Version FrançaiseEnglish VersionNederlandse versieDeutsch Version
PASS VERDON
1 week in the Gorges du Verdon= 2 campsites to discover the richness of this incredible site

Find out more

At the heart of the Gorges du Verdon

In this chapter will be processed events, projects, recreation, or the peculiarities of this vast land that existed, or that have taken place in the perimeter of the Gorges du Verdon, until fall 1999.
Since the description of the box Canyon, passing through the first exploration by the bottom, the Templars, fauna, flora, various topics are discussed and anecdotes will be delivered to affirm the testimony of life rich and prosperous in the history of this region. These stories contribute to the fame of the Verdon worldwide.

The Canyon of Verdon

The area called Canyon extends from the Chaos of the Imbut, upstream of the Baou Beni (end of the Gorge Trail), ending at the parade du Galetas. What represents a distance of 7 miles.
On this course, there is road access, or trail. The only possible path is to follow the riverbed and progress either on the banks, sometimes in Fords swum, to reach an exit out of the canyon. It is for this reason that this part is also called the "Fords area". All exploration from the bottom, this area is very sensitive: obligation to swim in cold water, crossing of ledges, rocks, pots of erosion, gours, not to mention bad Fords, eddies and siphons which form at the threshold of the cliffs because of the swirling waters. Not to mention meetings with reptiles, vipers essence, unwanted and large toads.
The other downside of the progression in the canyon is related to the flow of the Verdon. Indeed, even in low-flow period, in summer mainly because, I have never seen anyone run these routes in winter, should have to count with a low and regular flow to venture into the canyon. However, since 1948, there is no certainty in this regard. Indeed, this clause was valid before the construction of dams upstream of Castellane, and Lakes Castillon and Chaudanne. Because, since this date, it belongs to the East.D.F. (electricity of France), to control and regulate the flow of the Verdon. No indication is provided as releases of dams that increase the flow of the torrent, it is almost impossible to count on a regular and constant flow.
If you engage in the area of Fords without really knowing, and if a dam release occurs, the amount of water increasing, you will be unable to make a return on your steps. It is for this reason that many accidents occur from the enthusiasm of the public for the descent of canyon whitewater, on the one hand, and on the other hand, also, because it is worth mentioning, tourism still growing in the Gorges du Verdon. Any attempt of adventure in the Canyon, without the presence of a professional guide, or a confirmed accompanist of the region, is therefore ruled out. Otherwise, engage in the Canyon area is done at the own risk of budding adventurers.
A single parade, among the many mishaps you may be confronted, would be, if you were alone in the canyon incursion while the waters rise, would be to try to reach a high point on a riverbank, and wait patiently for that (or turbine) tailrace water stop, so you can continue your trip. Still be necessary that you knowing evil committed individuals do not unnecessarily trigger relief on the one hand, and on the other, that the turbinages do not exceed 24 consecutive hours.

Caution in the Gorges

For all these reasons, and many others, should remain extremely cautious before you want to approach the Canyon.
Remember that there is no real outcome, without knowledge of the site, between the Chaos of the Imbut and Mayreste, a distance of about 5 kilometers. At a place called Cavalets, under Mayreste, it is possible to recover Cabrielle trail (which surface is departing from the viewpoint of Mayreste, on the right bank).
But nothing is easy, and pass the Cavalets statement of the feat, because the course of the Verdon engages in a narrow mini-canyon, and water, freezing and pressure, have beautiful traps to those who cannot avoid them. Cabrielle trail is not a usual hiking trail. It's more than a relief access and the image of the Vidal path, rather than a peaceful hiking trail. Moreover, in the bottom of the Canyon, it is slightly as high mountain. Miles do not count, only the time of market serves as a reference. Downstairs, I can assure you that this is not a trail which takes place on the floor of the cows...
You will never master the Canyon, the Emerald torrent, and elements, and you will dominate never, either, the vagaries of Nature. It is they, on the contrary, that dominate you. The day where men have understood this logic, perhaps will there be fewer accidents in the mountains and massifs of the Verdon!
A canyon (Spanish original Word) is a Valley at the bottom of which flows a watercourse temporarily. Steep-sided, narrow and deep valley to the vertical walls, sometimes overlooking. (This is not my personal definition, but it is Mr Émile LITTRÉ which stated! Émile Littré was the inventor of the dictionary!).
In fact, it is a little as if you were engaged in a long corridor lined on both sides by high smooth walls rising vertically.
If you want to venture into the area of colleagues, guides and companions are present in Castellane, La Palud, Moustiers and Aiguines, and you can contact them for the descent of the Canyon. There is also this discovery "big chills" which allows the group to share intense moments of human emotion, raft or floating.Organizations located in the major centres of the Verdon will lead you into the Lair of this natural monument.

