Friday, June 7, 2024

River Kayaking in Provence 2024

River kayaking in Provence is super easy...a fabulous way to while away a few hours, get deliciously cool, have a swim if you want one and see some fantastic scenery. 

If you've never kayaked before, not to worry! You'll get a short tutorial, there are staffers on the river to help and the kayaks are very open. Meaning, on the off chance that you tip, you're not trapped. Our rivers are relatively free of obstacles, shallow and generally slow flowing. I encourage many of my clients to give it a go and no one has told me they didn't love it! On a hot day it's just heaven.

You can kayak (and canoe and stand-up paddleboard) on the Rhône from Avignon (with views of the ramparts, the Pont St. Benezet and the 14th-century Palais des Papes), and also on the Durance River, in the Southern Luberon. But whenever I get the chance, I love kayaking on the River Sorgue, from the village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse (just 15 minutes from Isle sur la Sorgue). You can can also kayak on the River Gardon from Collias, a super-fun way to experience the 2000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Pont du Gard

Keep in mind the four places mentioned above (the Sorgue, the Gardon, the Durance and the Rhône) are by no means the only places for kayaking in Provence; you can do it in the Camargue, at the Gorges du Verdon and in sea kayaks up and down Mediterranean Coast. If you have a favorite kayak place, I'd love to know! 

As the season goes on, the outfitters get extremely busy so you should definitely reserve at least a day or two ahead, if not more. You'll find the details on everything below.


Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is 15 minutes from Isle sur la Sorgue and if you hit the big Sunday market or smaller Thursday market there (in Isle sur la Sorgue), kayaking from Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is a great way to spend the afternoon. Then again, it's great fun any day, morning or afternoon. It’s an easy trip (about five miles) on clear, cool shallow water and you see lots of lovely, lush countryside. You leave your car in Fontaine and they bring you back by bus (usually with disco music blasting, but in a good way). There are two companies that do it: Kayak Vert and Canoe Evasion. Both are outside town with big signs so they’re easy to find. I prefer Canoe Evasion for a couple reasons but either is fine! If you go with Kayak Vert, there's sometimes a wait at the beginning of the route where you have to go over a dam--and the dam itself can be a bit scary for first timers--but there's always someone there to help. Both outfitters sell snacks (cold drinks, ice cream, etc.), have bathrooms and off offer lots of parking.

With Kayak Vert, you can go at your own pace; with Canoe Evasion you’re sort of encouraged to stay with a group but you don’t really have to. The trip takes 2 to 2.5 hours and there’s a little break in the middle for swimming or just chilling on the river banks. And don't miss the rope swing! Whether you swim or not you’ll definitely get wet so plan accordingly and have a beach towel with you. Also, definitely wear water shoes or grippy sandals because there may be a few places where you have a little walk on slippery rocks. 

Both companies give you a watertight container for your stuff and life preserver vests.

Here are the two outfitters for kayaking the Sorgue and reservations are definitely recommended.

Canoe Evasion: 2024 prices:  €26 pp adults; €13 for kids under 14. Groups of 10 or more: adults pay €22 each, kids (6-14) pay €13. Payment is by cash, French check or credit card. There’s no minimum age per se, but the company prefers kids be five or older; they must be able to swim at least 25 meters and submerge themselves (meaning, not panic if they go under water). Open every day from May 15 to September 30 (but closed the third weekend in September). Open daily from 9 am to 3:30 pm, with departures every 40 mins or so. Bookings must be made by phone: +33 (0)4 90 38 26 22  or online:

Kayak Vert. 2024 prices:  €25 pp adults, €13 for kids (6-12). For groups of 15 or more, please inquire. Kayak Vert’s age minimum is six and kids must be able to swim 25 meters. Payment is by credit card only (but no Amex). Open May 15 to October 15. Reservations by phone:  +33 (0) 4 66 22 80 76 or online:

A Bit About Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is an interesting village so leave some time before or after kayaking to explore. This pretty little town (population 600 or so) is best known for its deep-water source or spring at the foot of a steep cliff 230 meters high. It’s the biggest spring in France and the fifth largest in the world; it's where the Sorgue River begins and when the water is high and running strong, it's truly a gorgeous site to see...actually its pretty gorgeous all the time.

In 1946, Jacques Cousteau and another diver were almost killed searching for the bottom of the spring, at about 100 meters down. (As it turns out they weren’t even close: the bottom is at 308 meters.) The spring is the only exit point of a subterranean basin that collects water from Mont Ventoux, the Vaucluse Mountains and Lure Mountain. People have lived in the area since Neolithic times (you know, back when you could still find a parking spot here easily). Archaeological digs have turned up more than 1600 coins from the 1st century BC to the 5th century AD. 

Fontaine has a great museum in an old paper mill (with a cool shop selling all types of paper products, diaries, puzzles, handmade books, stationary and other goodies based on the same theme), a museum about Petrarch and one filled with Santons (traditional Provencale figurines). Plus, the village has plenty of cafes and restaurants right on or near the river and some cute shops.

