The Odet river

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The Odet river is the fundamental axis, the reason of the existence of Quimper. Of course the Odet irrigates the city, gives her , this special nature. But it is also important to remark how the history of Quimper, since the founding of the city, is closely dependent and intimately mixed to the course of her river.
The Odet has its source at forty kilometres at the north-east of Quimper, on the borders of the departments of Finister and Morbihan, in the heart of the Black Mountains (Montagnes Noires). The river sluggishly snakes between the pastures and undergrowth's of the Cornwall country until the site called Stangala, where its flow becomes more ardent and suddenly turns ninety degrees in order to hurl south in the direction of the city Quimper.

Just before arriving in Quimper, the Odet is joined by one of its most important affluent the Jet, which brings it the waters from the region of Rosporden, located East. At the confluence of this two rivers, the Odet throws a second tantrum and turns again ninety degrees towards the West that time. The Odet is in fact, captured by a narrow valley , oriented west-north-west/east-south-east that may be followed on many tens of kilometres starting from Rosporden in the east until the Baie des Trépassés (Bay of deceased) in the west. This valley represents the topographic expression of a major geological fault which crosses the Massif Armoricain starting from the region of Nantes, passing near Vannes and through the city of Quimper, then in the middle of the Baie des Trépassés (Cap Sizun) and ends its trip in the sea, in the east of the isle of Sein.

Along its course in the city of Quimper, the Odet gets two important affluents : the Frout (which existence is indicated by the street of Frout) and the Steir. It is the confluence of this last affluent with Odet which gives to the city her name of "Kemper", from the breton "confluent (confluence)", frenchified in "Quimper".

The first gallic inhabitants of the site of Quimper had established the city on the left bank of the Odet at the location of the actual area of Locmaria. The city, in that time was called Civitas Aquilonia, the city of the eagle. But it is at the confluence of Steir and Odet that the town, which we have inherited, was established by breton immigrants, driven away from the Britannic islands by the Saxon invasions. The presence of a river carrying enough water was of course vital for the growth of the town. Moreover the influence of Atlantic tides reaches Quimper and at low tides, the level of water in Odet is so low that it is possible to ford the river. The name from the streetrue du Guéodet is still a witness nowadays. The level of high tides, nevertheless, enables the boats to go back along the Odet until the heart of the city. So, until the beginning of this century coasters loaded and downloaded wares in the area of the district of Locmaria and Quimper was a harbour city inside the lands! The actual towpath (Chemin du halage) reminds this old times where towhorses were pulling the boats from the banks of Odet to help them in their final approach of the port of Locmaria. Along her history, the city has taken advantage of the river and her privileged situation to develop her activities and became a centre point in the region for trading and business.

Soon after its confluence with the Steir, the progressively curves round in a large curve that turns its course towards the south, in the direction of its mouth : the Atlantic Ocean. Just after Quimper, the Odet gets wider in a vast reservoir, the Bay of Kérogan, where is located the port of Corniguel (which nowadays replaces the one in Locmaria) and the sports and leisures complex of Creach Gwen.

The remain of the course of Odet is extremely spectacular and gives to the river the nickname of nicest river of France. The Odet follows the Gorges of Vire Court, embanked meanders in a very beautiful wooded valley, lined here and there with castles, manors and parks. The famous sailor Eric Tabarly settled in one of this nice properties, in front of which it was possible to admire , a few years ago, his Pen Duick at anchoring. The circuit of Odet is a famous touristic sail which enables to discover this splendid region.

One of the rocks overhanging the Odet after the opening of Vire Court, was strangely named the jump from the Maid (le saut de la pucelle). The legend says that a young girl, pursued by a bandit , choose to jump into the Odet at that place instead of losing her honour An other rock is called the Bishop chair because it is said that one of the bishops of Quimper liked to go there to rest, meditate and take advantage from the landscape.

The Odet ended it course by reaching the Atlantic ocean in a mouth lined in the west by the port of Sainte- Marine, and in the east by the bathing city from Bénodet. The bridge of Cornwall, important structure stretches across the Odet, just before its mouth, and links both cities.

May we end this trip on the Odet by a few verses from Guillaume Apollinaire, written in august 1917, after a stay of the poet in Bénodet:

Bénodet ne sait pas celle-là qu'il préfère
La mer aux mille écueils ou sa tendre rivière
L'Odet plus douce encore que ne sonne son nom
Mais le temps passe il faudra bien que tu t'en ailles
Laissant Quimper et le Comté de Cornouaille
Bénodet does not know the one it prefers
The sea with a thousand of reefs or his soft river
The Odet more sweet than sounds her name
But as time passes, you must have to go
Leaving Quimper and the County of Cornwall