Special Offers

Chalet on campsite at Castellane Mobile-home
Starting from 301 €/Week

Mobile-home at Castellane Chalet
Starting from 350 €/Week

Camping pitches at Castellane Gorges du Verdon Pitches Gorges du Verdon
Starting from 18 €/Night


Memories of the author

All the great explorers of the Verdon by MARTEL to VERDEGEN, passing through white or MONNIER, took one day or the other this strange impression of not being able to fight against the elements born of an adventure that they controlled more. The natural elements they are higher. Don't worry, I also had my lot, yet not considering myself as a pioneer of the Verdon. One day I was trying to cross a ledge high downstream of the Emerald Vault (box canyon) to force a passage that seemed easier, I lost the balance. In falling, I found myself hurtling down inexorably on the slope of a landslide which acted like a carpet of marbles.That day, if a branch of boxwood was not found in the path of my slip, I myself will be literally crushed on the rocks of the Verdon, 30 metres below... I admit, devote to the boxwood, some recognition from this moment there. Half of the body in the void, the other half on the scree, I heard the stones thrown into the void rushing into nothingness and finish their mad dash in the waters of the Emerald torrent. Me hanging up as I could to this shrub, I wanted only it does not break.After a time that seemed endless to me, I was able to dislodge a rope that I slipped on the side of my backpack. Taking the boxwood with one hand, and throwing the rope on the other to my teammates who were able to grab, these, appalled by my misadventure, reached patiently climb me out the danger. The Grand Canyon du Verdon remains a hostile universe and dangerous, it left very little chance the explorers novice or inexperienced. I knew during my expedition, what could be dangers, and yet... I confess that this unfortunate experience has never deterred me to return to the Verdon as soon as the opportunity presented itself! But in the Canyon area, I will take now more safe...

Verdon, a fantastic landscape

Suddenly, nature explodes with pride and throws a sort of challenge in the face of the man, mocks it and calls it. It attracts for better it charmed and enchanted him and offer him a surreal world. In a demonic burst it will organize everything to cause a leader worthy of the most hellish creations work... Elysée RECLUS expressed admiration, contemplative and wistful when he meditated on the entrance to the Gorge since Rougon.
On this soil of Provence, tormented, disfigured by centuries and geographical upheavals, with its mountains and impregnable citadels, where all the cataclysmic attacks were unsuccessful, the Nature has composed and shaped a wild decor, but how wonderful. It was hard to imagine another scenario the main actor was not the Verdon! A torrent in its cynical, framed by giant walls that lead him to his apotheosis sublime. These walls, these are the cliffs, the Praetorian guard of the Verdon that frames the Serpent green Provence, Verdon. Masterpiece of life also, mingling unreal and the fabulous, the diabolic and the sublime, gigantism and the tiny, delicate, fragile. The Canyon of the Verdon is a unique jewel in Europe, and there is no other place in the world can have like him as much magic revealed, mingled with a strange power of seduction. This wonderment is constantly renewed in each of the discoveries.
A significant commitment that will bind you with this monster to the green dress. Living heir of the original creation, the Canyon will leave you never indifferent faced with so many wonders. To love the Verdon you will need to be initiated that Nature will offer in what exists of more unusual, more real, more sincere. The cliffs you wrap and will transport you away from the real world. Corner the most mysterious of the balms open on the course of the torrent will drive you to the fascinating exploration of issues wonders in a straight line original mineral achievements. At the bottom of this world in which even the Sun struggled to penetrate, the centuries which follow have little importance. The centuries of the great clock of time does not count. They are only the testimony of the original purity, without never forget a single moment that the adventure still keeps here any profound sense, always at the end of the efforts and the long journey... The humanity of man takes a whole another dimension!

The sights of the Canyon

Certain attractiveness about in ourselves the Fords area, must not make us forget conducted serious preparations to try an adventure. Hostile universe certainly accentuated by the presence of these cliffs horribly vertical that amounted to more than 500 meters above our heads, and leave each other their threshold than 6 to 8 meters of freedom in our movements...
The Verdon is accentuated, strengthened rate, a little as if he was under pressure to jump above the rapids who dare to stand before his race. The Sun. Let's talk about the Almighty Sun that happens here to infiltrate, leaving in the shadow of its rays benefactors, places still blind. It is sometimes very cold, even in summer.Thus, there is actually at the bottom of the canyon, places that are only lit from May to July. What makes banks and passages to sleep ten months of the year on twelve! It is also easy to understand as found in the bottom of the canyon a conversely floors of vegetation. Finding by surprise some plant species that don't grow sometimes than higher up on the mountains.
Or else still plants that require only a little light to grow (microflora) or endemic species that adapt to the low sunlight conditions. Arriving on the tops of cliffs, well sunny, on the contrary, we find a Mediterranean vegetation that blossoms fully it... in the Sun! It is a truly different universe. An environment that is not found anywhere else. We will therefore undertake an exploration through the bottom, between the Chaos of the Imbut and Cavalets, a distance of about 5 kilometres, wealthy 110 Fords listed, sometimes crossed with water up the calves, sometimes until the torso for the older ones, sometimes nages for all the world.

