Martel expedition 1905 in the Grand Canyon du Verdon

The Martel expedition was led by the French speleologist Édouard-Alfred Martel (1859-1938). He went to Haute Provence in 1905. Sent by the Ministry of Agriculture, he came to study the resurgence of Fontaine l’Evêque (today drowned in the lake of Sainte-Croix). He then turned away by the Grand Canyon du Verdon, in particular by Rougon where a team went up to explore the Grand Canyon. It is Isidore Blanc, guide of the expedition and teacher who brings together a team of villagers. The Martel expedition was launched on August 11, 1905.


Martel expedition day 1

The whole team starts from Rougon to reach the Samson corridor. They embark men and equipment on three frail canvas and wood skiffs. After a first day of laborious navigation, they set up camp at La Baume aux Pigeons. Barely 2 kilometers traveled.


Martel expedition day 2

A boat is destroyed and progress is then made by the shore. They arrive at the beginning of the afternoon at Estellier. At nightfall, they enter the corridor of the Styx, a second boat shatters sending men and equipment into the river. They then set up camp on the Imbut beach. Martel at the end of his strength then wishes to abandon the adventure. It is encouraged by the rest of the team that he manages to regain his motivation. It must be said that this represents a very big day. Going from Stix to Imbut during the night to finish off the most seasoned.

Martel expedition day 3

Not venturing inside the Imbut, the expedition must go around it through the chaos of the same name. Getting these cumbersome boats over the huge blocks forming chaos must have been a heavy task and particularly time-consuming. The camp is established at the end of the day in Les Cavalets.


Day 4

The progression is very slow, chaos of rocks, multiple logs brought by the floods obstruct the passage. Arrived at Pas de Mayreste some men exhausted to the nerves decide to give up. It wasn’t until the end of the day that the rest of the team arrived at Pas du Galetas. Martel who was then part of it, near the Roman bridge of Aiguines (today drowned in the waters of Lake Sainte Croix) the first successful expedition of the Gorges du Verdon.

It was not until 1928 to see Robert de Joly cross the rooms of the Imbut for the first time.


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Canyoning Verdon Gorges, the Mainmorte ravine

We are actually talking about Canyoning Gorges du Verdon since the Mainmorte Canyon ends directly in the Grand Canyon du Verdon. It is reached from the spectacular Route des Crêtes in La Pallud-sur-Verdon. Taken by our friends Sébastien, canyon guide we made this adventure in … 2001, maybe 2002 .. The memory remains indelible almost 20 years later.

Access walk and first part

Most of the canyoning courses Gorges du Verdon generally require a good approach. The Mainmorte Canyon is a departure from the rule since after parking our vehicle we walked barely a quarter of an hour before putting down the first rappel. A dry and mineral environment, no chance to come across a drop of water in the middle of summer. We chain two or three small abseils and a small zip line. On the latter, I remember putting my hand on a huge cockroach, I then uttered a cry that frightened everyone.


Last part; the big rappels

After the “cockroach” zip line came the first big rappel. Seb put the rope down and we went down those 20 meters of abseiling one behind the other. We landed on the arrival of the latter, the perfect place for picnic as you can see in the photo. After the meal comes dessert! The famous 40-meter rappel that ends in a spider’s thread above the Verdon. From hanging in the air, we end up in the river. For this purpose, it is advisable to know the level of the river before committing to this recall. Going down while the Verdon rumbles could be very uncomfortable on arrival.


The rise of Mainmorte canyoning

Usually, the “canyoning” colleagues who propose this route then run to the Imbut, the funnel in Provence. The passage is absolutely worth the detour if you have never been there. It is a huge scree area in which the Verdon has found its way over the millennia. The imbut is also the highlight of the Aquatic Day Hike that we offer. To return to the canyoning of Mainmorte, the ascent is then made by the Chemin du Maugué. A fairly dizzying route on the right bank. For our part, Seb decided to innovate and come back up with a voice called “Les crêtes”. Climbing somehow … I remember having a little drooling and this void … always very present.

In conclusion; An exceptional day.

Verdon Gorges, the essential road trip

The road trip of the Verdon gorges is particularly appreciated. Indeed, many vehicles travel on these roads in summer. We will see here two courses which complement each other and even form a loop. There is no real order to follow, it is up to you.
On these narrow and winding roads, the traffic is generally quite slow, if not very slow. Everything you need to enjoy the scenery! At least, for the passenger or passengers because the driver will always keep both eyes open on the road. Motorcyclists, campers, cars, cyclists and herds of goats, you can be surprised at every turn.

