The Grand Canyon du Verdon, the largest canyon in Europe

The Grand Canyon du Verdon is inseparable from the river that flows there; The Verdon

Along the Verdon

The Verdon, this emerald river that makes you dream so much. 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 approximately 170km. It crosses 32 municipalities and 3 departments, the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, the Var and the Bouches du Rhône (confluence with the Durance).
On his way he sublimates all the places he meets. From Castellane, after the artificial lakes of Chaudanne and Castillon, the Verdon escapes into the Gorges du Verdon, classified Grand Site de France. Then he made his way through the Grand Canyon du Verdon, before finishing part of his race in the Lac de Sainte Croix, in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. This is where the lower Gorges begin, where the Verdon flows a peaceful retreat before flowing into the Durance.

The course of the Verdon is not always peaceful and restful. In fact, the hydrometry of the river has been managed since 1948 by hydroelectric dams. Castillon and Chaudanne upstream then by the Sainte-Croix, Quinson and Esparron dams downstream. The flows vary according to the seasons, ranging from 1m3 / s to 40m3 / s. In 1994, a flow of 1000 m3 / s caused a devastating flood for the region.
Other actors come to modify this flow, sometimes considerably, they are the tributaries. Many of them finish their race in the Verdon river. We will remember the Jabron, Artuby and La Lance.
You will not have missed it, the Verdon is remarkable for its color, from which it takes its name. This blue-green, drawing on turquoise and emerald blues, has always made its reputation. It owes this to its clayey bottoms, to the presence of microalgae and fluorine.


The Verdon through time

It all started during the geological period of the Triassic. 210 million years ago, in the Mesozoic era, Provence was covered by the sea. Its depths composed of several thick layers of limestone and populated with ammonite have left traces until today. There are still many fossils throughout the Verdon (their extraction is prohibited).
140 million years ago, during the Jurassic, the sea depths subsided, the waters warmed and favored the emergence of corals. This is how the Gorges du Verdon will truly be born.
In the Cretaceous, during the Tertiary era, under the effect of the formation of the Alps, the sea recedes, Provence rises and leaves an aquatic landscape dotted with lakes.

65 million years ago, tectonic movements appeared. They cause fractures in the limestone rocks of the Jurassic and create the valleys of the Verdon region.
In the Quaternary, glaciations, as well as the drying out of the Mediterranean Sea, will have the effect of accelerating erosion. At the same time, the Verdon is gaining strength and continues to dig its bed and gorges harder and harder, severely cutting the massifs formed in the Jurassic.

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 establishing itself in the Provence region as the largest and deepest canyon in Europe.
While it really begins at the Pont de Tusset, in the town of Rougon, it stretches for more than 50km to the lake of Sainte-Croix, in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.
The height of its limestone cliffs varies from 250 to 700 meters. Its wingspan is just as surprising, ranging from 6 to 100 meters wide.


The Grand Canyon du Verdon, magical places.

From the start of the canyon, the pigeon balm, a naturally dug cave offers us a special atmosphere. You can discover it during your aquatic hike!
A little further on is the iconic “Styx”. This mini canyon is housed in the grand canyon by the narrowing of it. In Greek mythology, the Styx means river that leads to the underworld. This is explained by this steep and narrow junction where only the Verdon can thread its way.
The imbut, a famous trail in the Grand Canyon du Verdon. It means funnel in Provencal. Indeed, this passage is narrowed 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 is also home to a unique endemic fern: the Doradille du Verdon. It is strictly localized in this region where it can take advantage of the ideal biotope to proliferate: humidity, shade and rocky cliffs.
Its fauna is just as exceptional. Wild boars, deer, foxes, squirrels, share these limestone cliffs. Reintroduced in the 19th century after their disappearance, nearly 300 monk, wild and Egyptian vultures take advantage of the best of the Canyon by soaring above its vertiginous cliffs. It is also home to more discreet species such as golden eagles or 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, no less than 900 climbing routes have been identified in the gorges and the canyon of the Verdon. It is one of the most beautiful climbing sites in France.

Aquatic activities. The Gorges du Verdon give way to whitewater 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 by aquatic hike. And take your dose of thrills with the canyoning activity. Lake Ste-Croix offers you the opportunity to embark aboard 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. We immediately think of the Blanc-Martel trail which offers 16km of walking in the heart of the Grand Canyon du Verdon. The Imbut (emblematic passage in the canyon) and Vidal trails offer striking discoveries.

A bicycle. Take a bike and set off on the Route des Crêtes. Located on the right bank of the Verdon, travel these 23km of road overlooking the Grand Canyon du Verdon. You can enjoy remarkable views to contemplate and become aware of the beauty and scale of the site.