The exploration of the canyon of the Verdon by Fords

After the Chaos of the Imbut (or imbuc, the funnel in Provençal) and bypassed huge chunks of rocks including the a most impressive tics blithely exceeds 1000 tons, we manage the Baou Beni which announces truly the box Canyon, otherwise named, the area of colleagues. In the Baou Beni (instead, the blessed place), the cliffs seem to grow closer and Verdon accentuates the speed of its course. Three passes are crossed and the first swam Ford takes us to the site of Mortmain.Other passages, cluttered rocks and tree trunks, are left behind to enter the magnificent site of the selvedges (or Relingues). First come the high selvedges characterised by erosion caused by water on the walls. Place the rock looks to polished marble, and there is there no hallucinatory phenomenon. The rocks have truly polished by the force of the current. Shadows and shapes stand out from the illuminated rock. The route continues in the selvedges bass before an elbow of the Emerald torrent which precipitated us to the masterful Emerald Vault. The Verdon just lick the threshold of baume, high of more than 30 metres. Magical moment in which light and water from the Verdon play with the natural elements of the site. The vault takes its name from the reflections of light on the Verdon which are then projected on the wall of the cavity which overlooks the riverbed. The rock is grey, the reflections are green and dance along the asperities of the cave. Games of shadows and lights stalled around us. Access, hidden by the vegetation and the boulders, are to join the highest hiking trail (trail of the Bastidon).Should we still be able to locate to the right of the gigantic balm, and engage on the right track in having taken care to bring a speleologist scale to facilitate advancement.
The cliffs are more generous, the area of freedom we have is increased from 10 to 15 metres. If we could stretch our arms, one hand will touch the Var, the other the Alpes de Haute-Provence. Magic! I think the mad epic of Martel and his companions. I made a leap back in time. I try to imagine their efforts, their fears and their living concern out of this adventure.
The Fords who succeed become greener pastures: wider and shallower. As if they came to our meeting, the Baou of the Aroumi prompts us to make a stop, history to our minds.
Followed by the Baou of bees and the Baou of the keel. What idea, a giant keel to the bottom of the canyon! This natural curiosity right as a "I" stands in the conquest of the sky shortly before it.
As for bees, where the name of the place, there is actually. Say that they are "savages". They are the descendants of foragers beehives located on the cliffs of the cliffs. Swarms coming from Mayreste, high or low Gabrijela have migrated to these places somehow. Up there, lavender fields are actually cultivated, which would explain their unusual presence at the bottom of the canyon.More we are making progress, more the canyon seems to be pleasant, as if our presence he liked. It may be a ruse. But we still can't hear the song of the sirens... The vegetation is partially, and breeding bird rocks try beautiful pirouettes above our heads.

The Ford of the Mouillat and the kayaistes

We have still a few colleagues, sometimes nages, sometimes easily affordable. Out of water, we address to the Mouillat. The banks are congested by large blocks of stone. The surrounding vegetation is intensifying. We are no longer in the Verdon, we are in the heart of the Amazon. To play elbow to find an easier route.There is a bit of everything: the Bramble, stones, branches, tall grass, and even plastic bags!
In the branches, on the ground, curious rustling are heard. A snake...? A Viper...? But the place is grandiose, sublime, majestic. "Feels so small before so much vastness...". (E.A. MARTEL). I reiterate a return back in time, I almost have the strange impression that Martel and his crew will emerge from behind a ledge...
Then, the Fords occur at the discretion of the banks of stones and gravels displaced by the Verdon from one year to the other. A passage that was easy becomes more difficult because the force of the current literally dislocated rocks, propelling 3, 4, or even 5 metres further downstream pebbles that, the previous year, were related to each other by clay and provided a suitable crossing. The Verdon plays. As a child moves his toys, the Verdon moves of stone benches, history to slightly change the appearance of the site. More seriously. The Verdon moves whole patches of pebbles from one year to the next. What is wrong without problems sometimes kayaking. A first year they descend the Verdon, identify and marks the passages. Income the following year, their marks have disappeared and the passage is elsewhere.
It goes the same for Fords crossed on foot. A year Yes, the other not. For this reason, it is almost impossible to establish a precise map of the bottom of the Verdon which mention the Fords, the blocks of stone and forced crossings. The site changes all the time. Reasons for this phenomenon. Releases of dams: the flow of the Verdon is never steady. It can go from 3 to 5, 10 cubic metres second in a few handfuls of minutes. Then, multi-year flood of spring and autumn, created artificially it is true by the release of water. Finally, the peculiarity of the Verdon also comes from its current. Its current strength is not surface unlike some other rivers, but in depth. So there's perpetual leveling at the level of the layer of pebbles and stones.