Not far from Canoe Evasion is a "parc accrobranche" that families love. This is one of those ropes courses where you swing from trees on zip lines and such. It's called La Passerelle des Cîmes and friends who’ve been say everyone loves it...all ages. As you approach Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, you’ll see the signs.


To kayak the Gardon River and see the Pont du Gard, the two main outfitters are Canoe Collias and Kayak Vert; both leave from the town of Collias, between Uzes and the Pont du Gard. You can keep the kayak all day if you like but most people like the basic two-hour paddle, taking them 8 km up to and under the Pont du Gard. What a fantastic way to experience this 2000-year-old Roman aqueduct, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. All along the river there are little beaches and places to picnic, swim, sunbathe, etc. The two-hour time frame is calculated on paddling from Collias to the Pont du Gard non-stop, but you can keep the kayak as long as you like for the same price. As they do on the Sorgue River, the outfitters bring you back by bus. Reservations aren't required but they're definitely recommended and booking is online only. In high season definitely reserve at least a few days before.   

Canoe, or +33 (0)4 66 22 87 20 or +33 (0)6 23 65 51 32. Prices for 2023: €25 for adults, €19 for teens (13-17), €13 for kids (6-12).

Kayak Vert Collias/Pont du or +33 (0)4 66 22 80 76, Prices for 2023:  €25 for adults, €20 for teens (13-17) and €13 for kids (6-12).


Operated by an association (Canoe Outings Comite de Vaucluse de Kayak, also known as Canoe Kayak Vaucluse) rather than a private company, this experience is extremely popular with river-cruise passengers, locals and groups, who often bring their own translator or request one because not all the staff speaks English. That said, they're currently the only outfitter offering kayaking in this gorgeous city, their prices are low and they have solid reviews on Trip Advisor. I've never kayaked here but I see no reason that paddling around the 14th-century Palais des Papes and the famous Pont St. Benezet (aka the Pont d'Avignon) wouldn't be great fun. Kayak rentals in July/August are by the half hour: 30 minutes is €8 pp, 60 minutes is €12 pp, 90 minutes is €16 pp. Kids prices (ages 7 to 12) are slightly less. Open daily from 2 pm to 6:30 including holidays. They also rent canoes and stand-up paddleboards.

Individual paddlers can go out every afternoon in July and August. Those who do tend to potter around the famous bridge, perhaps traveling one km or so in either direction. There's always a staffer on a jet ski on hand to help if needed. Or, there's the guided “Descente” activity every afternoon, where you'll go 8 km with a mixed group.

Groups (7 people or more) can canoe every afternoon of the year when it's safe to do so. A bilingual tour guide can be arranged to accompany your group but this must be arranged in advance, at an extra fee. 

There are also three “river discovery tours” in July and August...check the website closer to July for details. 

Despite the Rhône being so wide and big, it ranges from knee-deep to 8 meters or so in this particular area. There’s very little danger as you're not allowed to get out of the canoe (unlike on the Sorgue or Gardon where you can pull over to swim, picnic, etc.). This outfitter also welcomes wheelchair users (you'll be lifted out of your wheel chair, helped with a special apparatus and seated in the canoe.) Dogs are also allowed!

Please note this outfitter is on the Ile de la Barthelasse, the island in the middle of the Rhône, adjacent to Avignon. If you're driving, there's plenty of nearby parking. If you're walking from Avignon, they're 10 minutes from the Port de l'Oulle on the Avignon side of the River. 

Questions? Call +33 (0)6 11 52 16 73 or +33 (0)6 51 60 13 59. The office is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm and can be reached at: +33 (0)4 28 70 27 27.


Another outfitter I recently discovered is AFDA Canoe, which offers canoeing and kayaking on the Durance River in the Southern Luberon. An 8 km route takes you from Cadenet to Lauris (75 minutes) while an 18 km course links Puy Sainte Reparade to Lauris (three hours). They offer canoes for 2 or 3 people...and kayaks for more experienced paddlers. This one is on my summer to-do list for sure...I can't wait to kayak the Durance! 

Photos: (1, 2) Kayaking at the Pont du Gard and on the Sorgue, photos courtesy of Canoe Collias and Kayak Vert.  (3,4) Kayaking on the Rhone at Avignon. (5) The famous source in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, photo courtesy of (6) Chilling on the Sorgue, photo courtesy of Canoe Evasion. 



  2. Julie, thank you so much for this article. It is full of information that we can all use to enjoy the rivers in Provence. Merci!

  3. Julie, fantastic article as usual!
    I want to go to France right now and kayak on the beautiful waterways. Looks delightful!
    Thank you for all the detailed info, even phone numbers! Miss you!

  4. Julie...Wonderful report. Glad you are settled in to your beloved Provence...MB