Nantes to Saint-Nazaire on the River Loire, 60 km of Art, History and Nature

I have paddle the Loire Estuary below the bridge at Saint-Nazaire on many occasions, but have never ventured further up river. It’s time we took a look.

We arrived at Nantes just before dawn, the lights reflecting on the water looking great

We had time for a cup of tea as the sun rose, it was a spectacular display of colours

With the boats lightly loaded for a day trip we were ready to go. We were quite fortunate to have arrived at the slip at the same time as a couple of members from a Society called ‘Loire Pour Tous’  … the Loire for everyone.

They very kindly gave us permission to leave our van outside their clubhouse saving us the stress of looking for parking.  These guys are involved in the restoration, and new building of the traditional timber barges used on the Loire over the last Century

As the Sun rose in the Sky, we saw an Otter swimming upstream, I am always grateful to see these natural displays.

Behind the Lock at the entrance to the Riviere Erde, we could see the Cathedral

We passed the enormous Naval museum Maillé Brézé    a post WWII French Destroyer, there is an interesting account on the associations website  at

We passed under the Pont de Cheviré which carries the périphérique circular  autoroute around Nantes, the graceful curves are much more impressive when viewed from below.

By mid morning the temperature was reaching 18°C  and once again I find myself paddling in a T Shirt, Sea temperatures are published as 16°C around the Saint-Nazaire estuary,  but the river was probably a degree or two colder.

The dockside cranes are massive and numerous, they hint at the past when Nantes was a busy Port receiving goods from all over the World for onward transmission via the Rivers canal and the road network.

Then we came across this house ……  it is in fact a piece of work from the Artist Jean-Luc Courcoult    “La Maison dans la Loire” although it is a ‘decorated concrete fabrication’        5 years on it still looks remarkable ‘real’  The Artist is popularly known as the original founder of the ‘Royal de Luxe’ Theatre company who build giant puppets and perform all over the World

A little further on, at the Lock to the Canal by Le Pellerin, we came across another piece of Art from the artist Erwin Wurm titled  “Misconceivable”

The river was now becoming wider, and we also saw the sky getting darker, we knew there wind would be increasing and bringing a heavy front of rain, we still had another 16 km to do.

We reached Montoir de Bretagne about 5 km from our destination when the front arrived, the sky turned a dramatic grey, the herring gulls took off noisily and the Bridge at Saint-Nazaire disappeared from view.  Exactly on schedule at 4pm the winds increased to force 5 and we chose to land a km earlier, on the small beach just next to the Port, after clocking up 60.5 kms michelle’s longest day trip todate.

This was an excellent trip, there is so much to see, but at 60 kms, it is a committing journey to undertake on one tidal cycle using the slack water at each side of the cycle, we were on the water for 7 1/2 hours .  We also made the trip on a very low neap tide, a high Spring tide would have knocked the kms off quicker.

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5 Responses to Nantes to Saint-Nazaire on the River Loire, 60 km of Art, History and Nature

  1. James Warner says:

    Hello there,
    I am looking at canoeing some of the loire but need to go upstream and am trying to decide where to start. What was the strength of the current like in this section (i know its tide affected)? do you think it would be possible to make any ground paddling upstream between St Nazaire and Nantes? thanks, James

    • admin says:

      Hello James, firstly if you are meaning an open canadian type canoe then I would suggest that the Estuary at St-Nazaire is probably a little too busy and exposed for this type of craft, and a Sea or Touring kayak is most suitable. The flood (incoming) tide is a little bit slower than the Ebb (outgoing) because of the natural drain of the river.
      So in short yes it is possible to make headway upstream. The current can run up to 6 knots on the Ebb (or more under certain conditions) and a little less on the flood
      At 60km it is a committing trip because you need to complete it within a 6.5 hour ‘Tidal’ window, so average 9.5 kph, there are few place to get out if it goes wrong ! so there is potential for the tide to turn against you. Because you get more tidal assistance from Nantes to St-Nazaire it’s probably the better choice

  2. Michael Taylor says:

    Hello, I am an experienced paddler thinking about paddling the Loire next summer. My plan is to paddle as much of its length as possible all the way to St Nazaire.
    What would you consider to be a good starting location and do you know of any obstacles, geographically or logistically ! I am from Australia. Thanks.

    • admin says:

      Take a look on Google Earth, you’ll see what you need to know. Generally there are no access issues (you have a right to navigate) just be aware of the Tidal section and plan accordingly.
      best regards

  3. Karolyn says:

    Very good blog post. I absolutely appreciate this site.

    Keep writing!

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