The danger of the Verdon: the current

Aware of the Verdon is dangerous. Dangerous, because of the fact that current is done in depth, when waters attacked the threshold of a wall, surface waters are vacuumed to the bottom, and those from the bottom back to the surface. SE then created a natural siphon. Aware of the torrent of jade has been the cause of fatal accidents. People wanting to cross the torrent from one bank to another lost his balance and slipped. Dragging they were dragged on the bottom, and then washed away, vacuumed the siphon and actually blocked at the bottom somehow without being able to go back. Especially when the Verdon manages to touch a vault, or a balm on his course, water by the force of the current, plated these unfortunate people at the bottom without hope of escape. Accident fatal, dramatic, but that can be explained. And unfortunately, there has been a few like this. During the clearing of these colleagues, swept away people then had water up to the belt, sometimes hardly less. Indeed, when we ventured in a group, it is always better to tie in with each other to avoid any accident that might be unfortunate. But try to explain this phenomenon to swimmers who think the Verdon is a nice River, not capricious for a penny, and that after all, they know how to swim! We also know the result... Newspapers regularly testify to these disasters in their columns. Here low is instinct, to the extent of insights shared by calculating the factor risk.

Baou's Thambiayah and large Cavalet

Further downstream the canyon, we emerge at Baou de Thambiayah, the heart of the sublime canyon. Cascade, Gabrijela today dry, time where it was active, actually plowed and dissected cliffs to facilitate the fall of its waters. A little further away, on the left bank, a huge pile of boulders formed. Should climb it with caution. This is what we do. What was Martel arriving on this site? As he did? Where has it gone? Would it not have left a trace of its passage? At the bend, then opens the site of Grand Cavalet. The cliffs, that is were temporarily excluded, are close again as to keep the past and prevent any intrusion. Many Rapids open (i.e., visible) littering the riverbed. Cavalets means in Provencal, the water that runs fast, that loose. Actually, steepened the slope of the Verdon, bed has narrowed, and Rapids accentuate the race of the Emerald torrent.
Some trees cling desperately to thin fringe of land remaining. The rocks leaving them as little space to flourish fully. The light of the Sun appears, you know that it reason, will ignore them. The reason we know it, smooth and steep cliffs are umbrellas. The rock is grey, sometimes white, sometimes dark.
About three hundred meters more downstream we see small Cavalet 'Beach'. In fact, it is a flat part it is possible to address for attaching a bivouac. Two ways to dock. At swimming, or let slide on a raft. Not possible path: right, Cliff plunges into the Verdon, the left actually even, Centre the Emerald torrent occupies the entire width of the passage, 4 or 5 metres at most. Walk, unthinkable! There are 5 or 6 metres of water. Someone provided landaises stilts? No! So two solutions, swim or catch the rubber boat. Therefore, it is not unnecessary to take away from the start of the expedition, lifejackets for everyone and letting so serenely not carry waters. But we must do it soon and be bright. No place now to dream. Before reaching the small canyon of the Cavalet, need to quickly try a collision on the right bank and regain the high shore, the risk to be literally drossés against the rocks, get swallow by the torrent without being able to escape its current force. Rapids, now open and closed, are more likely to Mayreste where the pass of the olive tree trail would be found. Need to give it up because our equipment is insufficient.
Also we decide to stop our exploration by the background to Petit Cavalet before be thrown in the gully of the infernal canyon. We then Ascend by a path, what about a trail, a path restoration that joined the site of Mayreste. All uphill, in scales of rocks, slippery as steep. It appointed yet trail Cabrielle, of the name of the built fold overhanging the abyss that we cross to the fact of the cliffs. Need to show our appreciation to the Scouts of France who, between 1976 and 1978, have redesigned the course to the bottom of the canyon. They were engraved in the limestone signs of their work.

The site of Mayresteet water Street Parade

Petit Cavalet crossed from the bottom, leave behind us the marble corridor and the Baoussines. Places knead beauties but traps all kinds: gours, pots, Rapids, traps... Opens masterfully Mayreste site which extends to the big day. Finally we can see the sky gnaw the cliffs and leave spaces to ventilate the looks. A pillar is placed in the middle of the torrent without knowing why. It is actually the remains of a bridge partially washed away in 1915, cropped in 1956, which allowed to prolong, passing on the left bank, the circuit of the Mayreste trail, also called the pass of the olive tree route.
Summarily reconstructed, the bridge was washed away once again in 1975, according to the latest information. On the marked path, out of water, we penetrate the parade of the street of the water before that of the Garret. Cliffs take the distance between them, the bed of the Verdon widens, its slope is gentler and quieter, the difficulties will evaporate. Exhausted by his passage into the Canyon, the Verdon will engage and mingle in the waters of the Lake of Ste-Croix (which actually are, since it is the Emerald torrent that supplies the water). Boats and pedal boats then take advantage again in the parade which marks the end of the Canyon area. Show magic and bewitching, the Fords in the Canyon area, remains a wild adventure, risk, even in this Millennium that insists on inventing everything, do everything for us make seems easier things!
The adventure keeps fiercely, here, in the Lair of the Verdon, its deep meaning. "Discoverers" of the canyon are today still, true adventurers, explorers of modern, even if times before them of men have already promised. Do the Verdon, means doing something outside the common, routine, from the traditional. It is already the adventure...
The Verdon disguises herself as 'Snake green', and GOETHE does would be wrong if he had come down the Canyon du Verdon and described his experience by diabolical tales.

