Loire (anc. Liger), a river of France, running N, N. W., and finally W. by S., across the central and western parts of the country, and dividing it into two nearly equal parts. It rises on the slope of the Cevennes, in the department of Ardeche, and passing by the towns of Le Puy, Nevers, Orleans, Blois, Ara-boise, Tours, Saumur, and Nantes, flows into the Atlantic near St. Nazaire. Its principal affluents are the Arroux, Nievre, Allier, Cher, Indre, Vienne, Mayenne, and Sevre-Nantaise. Below Nantes, where it first feels the influence of the tide, it is studded with small islands. Its length is upward of 600 m.; it is navigable from its mouth to Roanne, a distance of 450 m.; and between this point and Noirie, 45 m. higher, it is navigable downward only. In the lower part of its course it is obstructed by shifting sands, but these impediments are obviated by a canal known as the canal lateral a la Loire, completed in 1838. The river is also subject to floods, to guard against which extensive works have been constructed. The inundations in 1846 and 1856 were especially formidable.
In its upper course the river is a romantic mountain torrent; as it descends, its valley widens and embraces extensive plains, so richly covered with orchards, vineyards, and corn fields, that they have justly received the name of the " garden of France." The basin of the Loire is estimated at one fourth part of all France.
Loire, a S. E. department of France, consisting of the old province of Forez and portions of Beaujolais and Lyonnais, bordering on the departments of Saone-et-Loire, Rhone, Isere, Ardeche, Haute-Loire, Puy-de-Dome, and Al-lier; area, 1,838 sq. m.; pop. in 1872, 550,611. The surface consists chiefly of extensive plains broken by the mountains of the Cevennes and Forez, and by several isolated volcanic hills of black basalt. The Loire flows centrally N. through its whole extent, and the Rhone flows for a short distance on the S. E. border. The heights separating the valleys of the Loire and the Allier are chiefly composed of granite rocks or of the older limestones and sandstones. This department contains one of the richest coal fields of France. Lead, iron, building stone, granite, and potter's clay are the other most important minerals. The soil is not of superior quality, but produces hemp, fruit, wine, oil seeds, grain, madder, and excellent pasturage, on which feed great numbers of cattle and sheep. In the valley of the Rh6ne mulberry trees are extensively grown for the production of silk. Pine, fir, oak, and beech grow on the mountains, and large quantities of pine are converted into charcoal.
Chestnuts form a staple in the common diet of the people, and are largely exported to Paris. The manufactures are important, and include firearms, cutlery, ironware, machinery, cotton, woollen, silk, and linen goods, glass, bricks, canvas, earthenware, lime, etc. It is divided into the arrondissements of Montbrison, Roanne, and St. Etienne. St. Etienne, the chief manufacturing town, became the capital in 1855 in place of Montbrison.