The Loire River, thelongest river in France with a length of just over 1000 km, drains an area of 117,000 km², 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.
Originating in the north-eastern part of the southern Cévennes highlands, the Loire flows roughly northward through Roanne and Nevers to Orléans and thereafter westward through Tours to the Atlantic at Nantes. Changes in the river's water levels have sometimes resulted in serious flooding, notably in 1856, 1866 and 1911.
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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