The battle of the water in the Gorge

This chapter will be essentially devoted to the various businesses and events that have made the Verdon, in Gorges, a pole of attraction of first choice for the production of electrical energy, since the end of the 19th century. Will be discussed the dam projects, not not those at the end of the 19th century, but of the years 1970-1975; the excavation of the tunnels in the corridor Samson; the prospects for development in the region. Even if they were generated at the beginning of the 20th century, mainly before the second world war, it is from the second half of it that plans to redevelop the course of the Emerald torrent have been realized.With, inter alia, electricity from France, created companies that formed after 1945, who received in heritage projects.
The period 1945-1975 a upset the regional and geographical sites, entity sometimes changing the landscape (dams, lakes, high voltage power lines), allocating to the Verdon artificial, since flow regulated, controlled, domesticated.

«Eici, the aigo es gold!

Here, water is gold! If it is a character of particular and own Homo Sapiens that we are, and since the period which made us to the Homo Erectus, knowing therefore walk on two legs, it's persisting to modify, or even sometimes destroying, that there are more beautiful on Earth, more natural in our world. Starting from this principle, human evolving into what he considers his destiny, it is not forbidden to think that everything that can be done, can be awesome, as catastrophic, once the completed realisation. Since tens of centuries now, the Provençal climate is recognized as being characterized by the predominance of a hot and dry climate in summer, relatively rainy and humid in winter. Rarely cold, but snowfalls are expected. The sunshine is one of the most persistent Western Europe. Often torrential rains are also of short duration, without exception. From June to September, then settled a so-called period of drought during which water, either became rare, either runs out. Peasants and farmers in the southeast of the France know, since agriculture is agriculture, how overcome this phenomenon by being stingy on consumption to allow through the summer without the risk of lack of the precious liquid: clear and crystalline gold. Autumn and spring, rainfall combined with melting snow (usually in March-April), represent major periods of flooding rivers and rivers, restoring sources vauclusian and karst supplies. That is what is more commonly called, underground water sources. In fact, we are witnessing two important flow periods in summer, but also in winter. The flow is the moment in which the water of a river are at the lowest, lack of adequate water supply. Until recently, first water users were for the region that interests us here, farmers, growers and breeders, for irrigation and watering crops. Farmers for their part to water their flocks. Since the middle of the 19th century, cities and large regional cited have become huge consumers of water, but also electricity, not to mention the industries that consume one and one of these energy sources. Until there is normal. Normal also the slow evolution of man. As a result, he had to find a way to satisfy the claim, engendered by the 'Goddess energy', and its vassal, the 'electricity fairy"!

First the Durance...

In Provence, the first irrigation canals in the fields of crops water date back to nearly ten centuries... The Durance, the Druentia Latin meaning 'the rash', has ever provided to farmers in southeastern housed close to its course, the water necessary for the good development of the cultivated areas. The Durance has not escaped throughout its history to periods of low water levels. Thus, the oldest traces you want to change its course back to the construction of the Canal St - Julien, in 1171. Apart from the Roman period attached to the well-being of its peoples than in the baths and the thermal baths, the ruins of ancient constructions of fountains and aqueducts are relatively thin in this area. The most famous site remaining (of Gréoux-les-Bains which has preserved the baths dating from the time Roman.)
It is from the 12th century, actually, that successive improvements are carried out on rivers in Provence. In 1554, the Comte de Provence, authorizes implementation for land irrigation channels, the capture of the waters being directly in the Durance.

