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The Saône, a living environment (English)

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• A bustling economy
Truly an artery linking Trévoux to Lyons, the Saône kept the town’s heart beating. The dynamism of the “trėvoltien” economy is a striking feature throughout the town’s history. It is expressed through the fame of its dictionary and print works in the 18th century and through first-class expertise in precious metals, illustrated in goldsmithing and gold and silver mining in particular. These prestigious professions were complemented by the minor river-based trades. The professional fishermen of the Saône competed with the Dombes region for feeding the city of Lyons, while professional laundries were established on the riverbanks until the early 20th century. Ferrymen, river hauliers, bridge operators or carters provided the transportation that was so vital to the town’s development. As for the animals grazing on the river’s fertile plains, these were often tended by young children : numerous quarrels would break out with the hauliers leading the towing horses, due to collisions with straying animals.

 • Prolonged, slow floods
Living on the banks of the Saône means enjoying the river’s numerous riches, but it also means learning to live with floods. While the annual, lower density flooding encourages biodiversity and enriches the soil, one-of-a-kind floods cause damage that takes hold in river residents’ memories. The most famous of them all, the one of 1840, today provides the benchmark for the highest waters recognised for urban regulations.
The report drawn up by Pierre Casimir Ordinaire in 1840 supplies us with some testimonies
“The lower part of Trévoux was entirely flooded ; most of the houses on the quay were unable to withstand the waters’ action. From 2 to 3 November, at every moment we heard the horrendous creaking of a home collapsing ; 21 were destroyed. Trévoux residents speak with admiration of sieur Forest, bridge operator. The majority of inhabitants of the Chamalan plain and the village of Les Varennes, where 45 houses fell, owe their salvation to him. Barely thinking to take some food, braving the rain and the danger, steering large boats, he remained two days and one night without changing his clothes, and only returned after having secured the safety of people and all the livestock. ”

• Saône pleasures
In its role as a boundary, the Saône was the scene of both institutional and folk festivities. Every summer, to affirm their sovereign’s rights over the river, inhabitants and their representatives, armed with swords and muskets, would make their way to the rock of Saint-Symphorien, no longer there today, in order to symbolically take possession of half of the Saône. These “Saône sieges”, followed by several days of jubilation in the town, seem to have come to an end some time after the inclusion of the Dombes region in the kingdom of France in 1762. Residents’ daily lives went with the river’s flow and many, today, remember the time spent fishing, bathing, and taking a weekly shower in the building still visible at 17 quai de Saône. The winters of the mid-20th century also allowed skating on the “little Saône”, the marshy area, now dried out, where there is a campsite today. Now, in the early 21st century, fishing remains a highly prized hobby, while numerous practices are emerging such as running, kayaking, cycle tourism or even river cruises. Opened in 2022, the estacade provides a new space for strolling and contemplating, to guide tourists and locals as they rediscover the river.

Behind you
• The building at 331 quai de Saône once housed the Franco-American diamond nozzle company.
In the mid-20th century, in Trévoux, diamond nozzle manufacturing employed more than 400 people in nearly fifteen companies and made Trévoux the world’s most important centre of production. At the focus was the making of a tool for stretching metal filaments to a hair’s width, which uses diamond, the hardest material there is. This economic activity began to take shape in 1865, when a Trévoux worker, Antoine Millan, perfected a technique for piercing diamonds. In 2022, the company Brussin continues to supply the wire-drawing industry with diamond nozzles, courtesy of laser piercing. The “Trévoux and its Treasures” Museum features a trail based around this expertise.

Survey of flooding on the quays at Trévoux
A conjunction of one-off occurrences : ocean rains coinciding with Mediterranean rains made the flooding of November 1840 an extraordinary weather event. Lyons, where the waters of the Rhône were just beginning to recede as the flooding of Saône reached its height, was particularly badly affected : 4 bridges were destroyed while, right along the water course, more than 2000 houses collapsed. Built in 1851, the suspension bridge across the Saône at Trévoux takes into consideration the recorded water level of the 1840 flood, in order to rise above it.