White water in the Pays des Écrins
With one of the area's largest water reserves, the Écrins massif provides water for many rivers and canyons across the Hautes-Alpes.
This is why the Pays des Écrins is a hot spot for white water sports in France, attracting athletes from all over Europe each year.
Several rivers flow through our beautiful territory: the Durance, the Gyr, the Onde, the Gyronde, the Byaisse and the Fournel.
The Pays des Écrins has one of France’s main training centres with its white-water stadium on the Durance River in l’Argentière-la-Bessée.
Navigate in an unspoilt environment, abseil down waterfalls, face some of the best rapids in the Écrins, now you just need to take the plunge. Emotions and thrills guaranteed.
When to try it?
Swollen by the melting snow, the flow of the rivers is considerably higher in spring. It is the dream season for experienced kayakers, but also the ideal time for athletic white-water descents.
Canyons are also accessible depending on water levels.
This is the ideal period for all white-water sports. Indeed, the lower the flow, the easier it is to navigate the river. It is the ideal time to try the joys of rafting and canyoning with the family, or to test individual activities such as inflatable canoe-kayak or white-water swimming.
Due to its glacial origin, one exception is the Gyr whose flow increases throughout the day as the altitude glaciers melt.
With the exception of a few rivers, navigation remains possible until the cold sets in (late October).
The Durance River aside, the area’s rivers are not navigable due to the low flow and the cold water.
Out of respect for anglers, we advise navigating between 9 am and 6 pm.
Follow the guide!
For canyoning, rafting, kayaking or white-water swimming, don’t try it alone! These activities require specific techniques, suitable equipment and a good knowledge of the terrain. Enlist the help of a qualified instructor that can ensure your safety. Whether you are a beginner or more advanced, they will provide all useful advice so that you can safely pursue the activities along the rivers. They will introduce you to the joys of white water in a unique unspoilt natural environment.
Guides, all fully qualified!
A guide is the best person to accompany you during your white-water activities and will help you explore a magical and surprising, aquatic environment. After a few safety instructions, and with well-suited equipment, he will lead you along the meanders of the clear waters.
For more regular supervision, the Écrins canoe-kayak club is the best way to take part in these activities. You will gain a lot of useful advice from the more experiences members.
The diversity of the rivers in the Pays des Écrins means many varied white-water activities are possible. The many different levels, activities and routes mean there is something for all water-sports enthusiasts from total beginners to the more experienced.
With the family:
Rafting and canyoning are the most popular activities among families.
From age 5 for rafting, and age 12 for canyoning, there is no doubt that your children will love taking part in these activities and building lasting family memories with you.
With regard to individual activities, canoe-kayak rafting and white-water swimming are also possible as a family activity and the route will be suited to the age of the children.
Multi-activity and more athletic routes, the Pays des Écrins is one of France’s top spots for white water sports. The area has many exceptional sites that you will discover during your introductory or improvement courses.
For the hot summer days, white-water instructors can organise trips where you can try fun, refreshing activities.
It’s heaven for experienced kayakers. Make the most of it!
Equipment and safety
- For all of these activities you will be wearing a life jacket that meets safety standards.
- Wet suits will also be provided.
- Make sure you have a pair of trainers or walking shoes as well as your swimwear.
- You will be asked to sign a form certifying that you can swim 25 m and go under water.
- Weather conditions, water conditions and the level of participants will be taken into consideration when organising these activities.
All safety instructions will be detailed during a specific briefing before heading off on your aquatic adventures.