From Castellane to Aiguines by the D71

Allow around 1 hour 20 minutes by car to cover less than 60 km of road. From Castellane, you take the direction of La Pallud on the D952. Shortly before the Taloire bridge, you already go along the Verdon. At the place of Clue St Jean, the road becomes narrower. A quick feature of the Raft and Kayak routes. You pass two campsites then arrive at the junction of the Pont de Soleil. You have to turn left towards Soleils and La Rive Gauche des Gorges du Verdon (D955). The Soleils bakery is a compulsory stop for gourmets.

You cross Soleils then take a right towards Trigance (D90). The village deserves to be seen. A few bends further, you join the departemental road D71 and take on the right. You then cross a desert plateau. In the distance, the Canjuers military camp. You will soon join the Verdon at the Mescla viewpoint, a compulsory stop! Then the Artuby bridge from where you can bungee jump. The road winds through the forest and then passes through the Fayet tunnel dug in 1950. We then arrive at the Hotel du Grand Canyon, our departure for the Aqua Trekking Day course. Another 15 minutes before arriving at Aiguines. Small village of wood turners. From there you join Moustiers which is also worth the detour.


From Moustiers-Sainte-Marie to Castellane by the D952

Allow around 1 hour by car to cover 45 km of road. You retrace your steps towards Aiguines then take a left at the roundabout towards La Pallud-sur-verdon on the D952. The road rises little by little and offers magnificent views of the largest of the Verdon lakes, Lac Sainte-Croix. This very winding road then crosses the site of Saint Maurin. We arrive a little further at the Col de Olivier from where a few hiking routes depart.

A little further; La Pallud from where the Route des Crêtes leaves, the icing on the cake for this day. You continue towards Castellane and pass by Point Sublime. Above is Rougon and below is the Samson Corridor. You continue and descend on the Verdon which you join at the Carajuan Bridge, park, it’s the beach! You will soon arrive at the Pont de Soleils and the circle is complete. Hoping that this road trip made you have a good day.


Verdon and its marvelous lavender landscapes

The Verdon is surrounded by lavender landscapes. It has existed for more than 2000 years on the shores of the Mediterranean. In France, it is cultivated only in the south-east. In the three departments of the Alpes de Haute Provence, the Drôme and the Vaucluse. It normally flowers from mid-June to mid-July on the Valensole plateau but can last until mid-August in the Dignois and Haut-Verdon regions.



It was already praised for its medicinal properties in Antiquity. Lavender essence was also used to maintain the body. His first name; “Lavandula” is then synonymous with body care and cleansing. This plant which particularly appeals to the aristocracy will gradually become popular thanks to cosmetics. It distilled in quantity from the 16th century and gave birth to luxury perfumery from the 19th century.


Lavender and lavandin

“True” or “fine” lavender is more noble than lavandin. It grows between 500 and 1000 meters above sea level and has a long branch with a single flower spike. The fine lavender essential oil from Haute Provence has been classified AOC since 1981.

Lavandin is a hybrid of fine lavender and aspic lavender. The result is a branched branch with three ears larger than fine lavender. Lavandin therefore has a higher yield but has a lighter fragrance than fine lavender. It is harvested every year from the second half of July. A more productive process that allowed the era to meet the high demand from perfumers in Grasse.


Lavender landscape; The Valensole plateau and its blue golden sea

The clay-limestone plateau of Valensole is an ideal place for the cultivation of lavender. It also combines other advantages such as altitude and climate. The Valensole plateau is considered to be the largest lavandin production center in France. Come admire these expanses of lavender which undulate like little oceans. Local bees gather mainly blue flowers and thus make lavender honey. A product widely used on the shelf.


lavender landscapes gave rise to lavender festivals. They have sometimes existed for several centuries. This is where all the players in the lavender world met once a year. These festivals therefore had as much an economic as a social interest. They still exist today, not to be missed if you are in the region. Old stills, essential oils, honey … the world of lavender is yours!

The Lavender Corso in Digne. A party that lasts 5 days and has existed since 1939.

Lavender festival in Barême at the end of July

The lavender fair at the end of August in Digne


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Days of rafting and water levels on the Verdon

Rafting days and water levels on the verdon? You mean there are days for rafting and days without rafting on the Verdon? Is the river closed or is it? No, the flow is regulated by a dam.

