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Map of the Garonne
Origin Pyrenees
42°38′59″N 0°40′06″E / 42.6498°N 0.6683°E / 42.6498; 0.6683 (source Garonne)
Mouth Gironde estuary,
Atlantic Ocean
45°2′29″N 0°36′24″W / 45.04139°N 0.60667°W / 45.04139; -0.60667 (Gironde-Garonne)Coordinates: 45°2′29″N 0°36′24″W / 45.04139°N 0.60667°W / 45.04139; -0.60667 (Gironde-Garonne)
Basin countries France, Spain
Length 575 km (357 mi)
Source elevation 1,872 m (6,142 ft)
Basin area 84,811 km2 (32,746 sq mi) *
*including Dordogne

The Garonne (French: Garonne, IPA: [ɡaʁɔn]; in Occitan, Catalan and Spanish: Garona; Latin: Garumna) is a river in southwest France and northern Spain, with a length of 575 km (357 miles).


Origin of the name

The name "Garonne" derives from an ancient form Garumna containing the Aquitanian (language related to old Basque) root kharr-, meaning "rock",[1] akin to modern Basque harri, "stone", and a Pre-Indo-European suffix -unn-, -onna which means "source, river", and which can be found in the name of many rivers in Western Europe (such as the Seine, the Saône, etc.).


The Garonne disappears into the ground at Trou du Toro

The river rises on the slopes of Pic Aneto (near 42°38′59″N 0°40′06″E / 42.6498°N 0.6683°E / 42.6498; 0.6683 according to the season) and flows by way of a sink hole known as the Trou de Toro or the Forau dels Aigualluts (42°40′00″N 0°40′01″E / 42.6666°N 0.6669°E / 42.6666; 0.6669) through the limestone of the Tuca Blanco de Pomèro and a resurgence in the Val dera Artiga above the Aran Valley in the Spanish Pyrenees.[2] This underground route was suggested by the geologist Ramond de Carbonnières in 1787, but there was no confirmation until 1931, when caver Norbert Casteret poured fluorescein dye into the flow and noted its emergence a few hours later 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) away at Uelhs deth Joeu ("source of the Joeu" 42°40′51″N 0°42′28″E / 42.68092°N 0.7077°E / 42.68092; 0.7077) in the Artiga de Lin on the other side of the mountain.[3][4] Until this discovery the source was considered to be in the meadows of the Plan de Beret above Baqueira, a longer but lower tributary to the east.

It follows the Aran Valley northwards into France, flowing via Toulouse and Agen towards Bordeaux, where it meets the Gironde estuary. The Gironde flows into the Atlantic Ocean (Bay of Biscay). Along its course, the Garonne is joined by three other major rivers: the Ariège, the Tarn, and the Lot. Just after Bordeaux, the Garonne river finally meets the Dordogne, after which the two rivers become the Gironde estuary, which after approximately 60 miles (97 km) joins the Atlantic Ocean. Other tributaries include the Save and the Gers.

The Garonne is one of the few rivers in the world that exhibit a tidal bore. Surfers and jet skiers can ride the tidal bore at least as far as the village of Cambes (70 miles or 110 kilometres from the Atlantic) and even further upstream.

Towns along the river

The Garonne at Toulouse.

Main tributaries

Following the flow of the river:

  • Jalle de Blanquefort


The Garonne plays an important role in inland shipping. The river not only allows seagoing vessels to reach the port of Bordeaux but also forms part of the "Canal des Deux Mers", linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Bay of Biscay, allowing a shorter and safer way for goods to pass from the agricultural areas of the South of France to the Atlantic.

From the ocean, ships pass through the Gironde estuary until the mouth of the Garonne (to the right of the Dordogne when sailing upstream). The Garonne remains navigable for larger vessels up to the "Pont de Pierre" (Stone Bridge) in Bordeaux. River vessels can sail upstream to Castets-en-Dorthe, where the Garonne Lateral Canal (Canal Latéral à la Garonne) joins the river. The lateral canal takes the ships through 53 locks to the town of Toulouse, where the canal meets the Canal du Midi, the next stage of the "Canal des Deux Mers".

The Garonne Lateral Canal was subject to one of the largest infrastructure works in Europe, when it was adapted to the standardized barge size of 38 by 5 metres (16 ft), during the last century. French minister Freycinet ordered that all major canals used for long distance transport be suitable for vessels of those standard dimensions. The extension of all of the former 30-metre (98 ft) locks to the new standard length was carried out throughout the lateral canal. The other half of the Canal des Deux Mers, the Canal du Midi, partly escaped this operation, because by the time the works had reached the area where the most locks were situated, commercial traffic on the canal had almost disappeared. The works were stopped, leading to the cultural heritage status of the United Nations that has made the Canal du Midi famous. (Source: NoorderSoft Waterways database)

See also


  1. ^ Agud, Manuel; Tovar, Antonio (1991). Diccionario Etimologico Vasco. 
  2. ^ Reynolds, Kev (2001). Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees. Milnthorpe, England: Cicerone Press. pp. 208. ISBN 1852843284. 
  3. ^ Casteret, Norbert (1939). Ten Years Under the Earth. Mussey, Barrows (trans). London: J. M. Dent. 
  4. ^ Institut Cartogràfic de Catalunya. Mapa topogràfic de Catalunya 1:100 000 [map], 1st edition. Section 1: Pirineu occidental.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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