Rhone (Anc. Rhodanus), a river of Europe, rising in the N. E. corner of the Swiss canton of Valais, not far from the sources of the Rhine, and flowing into the gulf of Lyons in. the Mediterranean sea by two mouths, after a circuitous but general W. and S. course of about 600 m., 350 of which are in France. It originates at the foot of the Mayenwand, on the W. side of the St. Gothard, near the Furca pass, but can scarcely be called a river until its junction with several other streams at the bottom of the Rhône glacier, about 5,500 ft. above the sea. Thence it traverses Valais in a S. W. and then N. W. direction as a mountain torrent, passing by Sion, till it enters the lake of Geneva near its E. extremity, where it has descended upward of 4,000 ft. In this part of its course it receives many small tributaries, the most important of which is the Dranse. When the Rhône enters the lake of Geneva its waters are exceedingly turbid; but on issuing from the S. W. extremity of that lake the river is of a clear blue color, which, however, is changed to brown by the accession of the Arve, a muddy stream, about 1 1/2 m. below Geneva. It flows S. W. for about 15 m. till it enters France, when it turns S. through a narrow pass between the Alps and the Jura. A little way below this place is the Perte du Rhône, where the river descends into a deep chasm partly covered over with massive fragments of rock.
The Valse-rine, a fine stream from the Jura, joins here from the right. At St. Genix, where the Rhône receives the Guiers from the south, it turns abruptly N. W. and afterward more to the. west, till it reaches Lyons, receiving during this part of its course the Ain from the north; and at Lyons it is joined by the Saône, also from the north. The Rhône is here a considerable river, and flows almost due S. to Aries, through a beautiful and fertile country, but the rapidity of the current and the shifting sands in its bed render navigation dangerous and tedious. The most important tributaries in this part of its course, from the Cévennes on the right, are the Doux, Ardèche, Cèze, and Gard; and on the left, from the Alps, the Isère, Drôme, and Durance. At Aries the river separates into two branches, the principal one, called the Grand Rhône, flowing S. E. to the sea, while the other, called the Petit Rhône, flows S. W., enclosing between them the deltoid island of Camargue. The Grand Rhône enters the gulf of Lyons below the Tour St. Louis, and has there commenced the formation of a new delta; and the Petit Rhône has its mouth a little W. of the village of Saintes Maries. Both these mouths are so much obstructed by bars, that vessels from the Mediterranean enter the river by the Étang de Berre, a shore lake or lagoon to the east, which is connected with the Rhône by the Martigues canal, and by the Beaucaire canal, which leads from Aries to the lagoons to the west on the coasts of the departments of Gard and Hérault. Steamers sometimes ascend the Rhône as far as Seyssel, and by means of the Saône it is navigated to Châlon; while by canals it is connected with the Garonne, Seine, Loire, and Rhine. The Rhône is of great commercial importance, and below Lyons is navigated by numerous steamers.
The Paris and Marseilles railway runs along its left bank between Lyons and Aries; and in this part of its course the river passes many considerable towns, the principal of which are Vi-enne, Tournon, Valence, Avignon, Beaucaire, Tarascon, and Aries." Some of the finest wines of France are produced on the banks of the Rhône below Lyons.