The Loire is the longest river in France. With a length of 1,012 kilometres (629 mi), it drains an area of 117,054 sq km (45,195 sq mi), which represents more than a fifth of France's land area. It is the 170th longest river in the World. It rises in the Cévennes in the département of Ardèche at 1,350 m (4,430 ft) near Mont Gerbier de Jonc, and flows for over 1,000 km (620 mi) north through Nevers to Orléans, then west through Tours and Nantes until it reaches the Bay of Biscay at St Nazaire.
Its main tributaries include the Maine, Nièvre and the Erdre rivers on its right bank, and the Allier, Cher, Indre, Vienne, and the Sèvre Nantaise rivers from the left bank. The Loire gives its name to six départements: Loire, Haute-Loire, Loire-Atlantique, Indre-et-Loire, Maine-et-Loire, and Saône-et-Loire. The central part of the Loire Valley was added to the World Heritage Sites list of UNESCO on December 2, 2000. The banks are characterized by vineyards and chateaux in the Loire Valley.
The Centre region of the Loire River valley accounts for the largest forest in France, the "Foret d’Orleans", covering an area of 38,234 ha, and the 5,440 ha forested park known as the "Foret de Chambord". Other vegetation in the valley, mostly under private control, consists of tree species of oak, beech and pine. In the marshy lands, ash, alder and willows are grown with duckweed providing the needed natural fertilizing effect. The Atlantic coast is home to several aquatic herbs, the important species is Salicornia, which is used as a culinary ingredient on account of its diuretic value.
The river flows through the continental ecoregions of Massif central and Bassin Parisien south and in its Lower course partly through South Atlantic and Brittany.
Nearly every freshwater fish species of France can be found in the Loire river basin, that is about 57 species from 20 families. Many of them are migratory, with 11 species ascending the river for spawning. The most common species are the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), sea trout (Salmo trutta), shads (Alosa alosa and Alosa fallax), sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) European river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis) and smelt (Osmerus eperlanus). The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is common in the upper streams, whereas the flounder (Platichtys flesus) and flathead mullet (Mugil spp.) tend to stay near the river mouth.
Most amphibians of the Loire are found in the slow flow areas near the delta, especially in the floodplain, marshes and oxbows. They are dominated by the fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra), frogs and toads.
The Loire River hosts about 64% of nesting bird species of France, that is 164 species, of which 54 are water birds, 44 species are common for managed forests, 41 to natural forests, 13 to open and 12 to rocky areas.
The Loire Valley lies in the middle stretch of the river and lasts for about 280 km (170 mi) and comprising an area of roughly 800 sq km (310 sq mi). It is also known as the Garden of France due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards, artichoke, asparagus and cherry fields which line the banks of the river. and the Cradle of the French Language.
It is also noteworthy for the quality of its architectural heritage, in its historic towns such as Amboise, Angers, Blois, Chinon, Nantes, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours, but in particular for its castles, such as the Châteaux d'Amboise, Château de Chambord, château d'Ussé, Château de Villandry and Chenonceau and more particularly its many cultural monuments, which illustrate the ideals of the Renaissance and the Age of the Enlightenment on western European thought and design.
The Loire Valley wine region includes the French wine regions situated along the Loire River from the Muscadet region near the city of Nantes on the Atlantic coast to the region of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé just southeast of the city of Orléans in north central France.
Length: 1,012 km (629 mi)
Basin: 117,000 km2 (45,174 sq mi)