The Dranse at Thonon is made up of the Dranse of Morzine and the Dranse of Abondance which come together to form one river which feeds Lac Leman (Lake Geneva). When you are in Morzine the river that runs through the village is half of the river that you will be on if you choose to raft on the Dranse.
The river is spectacular as it runs through a deep gorge made up of rock formations which are quite unusual from a geological point of view. Over millions of years rocks from all around the region have been pushed together to form pinnacles and overhangs: you have the impression that huge boulders could roll into the gorge at any second and you’ll pass others (or perhaps jump off others) that have already!
The flow is controlled by a dam into which the Dranse of Morzine runs – keep your eyes open as you drive down to us, the dam is on the left just after the La Baume Camping. EDF, the French electricity company, is responsible for the release of water to produce hydroelectricity. The minimum we need to raft is 12 cubic metres per second. At the start of the season the dam releases all day (thanks to April showers and snow melt), towards the end of the season the dam may only open for a couple of hours per day.
The Dranse is very versatile and we can do Classic trips which go through a grade iii rapid (La Pile) or a Pro trip for over 16s which does La Pisette, a grade iv rapid.
The Giffre River
The Giffre in Samoens is a river whose flow is entirely natural – at the start of the summer it’s larger thanks to the snow melt, and towards the end of summer it diminishes unless there’s rain to replenish it.
We start rafting at Sixt fer Cheval and raft all the way down to Samoens or even Verchaix, about 6-8kms on the river. The highlight for adrenaline junkies is the entrance to the Gorge of Tines: you go through a gravel quarry and then drop 2 metres into a very narrow gorge (at its narrowest point the gorge is only slightly wider than the boat…!). Children often get out the boat for this drop and can watch mum and dad complete it, then get back in at the end.
This is certainly not the only highlight on the Giffre however: there are plenty of waves to surf on the way down and various swims and jumps to do which everybody can take part in. Also, given the geography of the Samoens valley, we get some incredible views of both the mountains and the valley floor.
Samoens is a beautiful village and well worth a visit and we recommend driving across the Col de Joux Plane on a clear day, be sure and look out for the Mont Blanc!