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RHONE (Fr. Rhone, Lat. Rhodanus)

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Originally appearing in Volume V23, Page 272 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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RHONE (Fr. Rhone, Lat. Rhodanus), one of the most important rivers in Europe, and the chief of those which flow directly into the Mediterranean. It rises at the upper or eastern extremity of the Swiss canton of the Valais, flows between the Bernese Alps (N.) and the Lepontine and Pennine Alps (S.) till it expands into the Lake, of Geneva, winds round the southernmost spurs of the Jura range, receives at Lyons its principal tributary, the Saone, and then turns southward through France till, by many mouths, it enters that part of the Mediterranean which is rightly called the Golfe du Lion (sometimes wrongly the Gulf of Lyons). Its total length' from source to sea is 5041 M. (of which the Lake of Geneva claims 45 m.), while its total drainage area in 37,798 sq. m., of which 2772 sq. m. are in Switzerland -(405 sq. in. of the Swiss portion being composed of glaciers), and its total fall 5898 ft. Its course (excluding the Lake of Geneva, q.v.) naturally falls into three divisions: (I) from its source to the Lake of Geneva, (2) from Geneva to Lyons, and (3) from Lyons to the Mediterranean. 1. From its source to the lake the Rhone is a purely Alpine river, flowing through the great trench which it has cut for itself between two of the loftiest Alpine ranges, and which (save a bit at its north-west end) forms the Canton of the Valais. Its length is 1051 m., while its fall is 4679 ft. It issues as a torrent, at the height of 5909 ft., from the great Rhone glacier at the head of the Valais, the recent retreat of this glacier having proved that the river really flows from beneath it, and does not take its rise from the warm springs that are now at some distance from its shrunken snout. It is almost immediately joined on the left by the Mutt torrent, coming from a small glacier to the S.E., and then flows S.W. for a short distance past the well-known Gletsch Hotel (where the roads from the Grimsel and the Furka Passes unite). But about half a mile from the glacier the river turns S.E. and descends through a wild gorge to the more level valley, bending again S.W. before reaching the first village, Oberwald. It preserves this south-westerly direction till Martigny. The uppermost valley of the Rhone is named Goms (Fr. Conches), its chief village being Munster, while Fiesch, lower down, is well known to most Swiss travellers. As the river rolls on, it is swollen by mountain torrents, descending from the glaciers on either side of its bed—so by the Geren (left), near Oberwald, by the Eginen (left), near Ulrichen, by the Fiesch (right), at Fiesch, by the Binna (left), near Grengiols, by the Massa (right), flowing from the great Aletsch glaciers, above Brieg. At Brieg the Rhone has descended 3678 ft. from its source, has flowed 28 m. in the open, and is already a consider-able stream when joined (left)by the Saltine, descending from the Simplon Pass. Its course below Brieg is less rapid than before and lies through the alluvial deposits which it has brought down in the course of ages. The valley is wide and marshy, the river frequently overflowing its banks, Further mountain torrents (of greater volume than those higher up) fall into the Rhone as it rolls along in a south-westerly direction towards Martigny: the Visp (left), coming from the Zermatt valley, falls in at Visp, at Gampel the Lonza (right), from the Ldtschen valley, at Leuk the Dala (right), from the Gemmi Pass, al. Sierre the Navizen (left), from the Einfisch or Anniviers valley, at Sion, the capital of the Valais, the Borgne (left) from the Val d'Herens; soon the Rhone is joined by the Morge (right), flowing from the Sanetsch Pass, and the boundary in the middle ages between Episcopal Valais to the east and Savo-yard Valais to the west, and at Martigny by the Dranse (left) its chief Alpine tributary, from the Great St Bernard and the Val de Bagnes. At Martigny, about 50 M. from Brieg, the river bends sharply to the N.W., and runs in that direction to the Lake of Geneva. It receives the Salanfe (left), which forms the celebrated waterfall of Pissevache, before reaching the ancient town and abbey of St Maurice (91m.). Henceforward the right bank is in the canton of Vaud (conquered from Savoy in 1475) and the left bank in that of the Valais (conquered similarly in 1536), for St Maurice marks the end of the historical Valais. Immediately below that town the Rhone rushes through a great natural gateway, a narrow and striking defile (now strongly fortified), which commands the entrance of the Valais. Beyond, the river enters the wide alluvial plain, formerly occupied by the south-eastern arm of the Lake of Geneva, but now marshy and requiring frequent " correction." It receives at Bex the Avancon (right), flowing from the glaciers of the Diablerets range, at Monthey the Vieze (left), from Champery and the Val d'Illiez, and at Aigle the Grande Eau (right), from the valley of Ormonts-dessus. It passes by the hamlet of Port Valais, once on the shore of the lake, before expanding into the Lake of Geneva, between Villeneuve (right) and St Gingolph (left). During all this portion of its course the Rhone is not navigable, but a railway line runs along it from Brieg in about 72 M. to either Villeneuve or Le Bouveret. 