Then the Verdon

For their part, the Verdonniens, from its source to its loss, draw in the Emerald torrent their main wealth: the water but also the fishery products. The inhabitants of the high and low valleys Verdon, Gorges, and the plateau de Valensole Canjuers, feed water drawing directly into the river. This practice has never had ceased since the origins of the stand of the mountains and the ranges of the Verdon. At the end of the 19th century, new activities are born. Or rather the new industries were created with the arrival of recent inventions helped by progress. Or, conversely the term that you wish to grant to one and the other of these phenomena.Workshops, mills, factories, the industrial centers will get water, their reason for being and to exist, by creating a new need, the consumption of electrical energy.Electricity which is vital and essential for the proper development of its presence on this planet. In the Southeast and the South of the France, coal mines are almost non-existent, the oil naturally has presence than its name. A fortiori, it is unthinkable to create thermal power plants fuelled with coal or oil. The existing infrastructure, roads and railways are precarious. Therefore, it was unthinkable to come from the North of the France, even less of Europe, the fuel necessary for the proper functioning producing generators of so-called vulgarly, the current. The investment would have been colossal for the low-profit withdrawn in Exchange.
The only solution was at the time, to use a source of abundant natural energy, more importantly, in reliefs mountain, suitable and better adapted to retain water, then restore, its energy force. Should therefore consider building, the mountains, the lakes and deductions capable of storing large amounts of water.
It is that late in the course of the 20th century that is known the true motivations of men and societies, which launched the first projects of sites for the supply arrangements and the provision of electrical energy. In the 1990s, you could read in a study of e. coli.D.F., this sentence: "-.. .the dams located in the Gorge to the right of an ideal natural tightening for the construction of such works...". ». That's the key word: ideal. This is what lost, like others of its species, the Verdon.Its course was ideal.
A prize (s)? The claims of the water requirements of farmers of Valensole and the massifs of the Verdon, in general, were somewhat relegated to second. Arrived in mind, and as a priority, the needs of electricity generation to destinations in the major cities of the Mediterranean from Marseille to Nice, passing by Toulon, but also to the Italy of the North or South of the Switzerland. Abroad too, because the resale of electric energy of non-negligible financial reports. The water here is really gold. Miss is synonymous with death. The region has already too suffered in the past, consequences of time: rural exodus, famine, epidemics and wars mainly, so do let us not waste the last wild expanses have to quench the thirst of promoters and agents in search of riches, uncertain...

The golden age of electricity in the Verdon

If for centuries men have attempted to build irrigation for cultivated surfaces canals, with the arrival of new men, whose thirst had no equal the production of electrical energy, the first attempts to stand in the bed of the Verdon back really late 19th. He had to satisfy the electricity fairy and its goddess energy. At the time, e.D.F. was not yet born, an engineer from the electric of South is (the EESC), an independent body based in Marseille, had the preposterous idea, one day in the year 1879, to simply divert the waters of the Verdon, between corridor Samson and the Garret to build a dam in the middle of the Gorges, at the feet of Samson,! Motivation of our man: "the lay of the land requires it! This requirement resulted, therefore, to see flower studies, projects, for the construction of dams and the building of reservoirs on the sites of Carrejuan (in the pre-Canyon), and Castillon, upstream of Castellane. Naturally landed in the Verdon, men and supplies, technicians and workers, dynamites and pneumatic hammers. Among them, is that which, unknowingly at the time, will make a proud service to hikers by allowing the creation of the Martel Trail: Mr jacket and its tunnels...

Early work on the Verdon

In 1901, Mr jacket installed its camps to house workers and equipment for the construction of the works, hear, dams. It will establish several bivouacs in the Gorge: on the banks of Chasteuil and Carrejuan, another downstream of the Trescaires, another to the Estellie, another at the top of the cliff the plug (on the left bank), close to access Vidal. The work of gallery openings are started as early as 1902, at the same place where are located the last steps of the entry of the first tunnel in the corridor Samson. They will continue until 1912. An explosion badly controlled, construction accidents, and a flood in addition, carrying much of the material and equipment, all this combined had reason for this early work that involved the construction of a dam at the entrance to the Gorge, drowning at the same time under water, the vast majority of the area of the pre-Canyon, including the stream of Jabron in its lower course. In 1914, the first world war mark the suspension in this part of the gorges of the studies undertaken by the Marseilles company of great work for the benefit of the company Elect South America.Meanwhile, from 1904 to 1913, another project envisaged the construction of a deduction of 70 meters in height, 140 million m3 of water tank, electric plant of 14,000 kW/h, and a long line of 23 kilometers (using Mr jacket galleries) to a second plant that have been implanted near Moustiers Ste-Marie. The dam was to be built around Carrejuan. The company was also suspended at the approach of the first world war. It remains nonetheless the passage from Mr jacket, all galleries imagined by the latter, and carved by his teams, in the Samson corridor, between this point and the Artuby. Two tunnels borrow Martel, those of the leases and the Balsam trail. Others are to be avoided because they are not maintained, these are the works of the stopovers of the rabbit Hutch, from Bari, and later, that of the Artuby, the greatest of all since it measures almost 1000 meters long. Cuttings from the drilling of this gallery are still visible, as they constitute the Tosks scree that is crossed on the Martel trail. These are beautiful achievements with regard to the technical means of the time.

