The Grand Canyon du Verdon is inseparable from the river that flows through it; The Verdon
Along the Verdon
The Verdon, this emerald river which makes so much dream.
From the Col d’Allos where it has its source to the Var commune of Vinon-sur-Verdon, where it flows into the Durance, the Verdon covers about 170km. It crosses 32 communes and 3 departments, the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, the Var and the Bouches du Rhône (confluence with the Durance).
On its passage it sublimates all the places it meets. From Castellane, after the artificial lakes of Chaudanne and Castillon, the Verdon escapes into the Gorges du Verdon, classified as a Grand Site de France. Then it makes its way into the Grand Canyon du Verdon, before finishing part of its course in the Lake of Sainte Croix, in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. It is from there that the low Gorges begin, where the Verdon flows a peaceful retirement before throwing itself into the Durance.
The course of the Verdon is not always restful, it evolves with the rhythm of the seasons. The hydrometry of the river is managed, since 1948, by hydro-electric dams. Castillon and Chaudanne upstream, then by the dams of Sainte-Croix, Quinson and Esparron downstream. The flows can vary from 1m3/s to 40m3/s. In 1994, a flow of 1000 m3/s caused a devastating flood for the region.
Other actors such as tributaries sometimes modify this flow. Many of them end up in the Verdon river. We will remember the Jabron, the Artuby and the Lance.
It will not have escaped you, the Verdon is remarkable by its color, from which it takes its name. This blue-green, pulling on the turquoise and emerald blues, has always made its reputation. It owes this to its clayey bottom, to the presence of micro-algae and fluorine.
The Verdon through time
t all begins during the geological period of the Triassic. 210 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era, Provence was covered by the sea. Thus, the Verdon territory is composed of several thick layers of limestone populated by ammonites. Many fossils can still be found all along the Verdon (their extraction is forbidden because we are in the geological reserve of Haute Provence).
140 million years ago, during the Jurassic period, the sea bed rises, the water warms up and favors the appearance of corals. This is how the Gorges du Verdon were born.
In the Cretaceous period, during the Tertiary era, due to the formation of the Alps, the sea recedes, Provence rises and leaves an aquatic landscape dotted with lakes.
65 million years ago, tectonic movements appear. They caused fractures in the Jurassic limestone rocks and created the valleys of the Verdon region.
In the quaternary period, the ice ages and the drying up of the Mediterranean Sea will accelerate the erosion. At the same time, the Verdon river takes in force and continues to dig more and more strongly its bed and the gorges by strongly notching the massifs formed in the Jurassic.
The Verdon river, for thousands of years, has dug and created the largest and deepest canyon in Europe, which we know today as the Grand Canyon du Verdon.
The Verdon river, for millennia, carved out and created the largest and deepest canyon in Europe, which we know today as the Grand Canyon du Verdon.
The Grand Canyon du Verdon, figures that speak for themselves
After millions of years of “construction” the Grand Canyon du Verdon is the largest and deepest canyon in Europe in the Provence region.
While it really begins at the Tusset bridge, in the commune of Rougon, it extends over more than 50km to the Sainte-Croix lake, in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.
The height of its limestone cliffs varies from 250 to 700 meters. Its size is also surprising, going from 6 to 100 meters wide.
The Grand Canyon du Verdon, magical places.
At the beginning of the canyon, in its first narrow passage called “Le couloir Samson”, you will discover La Baume aux pigeons, a naturally dug out cave with a special atmosphere. You can discover it during your half-day aquatic hike!
Further downstream, it is the emblematic “Styx”. A kind of canyon within the canyon. In Greek mythology, the Styx means river that leads to the underworld. This can be explained by this steep and narrow branch where only the Verdon can slip through.
The imbut, famous path in the Grand Canyon of the Verdon. It means funnel in Provençal. Indeed, this passage is narrow and the Verdon seems to disappear in a rocky chaos.
The Grand Canyon du Verdon, a real refuge for rare species.
Its flora, protected, is very rich. There are holm oaks, beeches, maples, yews, several species of junipers, etc.
It also hosts a unique endemic fern: the Doradilla of the Verdon. It is strictly localized in this region where it can benefit from an ideal biotope to proliferate: humidity, shade and rocky cliffs.
Its fauna is also exceptional. Wild boars, roe deer, foxes, squirrels, share these limestone cliffs. Reintroduced in the 19th century after their disappearance, nearly 300 black vultures, griffon vultures and Egyptian vultures now enjoy the canyon by soaring over its vertiginous cliffs. It is also home to more discreet species such as golden eagles and chamois.
The Grand Canyon du Verdon and outdoor activities
Climbing. Initiated by Patrick Edlinger since 1975. The limestone cliffs of the Verdon are a real playground for climbers from all over the world. Indeed, there are no less than 900 climbing routes in the gorges and canyon of Verdon. It is one of the most beautiful climbing sites in France.
Water activities. The gorges of the Verdon make room for white water activities. From Castellane to Point Sublime, rafting and kayaking allow you to discover the Verdon at your own pace. Be your own boat to discover the canyon in aquatic excursion. And take your dose of strong sensations with the canyoning activity. The lake of Ste-Croix offers you the possibility to embark on a pedal boat, a canoe or an electric boat to discover the end of the Grand Canyon and the immensity of its lake.
Mythical hikes. One thinks immediately of the Blanc-Martel trail which offers 16km of walking in the heart of the Grand Canyon du Verdon. The paths of the Imbut (emblematic passage in the canyon) and of the Vidal also offer striking discoveries.
By bicycle. Take a bicycle (rather electric…) and go on the route des Crêtes. Located on the right bank of the Verdon, ride along these 23km of road overhanging the Grand Canyon du Verdon. You will be able to take advantage of remarkable points of view to contemplate and become aware of the beauty and the size of the site.