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Thread: A splash (and a scrape) down the Sioule

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2012

    Default A splash (and a scrape) down the Sioule

    A couple of weeks ago Adrian (Aka Granddad) and I joined up with the Lengthorn's for one of John's excellently organised trips to the Ardeche. Given the mighty 12 hour drive from Roscoff ferry terminal to Balazuc on the Ardeche, it was agreed that we would rendezvous at Le Pont de Menat campsite before paddling the Sioule. None of us had paddled this river before, and as it was a recent addition to fluffies guide we were excited to see what the Sioule had to offer. Our interest was spiked further from chatting with a local paddle guide (originally from the Tarn area), who rated the Sioule as more impressive than the Tarn... The bar was well and truly set!

    First impressions start with the campsite. It may be because we'd just spent the previous 20 hours travelling from Exeter, but the campsite was fantastic. Located at the halfway point between the two documented sections of the Sioule at Le Pont de Menat. The camping prices were around €6.00 for two sharing a pitch per night and we managed to managed to get a pitch immediately next to the river. Though the icing on the cake (ahem) were the pain au raisins, which had raisins soaked in rum. We all agreed they were the best we'd ever sampled.

    The plan was to paddle the lower section (12km) from the campsite to Saint Gal in the morning before shuttling up to Chateauneuf in the afternoon to paddle the upper section (11km) back to the campsite.

    Getting the boats ready

    The following morning all weary from the drive down, we lowered our canoes into the water.

    Setting off from the campsite

    It's not long before you come across the Roman bridge at Le Pont de Menat.

    Granddad himself

    Shortly after leaving the village of Le Pont de Menat we happened across a relatively large group of kamikaze kayaks, who zigzagged down the river at speed before slamming into the boulders. If only they had the same passion for weaving in and out of the rocks as we did.

    Karen and John showing the rentals how to do it. I love the way they're watching on with envy as they wrestle with their tupperware.

    This section of the river is graded in fluffies at around class 2. There were some interesting rapids, though we could have done with a bit more water... One rapid in particular was rather fun, with the main flow at the end of the rapid wanting to drive you into a rocky wall.

    However for the majority of this paddle, the water is flat, which allows you to kick back and enjoy the scenery.

    The scenery changes a little along this stretch of the river. From wooded scenes not too dissimilar to those found on the Exe or Dart.

    To more steeply sloped gorge canyons.

    The get out at St Gal is very easy. Signposted by a suspended kayak (possibly the best use for a kayak...?) under a road bridge with a nice slipway leading to a large area for parking and pickup.

    So we loaded all three canoes onto one car and headed back to La Pont de Menat for lunch (those Pain au raisins).

    After lunch we drove to Chateauneuf. Granddad was feeling his age, so I agreed to paddle tandem.

    As a class 1 section of river with several small weirs, we were all crying out for more water as we lined our boats down some of the weirs. But managed to have some fun with a few, where we weaved in and out of the rocks.

    Fewer photos were taken of this section. Mainly because it was largely flat and a little less impressive than the lower section. However we did get a great view of the castle perched on the hill near to Le Pont de Menat. I understand you can walk to this castle (or rather Chateau) from the campsite. However it would be a long walk...

    Making it back to the campsite by around 6pm, we had lunch and began chatting about the trip to the Ardeche. Then the heavens opened with an almighty deluge of rain. We all ran for cover and had an impromptu early night. Oh how we could have done with that rain a day earlier...

    The following day we were up early with the boats all loaded up.

    While waiting for John and Karen to start our drive to the Ardeche, Granddad and I visited the Roman bridge from the road side.

    We left the Sioule with very fond memories. Whilst it didn't meet with the reports of surpassing the Tarn in terms of scenery, this little river is certainly worth a visit. Having followed this up with four days on the Ardeche and Chassezac, I would recommend that this river is a good 'stop-over' as we used it to break up a rather long journey. Probably best done on the way down, as it would seem a slight anticlimax if paddled on the way back from a trip on rivers such as the Ardeche.

    Oh and if you do paddle this river don't forget to pre-oder those rum laced pain au raisins. I promise you will not be disappointed.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2008


    Hehe, good to see grandad getting out and about !

    Aussie Monsieur et Madame Lengthorn.

    I like canoes ......

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    SW France


    Yep, that’d be the Sioule, really good description. Top section is the quieter one and the camp site is the best value in France.
    I know it was shut when you were there but the bar/restaurant at the canoe hire place there is pretty good too.
    Open Canoe hire/outfitting in the Massif Central
    ”We will make your trip work”

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2008


    Looks good to me, must try it sometime. Bits look like the Cele, but with rocks to dodge!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Yalding, Kent


    Nice blogg Matt. Definitely a nice way to break the journey up on the way down and a nice first outing on some moving water for Karen .

    Levels seemed low to me but the local guy at the canoe base said they were good so I'm not sure whether you could typically expect more than we got that day without any significant rainfall if you were doing it in the warmer months.

    As mentioned the campsite is very nice and was pretty quiet. There is a barrier and we only just scraped in when we arrived about 8pm as the receptionist was leaving for the night.

    One other thing to note is the absence of any local shops etc closeby so make sure if you are going to stop there for a day or so that you have the basics with you. I think the nearest supermarket was a 50 minute drive away.

    Mark mentioned the bar/restaurant at the canoe base which had apparently closed the weekend before so mid September is pretty much end of their season. There is one other restaurant but not sure whether it was open.

    Shuttles were pretty quick and only about 15 minutes each way for each section from the campsite.

    I'm sure we'll be back there at some stage.

    Pics that I took

    Looking down from Roman Bridge

    And up

    Chateau Rocher in the distance. Not sure about walking from the campsite though! You can drive up closer to a small car park where the track up to the castle can be accessed

    Pont De Menat to St Gal

    Karen bullied us into a brew stop, only to find that once we got back on we were only 5 minutes from the finish!

    Chateuneuf Les Bains to Pont De Menat

    Easy access and parking just down the road from the spa

    Last edited by elveys; 11th-October-2018 at 06:34 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Lochwinnoch, Scotland
    Journal Entries


    Looks like a good river to paddle. Can’t believe any self respecting SOTP member would need to be “bullied into a brew stop”,

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Nr Rochester in Kent


    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    Can’t believe any self respecting SOTP member would need to be “bullied into a brew stop”,
    You clearly haven't paddled with Elveys

    Nice blogg Matt, shame we missed this bit of the trip.

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2012


    Thanks Matt. Good to see the additional photos from Elveys. I'm not sure I've ever stopped for a tea break so close to the car than when we stopped on the Sioule...

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