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“The Seudre region and the south of Oleron Island, on both sides of the Maumusson Strait, are among the birthplaces of ostreiculture, or oyster cultivation. No other maritime landscape is more strange. At low tide, one can see far away in the open sea mud banks with thousands of stakes: these are the oyster parks. The lower lands, semi-aquatic, divided into a multitude of small gleaming compartments by a close network of dikes, resemble rice fields from the distant Far East: these are the ‘claires’ where the precious molluscs are turning green. Emerging near the Maumusson Strait, where flooding and ebb tide currents furiously sweep and rumble at big tides and storms, the Seudre, ample and assuaged, sends out its luxuriant waters.”

It was with these words that geographer Louis Papy described the Seudre area in his 1937 book “Aunis and Saintonge,” published by Arthaud, then issued in a revised edition in 1961.


Photographie aérienne de la Seudre et du chenal du  Liman (rive gauche) avec le damier des claires (Association Seudre et mer, Mornac)


The Seudre, whose name comes from the word “ser” (river), more than an estuary, is a shallow, well-shaded arm of the sea whose navigability in ancient times attracted the attention of Greek and Roman sailors.

At least since the seventh century, the salinity of its waters has enabled a combination of salt extraction and extensive pisciculture, or fish farming; since 1228, ponds for cuttlefish were built in the ancient banks of the Seudre, supplying the local monks with both food and ink.

The Seudre is a small 61km-long, coastal river travelling southeast to northwest whose source lies in the Saintonge, near Saint-Genis de Saintonge. The river very gently sweeps (1% on average) parallel to the Gironde Estuary to finally empty out into the Atlantic Ocean opposite the southeast shore of Oleron Island.
Its continental portion (41 km of fresh waters) ends at the sluice gates of Port Riberon's locks at Saujon.

Its maritime section spans some 20km in an 8,000-hectare area made up of coastal swamps and bogs, all fed with salty waters by a dense network of many small channels which once formed ancient salterns. Today almost all these saltworks have been converted into “claires,” as ostreiculture is currently the most important activity by far in this area, and even serves as a mark of quality with the label “Huitres de Marennes-Oleron” (Oysters of Marennes-Oleron).

Logo des huîtres de Marennes-Oléron

For maps of the area, visit this excellent website: http://www.fnh.org/naturoscope/Flore/marais/charente_seudre/charente_seudre.htm



Bassin versant de la Seudre: les marais de la Seudre s'étendent depuis Saujon jusqu'à l'embouchure, face à l'île d'Oléron.

Embouchure de la Seudre.






Aerial photo of the Souhe swamps, upstream of Saujon, bordered to the south-southwest by the River Seudre, and bordered to the north by the Pelard Channel, which bounds the Nieulle Swamp. The chalky limestone spur of the village is quite visible in the centre, encircled by a halo of drained swamps and a geographical checkerboard of ancient salterns, which are themselves bordered on the Seudre side by a mosaic of “claires” and fish ponds.