The Seine in Paris
Topographic map of the Seine basin
Native namela Seine (French)
Physical characteristics
 • locationSource-Seine
MouthEnglish Channel (French: la Manche)
 • location
Le Havre/Honfleur
 • coordinates
49°26′02″N 0°12′24″E / 49.43389°N 0.20667°E / 49.43389; 0.20667
 • elevation
0 m (0 ft)
Length777 km (483 mi)
Basin size79,000 km2 (31,000 sq mi)
 • locationLe Havre
 • average560 m3/s (20,000 cu ft/s)
Basin features
River systemSeine basin
 • leftYonne, Loing, Eure, Risle
 • rightOurce, Aube, Marne, Oise, Epte

The Seine (/sn, sɛn/ sayn, sen,[1] French: [sɛn] ) is a 777-kilometre-long (483 mi) river in northern France.[2] Its drainage basin is in the Paris Basin (a geological relative lowland) covering most of northern France. It rises at Source-Seine, 30 kilometres (19 mi) northwest of Dijon in northeastern France in the Langres plateau, flowing through Paris and into the English Channel at Le Havre (and Honfleur on the left bank).[3] It is navigable by ocean-going vessels as far as Rouen, 120 kilometres (75 mi) from the sea. Over 60 percent of its length, as far as Burgundy, is negotiable by large barges and most tour boats, and nearly its whole length is available for recreational boating; excursion boats offer sightseeing tours of the river banks in the capital city, Paris.[4]

View over the Seine in Paris, Pont des Invalides in the foreground, Eiffel tower in the background

There are 37 bridges in Paris across the Seine (the most famous of which are the Pont Alexandre III and the Pont Neuf) and dozens more outside the city. A notable bridge, which is also the last along the course of the river, is the Pont de Normandie, the ninth longest cable-stayed bridge in the world, which links Le Havre and Honfleur.

River sources

The source of the Seine

The Seine rises in the commune of Source-Seine, about 30 kilometres (19 mi) northwest of Dijon. The source has been owned by the city of Paris since 1864. A number of closely associated small ditches or depressions provide the source waters, with an artificial grotto laid out to highlight and contain a deemed main source. The grotto includes a statue of a nymph, a dog, and a dragon. On the same site are the buried remains of a Gallo-Roman temple. Small statues of the dea Sequana "Seine goddess" and other ex-votos found at the same place are now exhibited in the Dijon archaeological museum.[citation needed]


The Seine can artificially be divided into five parts:

Below Rouen, the river passes through the Parc Naturel Régional des Boucles de la Seine Normande, a French regional nature park.


The Seine is dredged and ocean-going vessels can dock at Rouen, 120 kilometres (75 mi) from the sea. Commercial craft (barges and push-tows) can use the river beginning at Marcilly-sur-Seine, 516 kilometres (321 mi) to its mouth.[5]

At Paris, there are 37 bridges. The river is only 24 metres (79 ft) above sea level 446 kilometres (277 mi) from its mouth, making it slow flowing and thus easily navigable.[citation needed]

The Seine Maritime, 123 kilometres (76 mi) from the English Channel at Le Havre to Rouen, is the only portion of the Seine used by ocean-going craft.[6] The tidal section of the Seine Maritime is followed by a canalized section (Basse Seine) with four large multiple locks until the mouth of the Oise at Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (170 km [110 mi]). Smaller locks at Bougival and at Suresnes lift the vessels to the level of the river in Paris, where the junction with the Canal Saint-Martin is located. The distance from the mouth of the Oise is 72 km (45 mi).[7]

The Haute Seine, from Paris to Montereau-Fault-Yonne, is 98 km (61 mi) long and has 8 locks.[8] At Charenton-le-Pont is the mouth of the Marne. Upstream from Paris seven locks ensure navigation to Saint Mammès, where the Loing mouth is situated. Through an eighth lock the river Yonne is reached at Montereau-Fault-Yonne. From the mouth of the Yonne, larger ships can continue upstream to Nogent-sur-Seine (48 km [30 mi], 7 locks).[9] From there on, the river is navigable only by small craft to Marcilly-sur-Seine (19 km [12 mi], 4 locks).[10] At Marcilly-sur-Seine the 19th century Canal de la Haute-Seine used to allow vessels to continue all the way to Troyes. This canal has been abandoned since 1957.[11]

The average depth of the Seine today at Paris is about 9.5 metres (31 ft). Until locks were installed to raise the level in the 1800s, the river was much shallower within the city, and consisted of a small channel of continuous flow bordered by sandy banks (depicted in many illustrations of the period). Today the depth is tightly controlled and the entire width of the river between the built-up banks on either side is normally filled with water. The average flow of the river is very low, only a few cubic metres per second, but much higher flows are possible during periods of heavy runoff.

