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Verdon canyon

Published: 19.4.2008
In southern France, on border of Var and Alpes de Haute Provence, there is situated a countryside of Provence, smelled of lavenders. Small river Verdon hollowed out through Verdon-valley one of most impressive canyons of Europe. It is named "Great Canyon" ? so Grand Canyon du Verdon.

The depth of one of greatest canyons of Europe reaches nearly 700 metres on some places. Vertical limestone walls raise to the power your pleasure or eventual dizziness. The walls are distant - in its most narrow places at the bottom - 6 meters only. No wonder, the conditions of foundation of this jewels were more then ideal.


In mighty layers of shapable limestone ranges there was of use deepness-decay, first of all. On the contrary, surface-rinsing off, which could make enlargement of upper part, was minimal. So, the river cut to the depth only. Except of this, Verdon-river springs in Cold´Allos massif of Provencale Alps, in an altitude of 2200 m. This causes  its full water-reservoir from snow-thaw all year round, and it is - in arid countryside of Provence - quite important reality. The canyon itself beginns behind small picturesque small town of Castellane, and winds through rock walls for at least 20 kms ahead, up to dam-lake of Lac de Ste-Croix.  

The canyon-bottom was non-investigated area till 1905. At that time, geologist and speleologist E.A.Martel decided to enter, together with a small  kayak-expedition, through rapid streams in perfidious rock-pass. In 1928, there was constructed - on bottom of most impressive canyon-section-a tourist path, now named as Martell Path. A walk along 14 kms long Martel Path  takes six hours. It is bordered by many tunnels and bridges, where you can watch harmony of river green stream, peace of olive-groves, and inhale narcotizing smell of lavender, fennel, sweet marjoram and salvia. This canyon is a popular with watermen, kayak-sportsmen as well as holiday-kayak-lovers. River and its environs offer the same possibilities as ?forbidden? Grand Canyon in USA. Anyway, a prohibition of mining of any minerals and fossils was confirmed even in 1997, when Verdon became nature park.So, mineral wealth is  untouchable. On the contrary, it is allowed to fish here trouts, pikes and other fresh-water sorts of fish without limitation, in reasonable quantity, of course. 30 years ago, throughout the canyon flew nearly 800m? of water /sec. However, the construction of regulated dams, has the consequence of stream-diminuation to 30m? only. This fact enabled the visitors to descend along seep rocks on the very canyon- bottom. Now, the bottom became a paradise of  mounteneers´, paragliding lovers or courageous rafting-men.

The path with its environs proves cyclists´ form. This region of France offers really excellent conditions for excursions, however, belongs to those more difficult.

Text: Jan Chaloupka

Foto: Google Earth


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