The hydroelectric company of the Verdon

With him, some of his works are still used today: the access trail Vidal, rive Gauche, between Styx and Imbut and breccia Imbert, La Mescla. Engineer Mr VIDAL, intended to provide a quick path to the bottom to supply food and material men working in the Gorge, between Estellie and Imbut. Where the designation has kept this trail which is dangerous. Only its ascent is authorized. As breccia IMBERT, Imbert engineer built a steel structure consists of more than 250 markets steep and steep levels, to cross the rocky spur that now bears his name. Around 1919-1920, promoters, including Messrs. CAYETANO and ANGELVIN, arrived at Castellane with the firm intention to acquire land for the building of a restraint upstream of the city that welcomed them, in the commune of Chaudanne. In 1921 began the first work of the drifting. We then witnessing the creation of the Hydro-Electric Corporation du Verdon, the S.H.E.V. Then, in 1923, legislation establishes the need for deductions of water on the course of the Durance and the Verdon in order to alleviate their periods of low water. In 1928, the S.H.E.V. gets approval from the beginning of the work, for dams that must be built at Castillon and to La Chaudanne (said rather was at that time known as La Chaudanne). In respect of reparations for damages of war 1914-1918, the newly created German company «Verdonbau» must support the work under the control of the French State. All then comes from Germany: 2,000 engineers, foremen, workers, equipment, gear, and technical small world settled in the Castellanais. Society of electrical energy of the Mediterranean coast (E.E.L.M.), which owns power plants in the Alps-Maritimes and Bouches, includes faster than the S.H.E.V.
will compete in producing and selling electric power in cities and the Valley of the Verdon. The E.E.L.M. attack and committed trial on trial against the S.H.E.V. that it is willing to see disappear. Society Hydro - Electrique du Verdon is declared bankrupt and disappears in 1932...

The implementation of the Castillon Lake

At the same time, the German company Verdonbau considers completed work to the extent of war damage fixed, and withdraws works, pending a company please him redeem his equipment, machines and installations. While the construction was far from being completed! Everything remained to be done. In 1938, the concession of Castillon and Chaudanne the dams back to e.E.L.M., she hoped for almost 7 years. The work will be restarted in 1942, at the time where a law, passed by the State, granted financial credits for the construction of dams. After three years of war during which sites advance to cause essentially, failing supplies in raw materials, is that at the end of 1945 that the first of the dams will be completed, that of Castillon.
It will have to wait another three years that the book be put in function, and the Lake it or put in water. Will disappear under the waters of the new Lake, the hamlet of Castillon which has in return, given its name to the power plant, but withholding. A road is then built between Castellane and St-André-les-Alpes. It follows the banks of the Lake that it straddles by borrowing a book between St-Julien-de-Verdon and St-André-les-Alpes, Bridge St Julien.

The electricity of France and new dams

The turning point for the future of all private companies, or State, which produced up to energy there electric while distributing it often, is located on 4 August 1946, date on which the State decides to create a company nationalized in replacement of existing firms. The State signs the Act of birth of the electricity de France, known as the term E.D.F.
Beginning in 1946, all industries private production or hydroelectric, pass under the control of the e.D.F., which at the same time, will resume his account projects of redevelopment of the course of the Durance and the Verdon. After that of Castillon dam Chaudanne-Demandolx and restraint, are initiated in December 1952.At this date, the hydroelectric development of the high Verdon
was practically completed. One of the lower Verdon was going to see the day... Discharge, when the first protesters have objected at the time, I say at the time, the construction of dams upstream of Castellane, he must admit, e.D.F. did inherit that designed projects well before the nationalised company sees the day. Do not completely forget about it. The work was already well advanced and it was difficult to turn back. Projects, new projects, saw the day and went underway between 1963 and 1975. During this period, 5 dams and 3 major artificial lakes were built on the course du Verdon, and 2 lakes, artificial too, of lesser importance:
•    In addition to Castillon and Chaudanne-Demandolx, dams in 1948 and 1952, respectively
•    the withholding of Gréoux in 1963,
•    the works of Quinson and Ste-Croix-du-Verdon in 1973 and 1974.
Three large lakes:
•    Castillon, (1948),
•    Esparron-Gréoux (1963),
•    Ste-Croix-du-Verdon, (between June and autumn 1973, 2nd artificial lake of France, with a capacity of 770 million m3 of water).
Finally, two smaller lakes: Chaudanne-Demandolx, Montpezat. In the momentum (and for the same periods) of the work of the course of the Verdon, an irrigation canal powered by capture in the Lake of Esparron-Gréoux was built. The Verdon Canal, or book supply, joined the Canal de Provence 40 km more to the South and feeds primarily Marseille and Bouches - du - Rhône and Var. The abstraction of the waters of the Canal of the Verdon in the woods of the Defends, from the Lake of Esparron. The origin of the second channel is doing northeast of Vinon-sur-Verdon. The positive side of the presence of dams is to limit floods of spring and fall. The flow of water is controlled, in principle normally, and deductions are transformed into communicating vases.
Example: If the Castillon lake water level is too high, e.D.F. performs a dam release. The water flows into Chaudanne-Demandolx, that opens in turn valves. The Verdon is in artificial flood, and feeds the Lake of St. Croix maintained at a low level. When the Castillon water level dropped sufficiently, we close the valves.Chaudanne-Demandolx actually provided, and lowers the flow of the Verdon to be maintained at a low level and it make 'a face normal torrent '.