Dams and flood control

Four large storage reservoirs have been built since 1950 on the Seine as well as its tributaries Yonne, Marne, and Aube. These help in maintaining a constant level for the river through the city, but cannot prevent significant increases in river level during periods of extreme runoff. The dams are Lac d’Orient, Lac des Settons, Lake Der-Chantecoq, and Auzon-Temple and Amance, respectively.[12]


A very severe period of high water in January 1910 resulted in extensive flooding throughout the city of Paris. The Seine again rose to threatening levels in 1924, 1955, 1982, 1999–2000, June 2016, and January 2018.[13][14] After a first-level flood alert in 2003, about 100,000 works of art were moved out of Paris, the largest relocation of art since World War II. Much of the art in Paris is kept in underground storage rooms that would have been flooded.[15]

A 2002 report by the French government stated the worst-case Seine flood scenario would cost 10 billion euros and cut telephone service for a million Parisians, leaving 200,000 without electricity and 100,000 without gas.[16]

2018 Paris flood

In January 2018 the Seine again flooded, reaching a flood level of 5.84 metres (19 ft 2 in) on 29 January.[17] An official warning was issued on 24 January that heavy rainfall was likely to cause the river to flood.[18] By 27 January, the river was rising.[19] The Deputy Mayor of Paris Colombe Brossel warned that the heavy rain was caused by climate change. He added that "We have to understand that climatic change is not a word, it's a reality."[20]


The basin area, including a part of Belgium, is 78,910 square kilometres (30,470 sq mi),[21] 2 percent of which is forest and 78 percent cultivated land. In addition to Paris, three other cities with a population over 100,000 are in the Seine watershed: Le Havre at the estuary, Rouen in the Seine valley and Reims at the northern limit—with an annual urban growth rate of 0.2 percent.[21] The population density is 201 per square kilometer.


Tributaries of the Seine are, from source to mouth:[2]

Water quality

Due to concentrated levels of industry, agriculture and urban populations of Paris and its surroundings, the Seine-Normandy watershed experiences the highest human impacts of any hydrographic basin in France. Compared to most other large European rivers, the ability of the Seine to dilute urban sewage and farmland runoff is very low. Low oxygen levels, high concentrations of ammonia, nitrites and faecal bacteria, extending from Paris to the estuary, have been issues for over a century. The advent of nitrogenous fertilizers in the 1960s marked an upturn in agricultural pollution due to land use changes that had previously scaled with population growth. Heavy industries near Paris and along the Oise River discharged virtually untreated wastewaters from the turn of the 19th century, causing concentrations of toxins in the river that were ignored until the late 1980s. Major French laws to address water quality were passed in 1898, 1964, 1996, and 2006.[22]

At the beginning of the 20th century, most domestic sewage was used as fertilizer for nearby croplands. As populations grew, the agricultural capacity to absorb those wastewaters was exceeded. Large-scale construction of waste water treatment plants (WWTPs) began in 1940 to meet demand; however, by 1970, about 60% of urban sewage was allowed to flow into the river untreated. The resulting oxygen depletion reduced the number of fish species to three. Measures taken in the early 2000s due to the Water Framework Directive led to significant reductions of organic carbon, phosphorus and ammonium, which in turn decreased the occurrence and severity of phytoplankton blooms. Continued WWTP construction and new treatment methods improved environmental conditions.[23] In 2009, it was announced that Atlantic salmon had returned to the Seine.[24] By the early 2020s, the number of fish species near Paris had rebounded to 32.[23]

Periodically the sewage systems of Paris experience a failure known as sanitary sewer overflow, often in periods of high rainfall. Under these conditions, untreated residential and industrial sewage is discharged into the Seine to prevent backflow. This is due in large part to Paris' "single system" drainage scheme dating from the 19th century, which combines street runoff and sewage.[25][26] The resulting oxygen deficit is principally caused by allochthonous bacteria larger than one micrometre in size. The specific activity of these sewage bacteria is typically three to four times greater than that of the autochthonous (background) bacterial population. Heavy metal concentrations in the Seine are relatively high.[27] The pH level of the Seine at Pont Neuf has been measured to be 8.46. Despite this, the water quality has improved significantly over what several historians at various times in the past called an "open sewer".[28]

In 2018, a €1.4 billion ($1.55 billion) cleanup programme called the "Swimming Plan" was launched with the aim of making the river safe to use for the 2024 Summer Olympics. The project includes constructing a basin to store rainwater, which would then be slowly released into the sewer system, preventing overflow. Plans also call for several public swimming areas to be made available by 2025, ending a 102-year ban instituted in 1923 due to the polluted water.[29] Efforts have been successful, with the fish population surging from just 2 species to over 30.[30] However, E. coli levels are still far higher than what is safe to swim in, though this could depend on the season.[31][30]


The gigantic Cratère de Vix - at 1.64 meters high, the largest bronze vessel of all antiquity, circa 500 BC
The Seine in Paris during the World Expo in 1937
The Seine and Eiffel Tower

The name Seine comes from Gaullish Sēquana, from the Celtic Gallo-Roman goddess of the river, as offerings for her were found at the source. Sometimes it is associated with Latin; the Latin word seems to derive from the same root as Latin sequor (I follow) and English sequence, namely Proto-Indo-European *seikw-, signifying 'to flow' or 'to pour forth'.[32]

On 28 or 29 March 845, an army of Vikings led by a chieftain named Reginherus, which is possibly another name for Ragnar Lothbrok, sailed up the River Seine with siege towers and sacked Paris.

