at 4+.

plan descente en rafting

The Isère, deemed one of the most beautiful rivers in the Alps, offers incredible descents, during which you will ride the famous rapids of Aime with sections called the ‘Salle à manger’ [the Dining Room], the ‘Machine à couper le Jambon’ [the Meat Slicer], and the ‘Dessert’ [dessert]… and discover the magnificent gorges at Centron and the Roman bridge.

A person in a kayakDescription automatically generated
Mike enjoying the bouncy water of the Isere.

We were now a group of 4 with the others preferring to sight-see and take it is easy on the 3-star campsite. We dropped a car at Centron and headed up to the slalom site to wait for the water to be turned on. It does take a little while to make its way downstream and started to rise as we were making enquiries at the FÉDÉRATION FRANÇAISE DE CANOË-KAYAK ET SPORTS DE PAGAIE (FFCK) shop.

Cameron and Mike got on at the top of the slalom course while Sara and I got on halfway down. The water was heavy and we gathered our breath in each eddy. We then headed down on the full route to Centron. Having paddled the river the day before we were full of confidence and played in each of the many waves and stoppers.

A person in a kayak on a riverDescription automatically generated
Mike paddling on the slalom course at Bourg St Maurice

We soon passed the campsite and bridge and then down to the rafting centre at Gothard. We knew that the Aime rapids were coming up but this time enjoyed the almost continuous grade 4 section with 6 or 7 major rapids all flowing into each other. The river was releasing at 28 cumecs (m³/s) so Aime rapids had about 35 cumecs (m³/s) with all the tributaries adding volume. The waves were large and stoppers and holes numerous, but it was great paddling and this time we took our time and stopped a couple of times to look back at each section.

People kayaking in a riverDescription automatically generated
The gorge section at Centron where the whole river narrows down to a around 5m in width.

Later we entered the gorge section at Centron where the whole river narrows down to a around 5m in width. The water is deep through the gorge and the river is smooth and we drifted serenely through the gorge. Soon after is the last section which has some interesting rapids until is flows under the N95 road bridge which signals the end of the gorge and rapids. Take out was on the river right just before the next road bridge with a shallow gravel bed near an indent or gully with good access to the car park. There is a busy rafting get out just after the bridge just in case you miss the official kayak and hotdog one.

Click or Tap for more photographs……

Click or tap to read the full 15 days account of the 2023 Alpine holiday trip……..