The tourist attractiveness of dams

Dams-Mills visit periods. For further information, should call e.D.F., directly contacting the place of exploitation: a trip into the bowels of the giants of the Emerald torrent. The other aspect is tourism. It must be admitted that the Lakes attract a more numerous summer clientele. Developing at the same time activities related to crafts, to retail trade, catering, recreation, hospitality trades, and outdoor sport activities. But the lakes are there now and life has to revolve around their presence, though he must get used to that of the dams.
Most damaging, and particularly for the sites, are the presence of lines electric high voltage which pass through the region of the Verdon as a whole, and mainly between Moustiers-Ste-Marie and Castellane.
What has provoked and implemented the public debate (the first of its kind in France) which was held during the year 1999, on the project to install new lines very high voltage of 400,000 volts (T.H.T. dhow-Carros project) in the mountains and massifs of the Verdon, inside the limits of P.N.R Verdon.
A tourist experts in the area of Fords and a misunderstanding of the sites are the cause of accidents. By unconsciousness, lack of drive, overestimation of their capabilities, there are many inexperienced visitors are the cause, the victims, or that trigger accidents, and who regularly make newspapers, particularly in the critical area of the Canyon.
On the other hand, do not neglect nor something that almost everyone ignores, and it is good to mention. All the rivers of France and of Navarre, who saw on their bed dams or deductions to build, have been implanted panels, yellow mostly and in red letters, to warn passers-by.

The water never sleeps

The Verdon is no, exception to the contrary. E.D.F. owns all of the bed of the Verdon. In length but also in height. Let's take an example. Suppose that the property applies to a height of 3 metres above the water level. For some reason or another, the waters of this river swell and flow, increasing the level of the water rises also. Torrent exceeds 3 meters then made at the end of the property, for up to 2 additional meters above its usual level. The property exerted on 2 meters of water supplement, more 3 meters from the start. Therefore, whatever happens e.D.F. is still "owner of waters". Tourist numbers naturally brings bathers in the soft lapping of the wave. Only, the Emerald torrent is a river which has traps some on its course: traps, pots, gours, ditches... What makes that when an accident occurs, even consecutively to a release of dam water, the body is hiding behind the signs put in place near the torrent. It is indicated, it is written that bathing take place at the risk and peril of the users... What is here is not particularly effective only for Verdon, but is also valid for all of all courses of France which are "managed" by e.D.F. Apart from the release of water made to relieve the deductions, the floodgates are open daily, or almost, generally to 16-17 am to meet electricity needs, so consumption of the Mediterranean cities. Cities such as Marseille, or the cities of the Var, which require an additional energy input. As such, the waters are dropped, turbinate, and plants produce electricity. All this should encourage visitors to stay very careful in any area of the river where they are, on the one hand, and secondly, above all, to prevent any incursion in the Canyon area. Indeed, without actual knowledge of the site, it is difficult to deal with a water level which is progressing regularly and against which nothing can, in unknown locations. It is at this time, mainly, that occur accidents. Some colleagues who seem easy to cross, are transformed into trap, Maugues (bad Fords).
There are signs that do not deceive to realize the waters rise: many twigs to the surface of the wave, leaves washed away by the current, small traps on the surface, and especially, the water of the stream that becomes cloudy. His habitual and clear emerald green, the Verdon becomes Brown, unattractive colour.These are the first signs. Well soon then it becomes only the force of the current autgmente. Therefore, it is strongly discouraged to cross the River, and to walk out of the paths in the area of the Gorge, even more so, when it comes to the Canyon area. That does not preclude that some parts of the pre-Canyon remain hazardous and should be a vigilant attitude.

Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon dam

You should remember the status of artificial restraint, the second of France in its category, after the Lake of Serre-Ponçon, located near 110 kilometres further north, in the Department of Hautes-Alpes, downstream from the town of Embrun, on the course of the Durance. Built to the withdrawal of the Gorges of Baudinard, Ste-Croix dam rises to 95 meters above its foundations, and has header work, 140 metres in length. The valves can deliver 210 m3 of water per second and the turbines produce 145 million Watts of energy. The plant is equipped with a reversible turbine that allows to draw water from the withholding of Quinson towards the Lake of Ste - Croix night, so-called off-peak, for re - churn in the day, and indeed, to render this water downstream of the book. The power plant is capable of producing 200 million kW annually.
Construction of the dam and the Lake of Ste-Croix has been long delayed due to sealing problems of the natural Bowl, one which would form the future plan of water. After tests of dam in 1973, water occupied the Valley in part at the beginning of the same year. Water is removed first, then come definitively Walnut depression between the months of June and winter 1973. Impoundment of the Lake and the dam entered into service in 1974, after all investigations of reliability, security, and sealing are proved positive.

hiking - Verdon Gorge
hiking
hiking- Castellane
hiking - Verdon gorge
hiking - Roc Castellane

Back to questions on Memoirs of Verdon Gorge

Other information
Other categories