On 25 November 885, another Viking expedition led by Rollo was sent up the River Seine to attack Paris again.

In March 1314, King Philip IV of France had Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, burned on a scaffold on an island in the River Seine in front of Notre Dame de Paris.[33]

After the burning at the stake of Joan of Arc in 1431, her ashes were thrown into the Seine from the medieval stone Mathilde Bridge at Rouen, though unserious counter-claims persist.[34]

Plaque commemorating Robert Fulton's first successful trial of the steamboat in the Seine

On 9 August 1803 Robert Fulton, American painter and marine engineer, made his first successful test of his steamboat in the Seine beside the Tuileries Garden. Having a length of sixty-six feet and an eight-foot beam Fulton's steamboat attained speeds of three to four miles per hour against the Seine's current.[35]

1900 Summer Olympics

At the 1900 Summer Olympics, the river hosted the rowing, swimming, and water polo events.[36] Twenty-four years later, it hosted the rowing events again at Bassin d'Argenteuil, along the Seine north of Paris.[37]

Operation Overlord

The Seine was one of the original objectives of Operation Overlord in 1944. The Allies' intention was to reach the Seine by 90 days after D-Day. That objective was met. An anticipated assault crossing of the river never materialized as German resistance in France crumbled by early September 1944. However, the First Canadian Army did encounter resistance immediately west of the Seine and fighting occurred in the Forêt de la Londe as Allied troops attempted to cut off the escape across the river of parts of the German 7th Army in the closing phases of the Battle of Normandy.

Some of the Algerian victims of the Paris massacre of 1961 drowned in the Seine after being thrown by French policemen from the Pont Saint-Michel and other locations in Paris.


Dredging in the 1960s mostly eliminated tidal bores on the lower river, known in French as "le mascaret."

World Heritage Sites

In 1991, UNESCO added the banks of the Seine in Paris—the Rive Gauche and Rive Droite—to its list of World Heritage Sites in Europe.[38]

In 2007 55 bodies were retrieved from its waters; in February 2008, the body of supermodel-turned-activist Katoucha Niane was found there.[39]

2024 Summer Olympics

In 2024, the River is set to be host to a boat parade with boats for each national delegation during the opening ceremony of the 2024 Summer Olympics.[40]

In art

During the 19th and the 20th centuries in particular the Seine inspired many artists, including:

A song 'La Seine' by Flavien Monod and Guy Lafarge was written in 1948.

Josephine Baker recorded a song 'La Seine'[41]

A song 'La seine' by Vanessa Paradis feat. Matthieu Chedid was originally written as a soundtrack for the movie 'A Monster in Paris'

