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(rōn), department (1990 pop. 1,516,500), E central France, in parts of BeaujolaisBeaujolais
, hilly region, Rhône dept., E central France, W of the Saône between Mâcon and Lyons. It is one of the great wine areas of France, famous for its red wine. Villefranche-sur-Saône, the historic capital, is a leading textile center.
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 and LyonnaisLyonnais
, region and former province, E central France, now divided into the Rhône and Loire depts. It included Lyonnais proper (the region around Lyons, its capital), which Philip IV acquired c.
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. LyonsLyons,
Fr. Lyon , city (1990 pop. 422,444), capital of Rhône dept., E central France, at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers. As an economic center and a densely populated metropolis it is second only to Paris.
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 is the capital.


Lat. Rhodanus, river, 505 mi (813 km) long, rising in the Rhône glacier, NE Valais, Switzerland. It flows west through a narrow, flat valley that separates the Bernese Alps from the Pennine Alps and enters Lake Geneva near Montreux. Leaving the lake at Geneva, it enters E France and is joined by the Saône River at Lyons. Now navigable, it flows S past Valence and Avignon and separates the Massif Central from the French Alps. At Arles, at the head of the Rhône delta, the river separates into the Grand Rhône and the Petit Rhône, which join the Mediterranean Sea W of Marseilles and enclose the island of Camargue. Both branches are silted, and a canal has been built connecting the Rhône with the port of Marseilles. With its impetuous Alpine tributaries (Isère, Drôme, Durance, and others), the Rhône has the largest water flow of all French rivers. There are large hydroelectric power plants near Sion and Geneva (Switzerland); in France, the Génissiat Dam and allied projects are of great economic importance. Almost the entire Rhône valley S of Lyons is covered with excellent vineyards and fruit and vegetable gardens; in the extreme south silkworms are cultivated for the Lyons textile factories, and olives and flowers are important products. The Compagnie National du Rhône sought to develop the Rhône for power production, irrigation and improved navigation; since the late 1970s the area south of Lyons has become navigable for barges of 3,000 to 5,000 tons. The Rhône-Saône valley is a principal north-south communications route in France. An extensive canal system links the Rhône with other river systems. A series of canals linking the Saône (the principal tributary of the Rhône north of Lyons) to the Rhine allows large barges to traverse Europe from the North Sea all the way to the Mediterranean. The Rhône valley is the cradle of Provençal culture.



a department in southeastern France, largely in the eastern spurs of the Massif Central. Area, 2,859 sq km. Population, 1,425,000 (1973). The capital is Lyon.

Rhône is one of the most economically developed departments in France. In 1968 industry and agriculture employed 38 and 5 percent of the economically active population, respectively. Industries include machine building (motor vehicles, river vessels, textile machinery), electrical engineering, and textiles. There is also a chemical industry; of special significance is the production of synthetic fiber at the Rhône-Poulenc plants.

About one-third of Rhône’s total land area is under cultivation, mainly in the lowlands of the Saône and Rhône river valleys. The chief crops are wheat, potatoes, vegetables, grapes, and fruit. Cattle and sheep are pastured in the mountains.



a river in Switzerland and France. It is 812 km long and drains an area of 98,000 sq km. Originating in the Rhône Glacier in the Alps, it flows through Lake Geneva and continues primarily south through the Rhône Valley. It divides into two branches that empty into the Gulf of Lions of the Mediterranean Sea west of Marseille, forming a delta with an area of more than 12,000 sq km. The Rhône’s chief right tributaries are the Ain, the Saône, and the Ardèche, and its main left tributaries are the Isère and the Durance. More than three-quarters of the area drained by the Rhône is mountain country.

In its upper and middle course, the Rhône is fed primarily by meltwaters from firn fields and glaciers. The highwater period is in the summer and the lower water period—when the water is extremely low—is in the winter. The Rhône’s flow is greatly increased after it is joined by the Saône, especially during the winter. Because, however, the Isère, Durance, and other left tributaries that originate in the Alps, when taken together, have a higher flow rate than the right tributaries, which are mostly rainfed, the Rhône preserves the basic characteristics of an alpine regime all the way to its mouth. The river carries more water than any other river in France; the mean flow rate at the mouth is 1,780 cu m per sec.

The Rhône is an important source of hydroelectric power and plays a major role in transportation and irrigation. The Rhône basin accounts for some 70 percent of French hydroelectric-power output. As of 1974 there were 11 hydroelectric power plants in operation on the river, including Génissiat, with a capacity of 390 MW, and André Blondel, with a capacity of 300 MW. A number of large hydroelectric power plants have been built on the Isère, Durance, and other tributaries.

The Rhône is navigable below the mouth of the Ain. It is connected via the Saône and numerous canals with the Rhine, the Moselle, the Meuse, the Seine, and the Loire. To bypass the delta with its sand bars, a navigation canal has been built from the city of Arles to Port-de-Bouc and on through the Etang de Berre and the Rove Tunnel to Marseille. The waters of the Rhône are used extensively to supply water to the Côte d’Azur and to provide irrigation. The cities of Geneva (Switzerland), Lyon, Valence, Avignon, and Aries (France) are on the river.