Vendee Information     Vendee History     Accommodation,     Photos,     Reviews,    Maps, 

The River Lay

Sud Vendee.. Haut Bocage.. Coastal Region.. Marais Poitevin.. Marais Breton.. Bas Bocage.. Plaine.. Marais Olonne..

The River Lay is the longest and largest of all the rivers in the Vendée, with its source at Saint-Pierre-du-Chemin at a height of 195 meters above sea level . It flows generally southwest for 120.3 kilomtres into the Bay of Biscay between La Faute-sur-Mer and L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer. It is joined by the petit Lay just west of Chantonnay and the River Smagne at Dissais before passing through Mareuil-sur-lay and the wine producing region. It is then joined by the river Yon before finally crossing the northern limits of the Marais Poitevin.
Historically the River Lay has been very important both for the draining of the marshlands of the Marais Poitevin and for commerce. Besides the ports of l'Aiguillon and la Faute there were in Roman and medieval times, smaller ports at Angle where the fortress of Moricq defended the river from attacks and at St.Benoist and Curzon which also had fortifications. The river and its tributaries also provided power by way of the many watermills which were mainly for the grinding of cereals.
Today the river's most important commercial functions are;

1. The draining of the northern fringes of the Marais Poitevin though most of the marshlands are connected to the vast network of canals which not only drain but control the water levels of the whole area.

2. Irrigation. Above the tidal reaches of the river water is taken for the irrigation of crops.

3. Drinking water. There are several reservoirs both on the river Lay and its tributaries the Yon and Marillet. They not only provide town water but are great recreational areas. The Reservoirs are at La Rochereau just north of Chantonnay, la Moulin Neuf, just south of Chantonnay, both on the River Lay. There are further reservoirs on the River Yon at Moulin Papon on the outskirts of La Roche-sur-Yon and finally on the river Marillet at Chateau Guibert a few kilometers north of Mareuil-sur-Lay.

4. Fishing. The sheltered mouth of the river provides a natural harbour for the commercial fishing boats. From both L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer and La Faute-sur-Mer. The fishing boats land their catches of locally caught fish for these are not ports for deep sea fishing, it is also where sea anglers can catch a boat and take a days fishing offshore.
The main commercial fishing however is in the cultivation and harvesting of Mussels and to a lesser extent Oysters. It is claimed that one third of all the Mussels harvested in France comes from the Anse de l'Aiguillon with the port of L'Aiguillon taking the lions share.

Apart from the commercial importance the River Lay acts as a long and beautiful recreational playground offering a variety of activities to many people. From walks and picnic areas, inspiration to painters and photographers, fishing on lake, the river and its tidal waters and water sports such as canoeing and sailing. In every aspect this is a very important asset to the Vendée.

The River Yon. The largest of the tributaries that feed the River Lay rises a few kilometres east of la Ferriere. It then travels north around the village before heading south through Dompierre-sur-Yon before forming the reservoir of Moulin Papon north of La Roche-sur-Yon. Meanders its way through La Roche-sur-Yon the river forms a green corridor of walks and parks, which are oases of peace and tranquiity. The Yon then flows south passing such attractions as the Moulin de Rambourg and the Maison des Libellules at Chaille-sous-les Ormeaux before it starts its decent through the steep sided valley below La Tablier where large rounded boulders are strewn as if a giant had been playing marbles. There are also the ruins of watermills which are also a reminder that the river produced the power to drive industry here in centuries past. Standing above the old mills is the Guinguette de Piquet  a restaurant where musical festivals take place during the summer months. From here the river skirts the Village of Rosnay famed as the centre of the Vendée's most productive wine growing region before joining the River Lay.

Le Petit Lay. Had it not been for intervention by politicians from Fontenay-le-Comte the Department would have been called the Deux Lays and not the Vendée when it was created during the Revolution.
The Petit lay rises to the north east of Les Herbiers, close to the Puy du Fou, it then flows south west as it collects the drainage waters of the Haut Bocacge via its many tributaries. It passes below the hilltop village of Mouchamps and enters the Bas Bocage on its way through St.Cecile as it meanders around St.Hilaire-le-Vouhis before joining Le Grand Lay south of the Moulin Neuf Reservoir at a point called L'Assemblee des Deux Lay.

La Smagne. This Tributary rises near Bourseguin north of Fontenay le Comte and flows west  by way of St.Cyr-des Gats to Thire were it is incorporated into the magnificent gardens of William Cristy at Le Batiment. At St.Hermine it formed part of the defences of the Château du St.Hermine, before meandering around the northern edge of the Plaine and being incorporated into the gardens at the Loges du Chaligny. It then bypassing the Chateau du Bessay before joining the river Lay at Diss near Mareuil-sur-Lay.

Photos of the River Lay and its tributaries.

Return to find more Rivers of the Vendée

Home | Contact us  |  Advertise | Accomodation | Legal |
In accordance with the law "and Freedoms" of January 6, 1978, you have the right to access and rectify information concerning you. If you wish to exercise this right, please contact us.
© Copyright 2009-11
River Lay at Mareuil-sur-Lay.
River Lay at Port de Claye
River Lay at l'Aiguillon-sur-Mer.
Photos of the River Lay
Riviere Lay a la Bretonnier-la-Claye
Riviere Lay