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The River Saône

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River Saone in Burgundy France
The River Saône at Chalon

The Saône is the most commercial and animated of all the rivers in Burgundy linking Paris to Marseille through the canal network. The A6 autoroute tracks the river valley in the south from Mâcon to Chalon-sur-Saône making this the main communication artery through the region, and with the thriving wine trade and tourist industry the area is prosperous and buzzing.

The river rises in the north east of France in the Vosges mountains. It flows through the length of Burgundy on the eastern flank before heading on to Lyons where it joins the Rhône. Due to its even and gentle flow of water, it is navigable for 375 km of its 480 km length.

Auxonne is the first town of note on the river. Napolean was garrisoned here in 1788 and anyone military-minded will find the museum in the château of interest.

The River Ouche feeds into the Saône at St-Jean-de-Losne. Here too the Canal de Bourgogne and the Canal Rhin-Rhône converge making this a hub of activity. It is the smallest town in France, being 36 hectares in total, and has the most important river port in the country with 350 moorings. This is where many of the canal cruisers and barges lay up in winter resulting in a lively cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Chalon-sur-Saône is a commercial town on a broad meander of the Saône. The best way to get an overview of the river here is to take a pleasure cruise on La Delta taking
in the quays, the medieval quarter, the old commercial port, the junction with the Canal du Centre and the verdant countryside beyond.

The extremely pretty town of Tournus is the next port of call. The river gives the town its timeless quality, with tree lined quays and an unhurried pace. From here the vineyards of the Maconnais stretch down the west side of the river all the way to the town of Mâcon.

Mâcon owes its importance to the Saône and its transportation. Here the river is wide and slow moving with tree lined boulevards along the banks – a direct contrast to the hectic pace of this town. The coloured buildings give the river walks a Mediterranean feel with cafes and restaurants adding to the appeal.