Verdon Gorge

Verdon Gorge


Location: Provence- Alpes- Cote- D’Azur Map

Length: 12 mi (30 km)

Age of the gorge: 25 million years


Description of Verdon Gorge

Verdon Gorge Map

Verge Gorge is the deepest gorge in Europe located in a province Provence- Alpes- Cote- D’Azur of France. Limestone cliffs of Verge Gorge reach a height of 700 meters and it is about 12 mi (30 km) long. It is locally known as Grand Canyon du Verdon. You can access the gorge from the West from Lac de Ste Croix or Moistiers- Ste- Marie (see map on the left). Road D952 will take you along the North Rim of the canyon, while D71 road will take along the South Rim.
First humans settled the region about 400,000 years ago. Many artifacts were found in the Grotte de la Baume Bonne near a village of Quinson (West of Lac de Ste Croix).
The gorge is open to fishing, climbing, kayaking and rafting. A net work of well marked trails of various lengths will allow you to explore this beautiful geologic formation. Although at times you will need great deal of stamina and attention to walk along narrow paths that are cut in the walls of the canyon. If you want to cycle around the valley and enjoy its splendid views you can take a road.


Geographical location

The Verdon rises near the Col d'Allos in the Trois Évêchés mountain region and flows into the Durance after about 175 km near Vinon-sur-Verdon. The most interesting stretch of its course is between Castellane and the Galetas Bridge, just before the Lac de Sainte-Croix. The Verdon Gorge largely defines the border between the departments of Var to the south and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence to the north. The area is divided into three sections:
The "Prégorges" between Castellane and the bridge at Soleils
The gorge between the bridge and l'Imbut
The canyon between l'Imbut and the bridge of Galetas
The gorge is between 6 and 100 m wide at the bottom, the opposite sides are between 200 and 1500 m apart and the depth varies between 250 and 700 m.



In the Triassic period, Provence sank and was covered by the sea. As a result, various layers of lime (dead shells, etc.) were deposited on the bottom. In the Jura, Provence was again flooded by a warm, shallow sea, favoring the formation of powerful coral reefs.

In the Cretaceous period, Provence rose and the sea retreated to what is now the Alps. Only in the Tertiary were the Alps folded up. The resulting limestone massifs from the Jurassic period determined the relief and the valleys. During this time, the Verdon was also looking for a bed.

In the Quaternary, the Ice Age glaciers shaped the landscape. At the end of the glaciation, the rivers resume their erosive activity. Due to the melting of the ice, the amount of water was enormous: up to 3000 m³/s. These quantities made possible the deep cuts in the soft rock.


Recent history

Before 1973, the village of Les Salles-sur-Verdon was located on the site of today's reservoir, created by the construction of the Sainte-Croix dam. It was completely destroyed just before the valley was flooded and rebuilt elsewhere. Today it is one of the youngest communes in France.

The gorge has been an official nature reserve since May 7, 1990.

On July 10, 2006, the Conseil d'État decided that the planned 400,000-volt high-voltage line of the Électricité de France should not be built through the canyon. This ended a 23-year struggle between various environmental and nature conservation organizations committed to preserving the original gorge.
1905: First complete crossing of the gorge by speleologist Martel
1929: Laying of the foundation stone of the Castillon dam
1932: Suspension of construction work
1936: A fire damages the dam
1948: Completion of the Castillon Dam
1951: Completion of the Chaudanne Dam
1960: Completion of the Esparron-Gréoux dam
1973: Flooding of the Sainte-Croix reservoir
1973: Reconstruction of the flooded village of Les Salles-sur-Verdon about 400 m away
1974: Start of electricity production at the hydroelectric power station in Sainte-Croix
1975: Quinson Reservoir flooded



On the water
Some of the Verdon Gorge can be navigated with whitewater kayaks, in the lower reaches of the Lac de Sainte-Croix even with normal rowing boats. The water discharge of the upper reservoirs is uniformly fixed, at least during the peak tourist season of July and August. In order to support water sports, such as white water swimming, rafting etc., more water is released on two days a week (mostly Tuesdays and Fridays). The outflow is then 10-16 cubic meters of water per second, on the other days about 0.5 cubic meters of water per second. There is a hotline for information about current water levels. In the pre-season and post-season, on the other hand, water is discharged much more irregularly, in some years up to 40 cubic meters per second for weeks, in others only 0.5 cubic meters per second for weeks. With water volumes of more than 2 to 3 cubic meters, inexperienced whitewater swimming is advised against bathing in the current. Life is then at risk due to unpredictable obstacles such as siphons, undermining and blocking of wood.

Hiking in the more inaccessible regions of the gorge is very popular and considered safe. The most famous hiking route through the Verdon Canyon begins and ends in the middle of the canyon at a vantage point from which it descends relatively steeply over serpentines. It leads along the Sentier Martel (named after the first traverseer Martel). The descent starts from the Route de Crête, at the club house "La Maline". When you get to the bottom of the river, you should head north at the fork in the road there and quickly follow the path upstream. In the course of the almost six-hour hike - without the possibility of a stop in between - the hiking trail leads constantly uphill and downhill and down over some artificial ladders and stairs. One of them (Brèche Imbert) is quite steep, descending 252 steps from a viewpoint. Shortly before the end of the route, the path leads through two consecutive tunnels, which are the only way to continue. The river was originally supposed to be completely diverted here, but the project was abandoned after the Second World War. The length of the first tunnel is 110 m, that of the second 657 m.

Overall, this mountain hike takes about five to six hours of walking time. There is another parking lot at the end or starting point Point Sublime in the north. For the return trip to the starting point, there is the option of taking a gorge taxi or a public bus, which runs very rarely.

The Verdon Gorge was one of the most important climbing areas in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1970s, numerous exposed technical lines were climbed for the first time, and in the 1980s climbers such as Patrick Berhault and Patrick Edlinger were able to freely climb many of these routes. Even today, there is still intensive climbing in the area.

further activities
On the ring road around the Verdon Canyon there are always vantage points towards the gorge, but also towards the lavender fields for which the region is famous. Paragliders, hang-gliders and gliders often circle over the gorge, weather permitting. The Pont de l'Artuby is very popular with bungee jumpers. The gorge with its passes is also the destination of many motorcyclists.