2. On issuing at Geneva from the lake the waters of the Rhone are very limpid and blue, as it has left all its impurities in the great settling vat of the lake, so that Byron might well speak of the "blue rushing of the arrowy Rhone" (Childe Harold, canto iii. stanza 71). 'But about half a mile below Geneva this limpidity is disturbed by the pouring in of the turbid torrent of the Arve (left), descending from the glaciers of the Mont Blanc range, the two currents for some distance refusing to mix. The distance from Geneva to Lyons by the tortuous course of the Rhone is about 124 m., the fall being only about 689 ft. The characteristic feature of this portion of the course of the Rhone is the number of narrow gorges or cluses through which it rushes, while it is forced by the southern spur of the Jura to run in a southerly direction, till, after rounding the base of that spur, it can flow freely westwards to Lyons. About 12 M. S. of Geneva the Rhone enters French territory, and henceforth till near Lyons forms first the eastern, then the southern boundary of the French department of the Ain, dividing it from those of Haute Savoie and Savoie (E.) and that of the Isere (S.). Soon after it becomes French the river rushes furiously through a deep gorge, being imprisoned on the north by the Credo and on the south by the Vuache, while the great fortress of l'Ecluse guards this , entrance into France. The railway pierces the Credo by a tunnel. In the narrowest portion of this gorge, not far from Bellegarde at its lower end, there formerly existed the famous Perte du Rhone (described by Saussure in his Voyages daps les Alpes, chapter xvii.), where for a certain distance the river disappeared in a subterranean channel; but this natural phenomenon has been destroyed, partly by blasting, and partly by the diversion of the water for the use of the factories of Bellegarde. At Bellegarde the Valserine flows in (right), and then the river resumes its southerly direction, from which the great gorge had deflected it for a while. Some way below Bellegarde, between Le Parc and Pyrimont, the Rhone becomes officially " navigable," though as far as Lyons (1906) 858,907. Area, 1104 sq m. Rhone is bounded N. by the navigation now consists all but wholly of the floating of the department of Saone-et-Loire, E. by Ain and Isere and S. and flat-bottomed boats, named rigues, laden chiefly with stone W. by Loire. The Saone and the Rhone form its natural quarried f' om the banks of the river. Above Seyssel (ir m. boundary on the east. The department belongs almost entirely from Bellegarde) the Usses (left) joins the Rhone, while just to the basin of the Rhone, to which it sends its waters by the below that village the Fier (left) flows in from the Lake of Saone and its tributary the Azergues, and by the Gier. The Annecy. Below the junction of the Fier the hills sink on either mountains which cover the surface of the department con-side, the channel of the river widens, and one may say that it stitute the watershed between the Rhone and the Loire, and leaves the mountains for the plains. At Culoz (412 M. by rail from north to south form four successive groups—the Beaujolais from Geneva) the railway from Geneva to Lyons (105 m.) quits Mountains, the highest peak of which is 3320 ft.; the Tarare the Rhone in order to run west by a direct route past Amberieu. group; the Lyonnais Mountains (nearly 3000 ft.); and Mont The Rhone continues to roll on southwards, but no longer (as Pilat, the highest peak of which belongs to the department of no doubt it did in ancient days) enters the Lac du Bourget, of Loire. The lowest point of the department (46o ft. above sea-which it receives the waters through a canal, and then leaves level) is at the egress of the Rhone. The meteorological con it on the east in order to run along the foot of the last spur of ditions vary greatly with the elevation and exposure. Snow the Jura. It flows past Yenne (left) and beneath the picturesque sometimes lies in the mountains from November to April, fortress (formerly a Carthusian monastery) of Pierre Chatel while at Lyons and in the valleys the mean temperature in winter (right) before it attains the foot of the extreme southern spur of is 36° F. and in summer 70°, the annual mean being 53°. The the Jura, at a height of 696 ft., not far from the village of Cordon, average rainfall is somewhat higher than is general over France and just where the .Guiers flows in (left) from the mountains owing to the amount of the precipitation on the hilly region. of the Grande Chartreuse. This is nearly the last of the cluses Good agricultural land is found in the valleys of the Saone through which the river has to make its way. The very last and Rhone, but for the most part the soil is stony and only is at the Pont du Saut or Sault, a little S. of Lagnieu. The river moderately fertile. Wheat, oats, rye and potatoes are ex-now widens, but the neighbouring country is much exposed to tensively cultivated, but their importance is less than that of inundations. It