Operation of the dam outside July-August

It is the Chaudanne dam which has this role, it regulates the flow from the Verdon from Castellane to Lake Sainte Croix. In the spring, EDF provides us with its information on water flows the day before for the next day. Saturday-Sunday in May and June are not normally turbined (dam closed). Indeed, this measure serves to secure the most abundant attendance of weekends. Over this period, you will therefore need to be patient. During the week, the next day’s activity cannot be confirmed until the evening before. For fans of rafting and canoeing, it is always possible to go sailing on Haut Verdon for an additional hour’s drive from Castellane.

Operation of the dam in July-August

In summer, this is somewhat different … Indeed, EDF assures us two days of releases per week in the months of July and August, which lets a little see coming … These days are Tuesday and Friday for rafting and canoeing. The remaining five days are open to the Aqua Treking activity, day and half day.

Now, from year to year, there can be big changes as evidenced by an article published this fall on the blog. Indeed, the accumulated snow reserves during the winter play an extremely important role. In fact, with a lot of snow, there is more days of water in summer. Heavy snowfall and cool weather in the spring play a large part in increasing the number of turbined days in summer.

Reserved flow

The days of “closure” correspond to what is called the “reserved debit”. In fact, EDF ensures the survival of the river by maintaining a minimum flow on closing days. The reserved flow is 3 cubic meters seconds all year round but increases to 1.5 cubic meters seconds from June 15 to September 1.

So, “Rafting days and water levels on the verdon” have no more secrets for you.
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Sports activities and outdoor sport in the Verdon

VERDON XP & The Funny Helmets offers exclusively water activities, especially white water activities. However, it is good to know that the Verdon valley offers multiple possibilities in nature sports and outdoor sports activities. Escape in the Verdon area!


Cycling, mountain biking & VTAE

Fifteen signposted routes starting from Castellane which is also the crossroads of the Routes du Soleil and the Transverdon (itinerary along the Verdon). Two mythical routes that require several days of expedition. Those who prefer road tours are also served since this mountainous region offers multiple possibilities. The road of the gorges which leads to Moustiers or the Col d’Allos for the most daring.

Even if we are only in the Pre-Alps, the relief remains demanding. Also, it is armed with a good physical shape that you will have to face the various courses decorated with stony ways. In order to lower the degree of difficulty, many people have joined the VTAE formula. With the same physical effort, the VTAE also allows you to cover much greater distances in the same time.



Hiking for some, trekking for others, the Verdon is a walker’s paradise. In summer, the frequentation is concentrated on the Grand Canyon where the Sentier Martel on the right bank and the Sentier de l’Imbut on the left bank allow to explore two thirds of it. Further up the valley, we enter the Mercantour National Park. The lake of Allos, the massif of the three bishoprics…  The rest of the year, you can enjoy the courses too exposed to the sun in summer.



Saint André les Alpes has a first class flying site, as a proof, it regularly organizes world cup rounds. If you have never flown before, no problem, you will always find an instructor at the sailing school to take you on a tandem flight.

The site of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie also offers similar activities.


Bungee jumping

The jump from the Artuby bridge! 182m! Unique in the region! Be careful, this activity is only available on weekends, beware, availability is very limited.
Take advantage of a 10% discount with our promotional code. Reservation to be made directly on the company’s website but call us beforehand to get your code.


Sports activities Ski

The resort of La Foux d’Allos dominates the Verdon valley since the Verdon river has its source near the Col d’Allos. 180 km of slopes are divided between la Foux d’Allos and Praloup when the link is open. A little below is the resort of Seignus. A more modest resort but with very good slopes capable of hosting international competitions.  This resort also has the advantage of being more accessible from the entrance of the valley.


Sports activities Climbing

The cliffs of the Grand Canyon du Verdon are famous all over the world. Patrick Edlinger, the famous climber was the best ambassador. The Grand Canyon includes climbing on the left bank as well as on the right bank on more than 25 km! There are more than 2500 voices among which several are more than 400 meters long. The quality of the limestone is said to be exceptional.


Sports activities Canyoning

We recommend that you embark with the Canyoning Sud-Est team. Mathieu will guide you through the great diversity of the canyons of the Verdon region. But also in the Alpes Maritimes department and more widely, in the whole south-east of France.

For more nature sports and activities, call us!