Pyrenees Paddling

Paddling in France on the River Tarn

After a delay of almost two years and a plan hatched last summer to head back to the pyrenees, we finally made it back to France to paddle almost the right river!

Having spent the best part of a year planning on a trip paddling the Tarn area near to Millau in southern France, we where thwarted, having met a couple of paddlers that where touring in inflatable of the river Orb at least 4 years ago… they mentioned a lesser-known french gorge river that offered excitement but not the hordes of paddlers that the Ardeche attracts in the summer months.

So, this was going to be the year for touring on the Tarn, well almost! What Covid put paid to over the last two years- Fires and Droughts in France disrupted this year- with just a few days away from booking into our campsites and ferries and with our first week of paddling on the tarn planned disaster loomed.

Paddling the tarn was looking like a non-starter as the river had dried up !

a plan was hatched by Mark from Massif central paddling company who is the eyes and ears of the southern French Pyrenees rivers and a multi-day journey on the Tarn would not be possible. Arrival at Tarn Riveria confirmed the fears that there would be no paddling by commercial craft at our campsite.

Luckily, we soon adopted a plan of some alpine Via Ferrata- originally suggested to my daughter by Ed Byrne a few years back that as a climber it would make a fun activity for the family- unfortunately on this occasion my wife decided to have other planed when she looked up at the sheer cliffs and decided there must be an easier route up a mountain (well more of a gorge)

Antipodes 0565697203 offer via feratata liaucous with views over the tarn www,

A quick call to Antipodes sorted us a great young climbing coach Sam-serious climber with a little camper van with no less than 5 pairs of climbing shoes in his van ( I know of ballet dancers with less pairs of shoes)

Paddling on the River Allier

Paddling on the Allier

Back to the paddling

Well eventually a light thunderstorm was enough to open up the Tarn for a day or two and with forest fire caused by droughts finally extinguished, the route up the Tarn was open and able to be paddled on the grade 3 section between and the campsite

A great low water run

With water on the Tarn low it was time to head north to some of the most spectacular paddling in unspoilt region of France- the river Allier is an unwritten gem of a French river and possibly trumps many of the other paddles I have completed recently.
Okay the majority of the journey was in fairly shallow water but the trip and scenery just improved day by day- in a way we cheated by starting at Prades as the river above is Grade three and not really suited to open boats- But this year I took an couple of kayaks as I didn’t fancy driving about constantly with an open boat on the roof and so we squeezed a couple of kayaks into our caravan!

Second days paddle down to

Day three was a white water paddle back up above our campsite to Monstriol where a section of river offering a grade 3 section beckoned us with a dam released flow of water making it possible to explore the river. There are several white water rafting companies as well as kayak hire businesses in the area, offer access to the river in a range of craft although these tend to be the typical rent and dent boats rather than white water kayaks.

Now I am not so flexible as I was twenty years ago, and I was looking to find some paddling that would be a little more exciting that the grade two stuff we had been pottering down the day before!

The river was a fantastic run with enough challenge for an old master and without creating fear with my daughter- who really would have preferred a white water Alps trip!