receives (right) its most important tributary the vine, the hills of the Beaujolais on the right bank of the in this part of its course, the Ain, which descends from the Saone producing excellent wines. Fruit trees, such as peaches, French slope of the Jura and is navigable for about 6o m. above apricots, walnuts and chestnuts, grow well, but the wood in its junction with the Rhone. Farther down the Rhone meanders general is little more than copse and brushwood. Good for a time with shifting channels in a bed about 2 M. broad, pasture is found in the valleys of the Azergues and its affluents. but it gathers into a single stream before its junction with the Mines of iron-pyrites and coal and quarries of freestone are Saone, just below Lyons. The Saone (q.v.), which has received worked.. The production of silk fabrics, the chief branch of (left) the Doubs, is the real continuation of the Rhone, both manufacture, that of chemicals and machinery, together with from a geographical and a commercial point of view, and it is most of the other industries of the department, are concentrated by means of canals branching off from the course of the Saone in Lyons (q.v.) and its vicinity. Tarare is a centre for the that the Rhone communicates with the basins of the Loire, manufacture of muslin and embroidery. Oullins has large the Seine, the Rhine and the Moselle. In fact, up to Lyons, railway workshops belonging to the Paris-Lyon-Mediterranee the Rhone (save when it expands into the Lake of Geneva) is railway, and there are important glass works at Givors. Cotton-a huge and very unruly mountain torrent rather than a great spinning and weaving are carried on in several localities. The European river. products of its manufactures, together with wine and brandy, 3. Below Lyons, however, the Rhone becomes one of the form the bulk of the exports of the department; its imports great historical rivers of France. It was up its valley that comprise chiefly the raw material for its industries. It is first Greek, 'then Latin .civilization penetrated from the Medi- served by the Paris-Lyon railway. The Rhone and the Saone terranean to Lyons, as well as in the loth century the Saracen and in the extreme south the canal of Givors are its navigable bandits from their settlement at La Garde Freinet, near the waterways. Lyons the capital is the seat of an archbishop coast of Provence. Then, too, from Lyons downwards, the and of a court of appeal and centre of an educational division Rhone serves as a great medium of commerce by which central (academie). The department is divided amongst the districts France sends its products to the sea. Its length from Lyons of the VII., VIII., XIL, XIII. and XIV. army corps. There to the sea is some 230 m., though its fall is but 530 ft. But are two arrondissements (Lyons and Villefranche) subdivided during this half of its course it can boast of having on its left into 29 cantons and 269 communes. The principal places bank (the right bank is very poor in this respect) such historical besides Lyons are Givors, Tarare and Villefranche, which cities as Vienne, Valence, Avignon, Tarascon and Arles, while receive separate treatment. it receives (left) the Isere, the Drome and the Durance rivers, RHONGEBIRGE, or DIE RHoN, a mountain-chain of central all formed by the union of many streams, and bringing down Germany, running in a north-westerly direction from the the waters that flow from the lofty snowy Dauphine Alps. Bavarian province of Lower Franconia to the Prussian province The Ardeche is the only considerable affluent from the right. of Hesse-Nassau and the grand duchy of Saxe-Weimar, and Near Arles, about 25 M. from the sea, and by rail 1754 M. from divided by the Werra from the Thuringian Forest on the N. Lyons, the river breaks up into its two main branches, the The other sides are bounded by the Fulda on the W. and the Grand Rhone running S.E. and the Petit Rhone S.W.; they Sinn and Frankish Saab on the E. and S. Its length is 50 m., enclose between them the huge delta of the Camargue, which breadth 5-7 m., and its mean elevation 1900 ft. This district is cultivated on the banks of the river only, but elsewhere is is divided into three groups—the southern, the high (Hohe) simply a great alluvial plain, deposited in the course of ages and the nearer (Vordere) Rhon. Of these the southern, a con-by the river, and now composed of scanty pasturages and of tinuation of the Spessart, largely consists of flat conical masses great salt marshes. Between Lyons and the sea, the Rhone and reaches its highest point in the Heiliger Kreuzberg (2966 ft.). divides four departments on its right bank (Rhone, Loire, The Hohe Rhon, beginning immediately to the north-west of Ardeche and Gard) from as many on its left bank (Isere, the latter mountain, is a high plateau of red sandstone, covered Dame, Vaucluse and Bouches du Rhone). with fens and basalt peaks. It is a wild, dreary, inclement Consult in general Ch. Lentheric, Le Rhone—histoire d'un ,fleuve, tract of country, covered with snow for six months in the year 2 vols. (Paris, 1892). (W. A. B. C.) and visited by frequent fogs and storms. It is said of it that
End of Article: RHONE (Fr. Rhone, Lat. Rhodanus)
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