Loire River

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The Loire is wide; here in Orléans, half of it is shown, up to a dividing half-flooded island.
The Loire is wide; here in Orléans, half of it is shown, up to a dividing half-flooded island.

The Loire River (pronounced /lwaʀ/ in French), the longest river in France with a length of just over 1000 km, drains an area of 117,000 km², more than a fifth of France. The central part of the Loire Valley was added on the World Heritage Sites list by the UNESCO On December 2, 2000.


Origin of the name

The name "Loire" comes from Latin Liger, which is itself a transcription of the native Gaulish (Celtic) name of the river. The Gaulish name of the river comes from the Gaulish word liga, which means "silt, sediment, deposit, alluvium", and which gave French lie, which in turn gave English lees. Liga comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *legh-, meaning "to lie, lay", which gave many words in English, such as to lie, to lay, ledge, law, etc.

In French the adjective derived from the river is ligérien, as in le climat ligérien ("the climate of the Loire Valley"), a climate considered the most pleasant of northern France, with warmer winters and, more generally, fewer extremes in temperatures than in more continental climates.


Originating in the north-eastern part of the southern Cévennes highlands, it flows roughly northward through Roanne and Nevers to Orléans and thereafter westward through Tours to the Atlantic at Nantes. The river's irregularity has sometimes resulted in serious flooding, notably in 1856, 1866 and 1910.

Unlike most other rivers in western Europe, there are very few dams or locks creating obstacles to its natural flow (the Villerest dam, built in 1985 a few kilometers south of Roanne, has played a key-role in preventing recent flooding). As a result, the Loire is a very popular river for boating excusions, flowing through a pastoral countryside, past limestone cliffs and storybook castles.


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