How does a canoe trip down the Dordogne work?

How does a canoe trip down the Dordogne work?

Discover an unforgettable adventure with Canoës Loisirs, your destination of choice for canoeing and kayaking excursions in breathtaking natural landscapes.

The Dordogne, in a nutshell: castles, medieval villages, natural caves, Lascaux, prehistory, gastronomy, rivers, landscapes and… canoeing.

When you’ve already descended the Ardèche or the Tarn, you’ve already got an idea, but when you’re totally new to the sport, how does it work?

We often hear these questions: How a canoe trip works

“Is there a lot of current?”

“Are we booking or not?”

“How do we get back to your car?”

“I’m not athletic, will I be okay?”

“Can my 5-year-old make it?”

“Can I bring my dog?”

We’ll explain!

Is there a lot of current on the Dordogne?

Let’s start by answering the question we hear most. To put your mind at rest, the Dordogne is a Class 1 river, i.e. a very easy river. Class 1: “Calm and regular watercourses that are very easy to navigate, with, at most, only very slight slopes and eddies”. (1)

Suffice to say, we don’t offer canyoning or rafting on our peaceful river. The descent is accessible from the age of 5 to 99 and beyond! That’s how simple it is!

But that doesn’t mean it’s monotonous. We are fortunate to have an extremely rich cultural heritage all along the Dordogne, with numerous castles and villages. And the Dordogne has been listed in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2012.

So, to cut a long story short, on the Dordogne you’ll have time to enjoy castles, villages and nature at your own pace, without rapids or waterfalls.

How does the descent work?

Are we booking or not?

Imagine your next vacation. It’s the middle of July, and you’ve just arrived at your campsite, hotel or gîte to spend a week in the Dordogne. You’ve done a bit of research into the must-do activities, and now your host is suggesting a canoe trip. You quickly realize that at some point during the week, you’ll be in a canoe!

No sooner said than done, you book your descent, by phone or on our website. Outside July and August, reservations are not required. Just turn up between 9.30 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. to start your tour.

A canoe trip down the Dordogne is as much a must as seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris!

D-Day: arrival and equipment

On the day of booking, program the GPS on Canoës Loisirs, Vitrac Port. We’re 8km south of Sarlat, just after the Vitrac-port bridge, on your left. Yellow canoes!

On site you will find :

  • A very large, free, shaded parking lot for your vehicle
  • Toilets

Next to our reception area, you’ll find a restaurant, children’s playground and picnic tables. The beach is accessible to all.

If you have made an online reservation, go to the“ONLINE RESERVATION” checkout. That way, you won’t have to wait in line to pay for your canoe trip, and you can save precious time in the process! If you have booked by phone or not at all, please go to the main cash desk. You’ll be able to choose between a Canoe or a Kayak according to your wishes. Dogs are welcome (but do not have to be on a leash), and the maximum capacity per canoe is 250 kg. You’ll also need to take along a watertight container, which we offer for hire, to store picnics, towels, personal belongings and cameras.

Then it’s on to the equipment:

  • A lifejacket is essential and compulsory. We offer 5 different sizes to suit all body shapes.
  • Paddles. Single or double, large, small or medium (depending on your size).
  • At the height of summer, our 30-strong team is on hand to give you a short navigation lesson before you climb into your canoe.

Well-equipped and advised, we head for the beach to get into your boat.

A little push to get started and you’re on the water, passing quickly under the first bridge of Vitrac-port. A beautiful day ahead!

Tips : You’ll need to apply sunscreen if the sun is out (beware of the reverberation effect on the water), put on a head covering, and wear water shoes or closed-toe shoes (a pair of sneakers will do just fine). In fact, you’ll have to put your feet in the water to get in or out of your boat, and these are pebble beaches, so they’re not very stable, slippery and can cut you up.

The descent

Here you are on the water, sailing at your own pace. In a canoe, the one in the back is in charge. And incidentally also the one who doesn’t drink… too much… Watch out for the distribution of roles! If you’re not moving forward, but going round in circles, it’s probably because the roles need to be reversed… or because you haven’t been paying attention to the recommendations… But don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it in no time! The person in front is often in charge of taking photos and videos, but has to paddle – canoeing is a team sport! If you’re kayaking alone, you’re on your own!

Take a few breaks (sightseeing, picnics, swimming) and let yourself be guided by the rhythm of the Dordogne. Depending on the season and water level, the Dordogne can be more or less easy to navigate. There are no “rapids”, but in summer, when it’s hot, you’ll have to paddle hard to finish your descent and make sure you don’t miss the last shuttle (see below). That said, you don’t need any particular sporting ability to follow one of our canoe routes.

Our “star” descent is the Vallée des Cinq Châteaux from Vitrac to Beynac, during which you’ll admire… five châteaux! But that’s not all! It’s also an opportunity to pass through some beautiful villages (including La Roque GageacOne of France’s most beautiful villages) and admire the natural environment (frogs, dragonflies and damselflies, herons, swans, ducks, etc.). The route also features natural diving boards and pebble beaches for picnic or relaxation breaks. And if you’re curious, there are plenty of unusual things to discover!

The time indicated for our routes corresponds to the average descent time, without stops. Allow around 1h to 1h30 more with picnic, swimming or sightseeing stops.

We have 5 courses:

* Please note that departures upstream from Vitrac (Carsac and Calviac) take place at 10am, as a shuttle will take you to your starting point.

End of the route and return to your car

If your destination is Vitrac, then you’ll drive at your own pace down to Vitrac, where your vehicle is parked.

If you arrive downstream from Vitrac (Beynac or Castelnaud), a shuttle bus will take you back to your vehicle. Our shuttles (50-seater buses) leave Beynac every hour, from 12pm to 6pm (7pm in July and August). And 15 minutes after Beynac, it passes Castelnaud (so 12h15, 13h15…). In Beynac, you can quench your thirst, eat an ice cream or a snack in our guinguette.

Be it Beynac or Castelnaud, the beaches are equipped to receive your canoes, and a team is on hand to help you and collect your equipment. You can only board the shuttle with your container, if you have one. Canoes, vests and paddles were brought up later.

A few minutes after boarding the shuttle, you’ll be dropped off at our base parking lot. All that’s left to do is to free yourself from your container and return to your vehicle. Your day with us is over, unless you’d like to go for a swim on the banks of the Dordogne?

We can make you a promise: you’ll enjoy the Dordogne valley in a whole new way on a canoe. By car, on the winding roads, it’s already superb; on foot, it’s grandiose as you can see many hidden corners, and by canoe, it’s the apotheosis! Castles and villages are revealed bit by bit, at the speed of your canoe.

If you have any questions 05 53 28 23 43 or by e-mail

If you need recommendations HERE

(1) Source