Sunday, 30 October 2016

Mountains to Sea - the Argens River

The River Argens at Les Arcs in mid-summer.
Les Arcs-sur-Argens is distinguished by its location - 'on the Argens' river - and occupies the river's wide, fertile valley - ideal for the surrounding vineyards.

The river, officially 116 kilometres long, is completely contained within the Var department, which it bisects with Toulon, the Maures and the coast to the south and the high inland, perched villages and gorges to the north.
The hills above Seillons-Source-d'Argens where the river begins.
Known in French as 'un fleuve' the Argens is a river that empties into the sea. Rivers known as 'une rivière' do not empty into the sea, instead they are tributaries of larger flows.

The Argens begins near Sainte Maximin La Baume, west of Les Arcs - almost to Aix-en-Provence - and starts as a 'source' or spring in the hills west of the tiny village of Seillons-Source-d'Argens.

We had driven past there before and I had seen the tiny roadside sign that read 'Source d'Argens' but traffic and narrow roads prevented me from pulling over to investigate.
Kayaking near Correns.

I realise now that the sign does not mean the spring is beside the road, but  suggests the general direction of the start of the Argens River.

This year, I was more determined. After a twisty drive up a steep hill to the little village, we parked and explored on foot.

We never did find the source. I think we would have needed hiking boots and probably permission to go trekking through the bush.

However we were able to stand right at the top of the town where an explanatory sign indicted the direction and informed us that the river actually did start its journey somewhere in the depressions of the hills in front of us.

Companies run kayaking tours along the Argens.
I had to be satisfied with that - until perhaps a more organised expedition in the future.

The Argens flows through fertile valleys chock full of vineyards growing the prized rosé varieties.

Further downstream it becomes the flatland ideal for the motorway from Aix-en-Provence through to Nice - and the railway.

Although water levels do fall in the summer, the river is a boating and fishing paradise.

There are any number of kayaks for hire. Two of the towns along the way - Vidauban and Roquebrune-sur-Argens are veritable water sports meccas.

The river flows through tiny hamlets like Correns and Montfort-sur-Argens, Carcès to Vidauban, along the southern edge of Les Arcs, through Le Muy - where it is joined by the Nartuby (from Chateaudouble) - then Roquebrune-sur-Argens, where it has been dammed into a large recreatuional lake, and finally to the sea at Fréjus.
The recreational lake near Roquebrune-sur-Argens - with the Red Rock in the background.
A friend of our tried fishing there with no luck, and we haven't yet tried kayaking - but the river near Les Arcs is cool and peaceful on a hot summer's day, with its large shady trees.
The Argens River meets the sea at Frejus. (Google Maps)

There is a good restaurant by the bridge over the Argens where you can sit on the outdoor deck and enjoy lunch beside the river.

And just a little further upstream is the Maison des Vins, which brings together wines from the Cotes de Provence appellation with around 800 different wines available at cost price. You can also enjoy a delicious gourmet degustation meal.

The Argens is an important part of the Var - bisecting it and bringing a delicious and refreshing body of water to the centre of the department.

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