The Loire River, the longest river in France with a length of just over 1000 km, drains an area of 117,000 kmĀ², more than a fifth of France. The central part of the Loire Valley was added on the World Heritage Sites list by the UNESCO On 2 December 2000.

Unlike most other rivers in western Europe, there are very few dams or locks creating obstacles to its natural flow (the Villerest dam, built in 1985 a few kilometers south of Roanne, has played a key-role in preventing recent flooding). As a result, the Loire is a very popular river for boating excursions, flowing through a pastoral countryside, past limestone cliffs and storybook castles.

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