Living with the Rhone

River tourism

The Rhone Valley is now a densely populated territory endowed with a rich natural, architectural and gastronomic heritage. Boating: an original means of discovering the valley helped by CNR’s infrastructures.

developpement-economique-touristiqueSet out to discover the exceptional natural heritage of the Rhone in total safety. Lock passages are free. However, if you are a private pleasure boater, you must purchase a pleasure craft stamp from VNF. Beware, navigation is not permitted during flooding and it is limited during March when the locks are closed for maintenance.

From Lake Bourget to Brégnier-Cordon, 57 km of continuous navigable waterway

Commissioned by CNR in 1983, the lock of Savières which links Lake Bourget to the Rhone immediately spurred local development. The local authorities provided their territories with other facilities: ports, recreation areas, mooring points. Now, from 2,800 to 3,800 boats pass through this lock every year.

To develop the tourist potential of the Upper Rhone, in 2010 CNR built and then commissioned the locks of Chautagne et de Belley, thus opening 57 km of continuous navigable waterway for pleasure boaters. Also, in the framework of our 2014-2018 plan of Missions in the General Interest, we are building a new lock at Brégnier-Cordon to provide an additional 30 km of navigable waterway and permit pleasure boaters to reach the marina of Montalieu-Vercieu.

The hydropower structures of Chautagne and Belley comprise a succession of two Freycinet gauge locks (40 m long by 5.25 m wide), separated by an intermediate basin. You carry out the passage through the locks yourself in semi-automatic mode. For more information, consult our brochure on lock passages on the Upper Rhone

At present, the hydropower plants of Brégnier-Cordon and Sault-Brénaz are not equipped with locks. CNR has equipped these plants with a travelling platform to allow the passage of pleasure boats. The characteristics of the boats that can be transferred are :

- 9,50 m maximum length

- 3 tons at most at Sault-Brénaz, 3.5 tons at Brégnier-Cordon.

For more information, contact the Regional Division of Belley (tél. 04 79 81 31 36 / mail :

330 km of navigable waterway to discover the Rhone Valley along the river

amenagements-fluviaux-pour-la-navigationYou can profit from 330 km of navigable waterway from Lyon to the Mediterranean, thanks to 14 locks managed by CNR. The locks can be passed throughout the year, from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., except on 1 January, 11 November, 25 December and when navigation is stopped during the month of March. Navigation may also be prohibited during flood periods or if an incident occurs.

Our Navigation Management Centre (NMC) monitors the navigable waterway 365 days a year between Lyon and the Mediterranean and controls the locks remotely. The NMC optimises lock passages (less than 20 minutes) and improves safety. It provides full information on traffic to skippers in real-time, and warns and directs emergency teams in case of navigation incidents.

To ensure your safety, the chamber of each lock is equipped with several cameras, to which must be added 2 cameras installed a few km upstream and downstream on the banks to monitor approaches to the lock. When you pass through a lock, you are in radio (VHF) and visual contact with the navigation technician who guides your manoeuvres.


On the same subject

Key figures


  • 206,396 passengers on the Rhone in 2014, i.e. an increase of 50% in ten years
  • 16 wharfs for river cruise liners on the Lower Rhone including 14 built or modernised by CNR over the last 10 years
  • 26 river cruise liners sailing on the Rhone-Saone basin (vs 4 in 1998), making it France’s busiest destination for the number of boats in service
  • 91,046 lock passages by river cruisers and 14,760 by pleasure boats between Lyon and the Mediterranean in 2014
  • €144 M: the estimation of the economic benefits generated by river tourism for the Rhone-Saone basin in 2014
  • Every year, more than 1,800 pleasure boats representing twenty nationalities cross the locks of the Rhone. 80% of the traffic is concentrated between May and September.

The operation of the NMC

The Navigation Management Centre (NMC) is managed by a team of 36 technicians and 3 managers that relay each other day and night throughout the year to ensure its operation. The NMC is equipped with 8 identical work stations.

Rules to be followed when passing through locks

Grouped passages

Priority is given to grouped lock passages for several boats, whether pleasure boats, passenger boats or barges carrying goods (except in the case of transport of dangerous materials). Waiting time for a grouped passage is limited to 45 minutes, after which you will pass through the lock alone.

Approaching the lock

The locks that you will pass through are part of a development scheme composed of a dam, a forebay and a hydropower plant. You must make sure to remain in the diversion canal dedicated to navigation. The lock is located at the side of the hydropower plant. During the approach,


  • Wear a life jacket.


  • Approach the hydropower plant.

Entering the lock

The lock is entered when the lock gates have completely opened and the green light is on. The smallest boat enters last to avoid damage by the heavier boats in the case of an incident. Once inside,


  • Attach the boat to the bollards,
  • Wear your life jacket,
  • Protect the hull of your boat with floating fenders.


  • Use the service ladders for mooring or for climbing on land,
  • Moor in pairs,
  • Moor to a sunken bollard

Leaving the lock

Once the cycle has ended, you are ready to leave the lock. To do that,


  • Release your mooring lines,
  • Bring all the mooring lines on board,
  • Keep to the order of leaving according to the place of the boats.


  • Release the mooring lines before the locking cycle has completely ended,
  • Try to leave the lock before the gate have fully opened.