La Vézère: The river route from Vigeois - Pont de Comborn (Estivaux commune)

Distance: 12 km

Difficulty: class 3.

Length: 2 to 3 hrs.

Launch: At the old Vigeois bridge (near the centre of Vigeois) immediately upriver on the right bank, that is to say at the "pré du Père Mathieu" (see the anecdote at the end of this description)

Arrival: At the Pont de Comborn, on the left bank up river from the bridge (route D9E2)

Description of the route.

These are Vézère gorges and the sports area of the Moyenne-Vézère.

Very well known to all French kayakers, this river route is considered to be"the perfect river navigation school", that is to say a difficult level but fairly attainable.

The atmosphere is still very wild: There is no human life for 12 km: Even the presence of the Paris-Toulouse railway line along the left bank does not remind one of civilisation too much.

The countryside, full of deep wooded gorges, where waterfalls cascade over escarpments of granite rocks, and the amazing site of the château at Comborn, makes this one of the most interesting river routes in the West of France.

In high waters (winter and spring), a downriver trip in a raft can be very interesting.

Guide:

- The Vieux Pont de Vigeois, very close to the launching point, dates from the 12th Century. Its 4 arches rest on 3 characteristic oval break-water pillars.

- A hundred metres after the Vieux Pont, bear left to pass under an ancient stone arch. This arch has been renovated and equipped with a footbridge in 2001, which is not easily visible from upriver in a kayak, but from the downstream side of the bridge, it can be seen that it lowers the available height for a boat to pass under.
If the water level is too high (which is exceptional) go across the embankment on the right.
On the "island" that meets the footbridge on the left bank, and near where the embankment ends on the right bank, there is a ruined mill, some ruins can be seen under the overgrown vegetation.

-200 metres after the arch, a high granite rock, black and mossy, descends into the water on the left bank creating a good cross-current, and also some very unusual rips, turbulent and frothing, which are only found in that one place throughout the whole river journey. This turbulent water allows some great steep turns in a kayak.

After 3 km, a zone of calm water precedes the Saut du Moine that is signalled by a little rocky island full of trees. It is possible to pass the right of the island, but the best white water is on the left. The Brezou rejoins the Vézère at this stage on the left bank. At the exit of the Saut du Moine, it is easier to bear to the right to cross a section that is full of rocks.

-200 metres after the Saut du Moine, it is possible to avoid a long stretch of turbulent waters by keeping left. But it is also possible to go and have some fun with it! .

After that, the most notable passages are:

- The Premier mur SNCF railway wall (a rapid water hotspot), about 500 meters after the Saut du Moine.

- the Equerre (falls, plus turns to the left).

- The Second mur SNCF railway wall (Arapid water hotspot, more rocks than the first wall) which precedes quite a long pool (a calm section more than 1m)

- AfterS there is an intermediary pool.

Some hundreds of metres after the S, the Dalle à Dédé, on the left bank, can be dangerous in high waters. It is better to go pass on the right.

- then more beautiful sections follow on until the last run of more than 1.5 km.

Self-bailing canoe - gorges
Self-bailing canoe in the gorges

- it is possible to stop more than 1 kilometre before the bridge at Comborn: on the left bank, a landing site has been built (in 2004) with parking that you have to get on to from the D9E2( take the first road to the left after the Comborn bridge going towards Estivaux).

The last run is only interrupted by one waterfall due to an old flood bank which has nearly completely disappeared. At the exit: Rapid water on the left and a large solid block in the middle right (be careful in high waters). The embankment enables a canal to feed a "moulin banal" that can be seen further down on the right bank before the bridge and the landing place.
This last river section meanders around the Comborn site, above which the remains of the ancient château (dating from the 13th century) are visible. The château is partly restored and houses a reputable restaurant.

Accommodation: Camping at Vigeois (the campsite at Vigeois is however several kilometres away from the town); Gîte accommodation at Vigeois by the side of the ‘pré du Père Mathieu’, at the departure point. See also other accommodation offered at Uzerche.
Further details about accommodation.

History: The launching area for the downriver trip is in Vigeois at "Pré du Père Mathieu". Le Père Mathieu, who passed away just before the year 2000, was one of those nice mischievous characters, whom all the kayakers in France knew about. Mathieu’s little house, by the side of the meadow where the boats leave for the gorges, welcomes travellers, who were sometimes frozen in winter. A good dose of home brewed moonshine, difficult to refuse, soon warmed both heart and soul. Some people profited still more from the hospitality of the solitary old man and his good stories and stayed the night at his house near the cantou (large corrèzien hostel). Many people regret the passing of Father Mathieu.