See also


  1. ^ "Sein". Oxford Dictionaries UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press.[dead link]
  2. ^ a b Sandre. "Fiche cours d'eau - La Seine (----0010)".
  3. ^ A hand book up the Seine. G.F. Cruchley, 81, Fleet Street, 1840. 1840.
  4. ^ "River in Paris". Paris Digest. 2018. Archived from the original on 27 September 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  5. ^ Edwards-May, David (2010). Inland Waterways of France. St Ives, Cambs., UK: Imray. pp. 90–94. ISBN 978-1-846230-14-1.
  6. ^ Fluviacarte Archived 25 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Seine maritime
  7. ^ Fluviacarte Archived 25 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Basse Seine
  8. ^ Fluviacarte Archived 25 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Haute Seine
  9. ^ Fluviacarte Archived 25 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Petite Seine (aval)
  10. ^ Fluviacarte Archived 25 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Petite Seine (amont)
  11. ^ "La construction du canal de la Haute-Seine" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 September 2018. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  12. ^ "LC". Archived from the original on 15 October 2019. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  13. ^ Seine river Basin Archived 8 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine, United Nations Environment Programme Department of Early Warning and Assessment (accessed 5 June 2007).
  14. ^ Willsher, Kim (24 January 2018). "Paris on flooding alert as rising Seine causes travel disruption". The Guardian.
  15. ^ Riding, Alan (19 February 2003). "Fearing a Big Flood, Paris Moves Art". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Mulholland, Rory (25 January 2002). "Paris flood warning". BBC News.
  17. ^ Garriga, Nicolas; Schaeffer, Jeffrey (29 January 2018). "France sees worst rains in 50 years, floods peak in Paris". Deseret News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 30 January 2018.
  18. ^ Willsher, Kim (24 January 2018). "Paris on flooding alert as rising Seine causes travel disruption". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 24 January 2018. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  19. ^ Held, Amy (27 January 2018). "Déjà Vu Flooding in Paris As Officials Say Seine Will Crest Soon". The Two-Way. National Public Radio. Archived from the original on 28 January 2018.
  20. ^ Vandoorne, Saskya; Said-Moorhouse, Lauren (26 January 2018). "Paris is still on flood alert even though the rain has stopped". CNN. Archived from the original on 23 February 2018.
  21. ^ a b "World Resources Institute". 22 February 1999. Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
  22. ^ Flipo, Nicolas; Lestel, Laurence; Labadie, Pierre; Meybeck, Michel; Garnier, Josette (2020). "Trajectories of the Seine River Basin". The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry. Cham: Springer International Publishing. pp. 1–28. doi:10.1007/698_2019_437. ISBN 978-3-030-54259-7. ISSN 1867-979X.
  23. ^ a b Garnier, J.; Marescaux, A.; Guillon, S.; Vilmin, L.; Rocher, V.; Billen, G.; Thieu, V.; Silvestre, M.; Passy, P.; Raimonet, M.; Groleau, A.; Théry, S.; Tallec, G.; Flipo, N. (2020). "Ecological Functioning of the Seine River: From Long-Term Modelling Approaches to High-Frequency Data Analysis". The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry. Cham: Springer International Publishing. pp. 189–216. doi:10.1007/698_2019_379. ISBN 978-3-030-54259-7. ISSN 1867-979X.
  24. ^ "Radio France Internationale – Atlantic salmon return to river Seine". Archived from the original on 17 February 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
  25. ^ Martin Seidl, The fate of organic matter in river Seine after a combined sewer overflow, ENPC – University Paris Val de Marne Paris XII (France), 1997, 181 pp.
  26. ^ Schofield, Hugh (25 July 2023). "Paris to bring back swimming in Seine after 100 years". BBC News. Archived from the original on 27 July 2023. Retrieved 27 July 2023.
  27. ^ J.F.Chiffoleau. 2007. Metal contamination. the Seine-Aval scientific programme. Quae. 40 pages
  28. ^ Hogan, C. Michael (2006). Water quality of fresh water bodies in France. Aberdeen: Luminna Press.
  29. ^ Guy, Jack; Mawad, Dalal; Briscoe, Oliver (26 July 2023). "Paris to bring back swimming in River Seine after 100 years". CNN. Archived from the original on 27 July 2023. Retrieved 27 July 2023.
  30. ^ a b Guy, Jack; Mawad, Dalal; Briscoe, Oliver (26 July 2023). "Paris to bring back swimming in River Seine after 100 years". CNN. Retrieved 18 April 2024.
  31. ^ Hartley, Noemie Bisserbe and Eve. "Herculean Feat in Paris Olympics: Make the Seine Safe to Swim". WSJ. Retrieved 18 April 2024.
  32. ^ Julius Pokorny, Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (Francke, 1959), word 1664 Archived 6 August 2020 at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages Vol. III by Henry Charles Lea, NY: Hamper & Bros, Franklin Sq. 1888, p. 325. Not in copyright.
  34. ^ In February 2006 a team of forensic scientists announced the beginning of a six-month study to assess relics from a museum at Chinon reputed to be the remains of Jeanne d'Arc. In 2007, the investigators reported their conclusion that the relics from Chinon came from an Egyptian mummy and a cat, see Butler, Declan (2007). "Joan of Arc's relics exposed as forgery". Nature. 446 (7136): 593. Bibcode:2007Natur.446..593B. doi:10.1038/446593a. PMID 17410145.
  35. ^ Dickinson, Henry Winram (1913). Robert Fulton, Engineer and Artist: His Life and Works. London: John Lane Company. pp. 157–158.
  36. ^ 1900 Summer Olympics official report. Archived 28 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine pp. 17–18. (in French)
  37. ^ 1924 Olympics official report. Archived 10 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine pp. 165–6.
  38. ^ Paris, Banks of the Seine Archived 21 March 2018 at the Wayback Machine, the World Heritage Site entry from the UNESCO website
  39. ^ Supermodel Katoucha Niane found dead Archived 29 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine from The Daily Telegraph
  40. ^ "Paris 2024 presents an opening ceremony like no other". Paris 2024. Retrieved 6 August 2022.
  41. ^ Avenger88 (26 January 2013). "La Seine". Archived from the original on 6 May 2018. Retrieved 6 May 2018 – via YouTube.