A Rower’s Guide to
The River Dordogne
If you row mostly on big, busy rivers like the Thames in London,
you’ll find a lot to like on the Dordogne at Bergerac. With over 14 km
of good navigable water, a benign climate, and very little river traffic,
this is a superb training environment.
If you’re new to the area, though, there are certain things you
should know – including some important safety, regulatory and
etiquette matters – before launching out. Here are some guidelines.
The Tuilières dam
This is as far as you can go upstream. Originally constructed in 1908, this is now a state-of-the art hydro plant from which EDF provides much of the region with virtuous carbon-free power
This process, which creates a large upstream buffer, results in a controlled and consistent water level on the Bergerac stretch throughout most of the summer and autumn months.
Caution – go slow here
Watch out for obstacles at the 5km mark. Go slow here, avoiding particularly the rocky shallows near the north bank. A bit further upstream, be aware of the Creysse Rock which hides like a hippo when the water’s high.
Aside from other rowers and the occasional fishing skiff, the only other traffic you’re likely to encounter on the river are the Gabares—traditional freight craft of the type made redundant by the railways, but now used for popular tourist trips. Worth doing – embarcation just downstream of the Old Bridge.
Opened in 1884, the Pont des Gilets was the work of Gustave Eiffel, so is sometimes referred to as the Eiffel Bridge. Originally a rail crossing, it is now used for cycle and light road traffic.
Point Zero at QBR
Some eye-catching silver balls mark the power line which crosses the river just above Quinze Allée Beau Rivage (aka QBR). As this is our usual starting point, the balls are used as Point Zero for the distances shown on this river map.
Sport Nautique de Bergerac
Founded in 1860, Sport Nautique de Bergerac (SNB) is one of France’s oldest and most distinguished rowing clubs. They have excellent facilities at their boathouse, and are very welcoming to visitors. But you should brush up your rowing vocab before turning up there.
Some of their members move very fast—so keep to the right, and allow them past if they’re catching up!