The Salagou valley

 

In the upper lands of the Hérault, the Salagou valley with its unique landscape and its man-made lake has for more than 40 years mingled its deep blue waters with the scarlet folds of the ‘ ruffe’, a rock that is more than 250 million years old.

 The lake and the ruffe - JPEG - 12.1 kb
The lake and the ruffe
Crédit CC Clermontais

The lake Salagou is part of an artificial retainer fed into from the river of the Salagou. The dam, which is almost 200 feet high, was built by the District Council of the Hérault from 1964 to 1968 and inundated from 1969 to 1971, thus giving life to the lake Salagou.

With a total area of almost 2000 acres, the lake spreads across the municipalities of Clermont l’Hérault, Liausson, Octon, Salasc, Celles and Le Puech. Its volume is 103 million m/3 of the quota of normal restraint (139 NFG). Its length attains almost 4 miles from Octon to the dam and its average depth is almost 50 feet (just over 180 feet at its deepest). Its catchment basin, from west to east, covers just over 47 miles.

Further down from the dam, the Salagou joins up with the Lergue which then flows into the Hérault. The lake Salagou was created to constitute a water reserve for irrigation, and to fight against water rising in the Hérault. To these initial vocations have now been grafted diverse functions: tourist and recreational activities, support of low-flow periods of the Hérault, hydroelectric production, fire-fighting and ecological and landscaping functions.

Where does the red earth come from?

During the first era, from 295 to 245 million years ago, a layer of sandstone and clay of continental origins settled in the region of the Salagou.

To understand the cause of this accumulation of sediment, we have to go back in time to the end of the carboniferous period. The sea that covered the region up till then had retracted and was replaced by great mountainous massifs (the Hercynian mountain chain) as a result of tectonic movement. Torrents thus raced down from these mountains, carrying in their direction sediment that concentrated in the lower parts, there where the current was less vigorous.

These wetlands suffered from periods of drought, also the present day rocks of the Salagou have retained traces of the conditions in which the sediment was formed, such as, wrinkles from the currents, evidence of desiccation, reptilian imprints, erosion through rain, etc. These climatic conditions, on the other hand, caused the iron salts to oxidize, which is where the red of the ‘ruffe’ comes from.

When did the volcanoes in the region of the Salagou first appear?

It was between 2.5 and 1.5 million years ago that the lava spread over a good part of the Lodève basin. The cause of this phenomenon dwells in the movement of the tectonic plates: the African plate moving towards the European plates. This convergent movement, slow on the human scale, brought into play the colossal forces that folded, smashed and modified the rocks to create the faults, which sometimes allow the magma to infiltrate up to the surface.

The Salagou’s volcanoes were of an explosive type (Strombolian). The periods in which the emission of lava was very fluid alternated with phases of explosion. The volcanic rocks (basalt) thus covered great surfaces, but the extremely vigorous erosion limited their appearance on the summit of the isolated plateaus or at the level of the ancient volcanic chimneys called necks.

The last of the volcanoes in the Salagou region died out around 650 000 years ago.

JPEG - 1.4 Mb
Map of the Lake
PDF - 1021.4 kb
The Grand Site of the Salagou Valley and the Cirque de Mourèze
PDF - 3.5 Mb
Booklet on the dam

For more info : www.lesalagou.fr

Around the Salagou there are numerous gites, hotels and campsites to put you up. You can find them in the section Accommodation.

There are numerous activities to practice on or around the lake, see Nautical Base. Great place to go strolling around with the family or for mountain biking enthusiasts. The Salagou has numerous hiking and mountain biking circuits to offer.

To find out more, go to the section Sports and Activities.

Pictures

The dam built in volcanic rock - JPEG - 166.1 kb
The dam built in volcanic rock

Crédit OT du Clermontais

The dam of the lake Salagou - JPEG - 139.4 kb
The dam of the lake Salagou

Crédit OT du Clermontais

The genêt of Spain, ruffe and lake - JPEG - 145.8 kb
The genêt of Spain, ruffe and lake

Crédit OT du Clermontais

Lake and small house saved from the waters - JPEG - 149 kb
Lake and small house saved from the waters

Crédit Fusioline

Volcanoes at the Salagou: neck of la Roque - JPEG - 96.5 kb
Volcanoes at the Salagou: neck of la Roque

Crédit OT du Clermontais

Lake and ruffe : a contrast of colours - JPEG - 89.7 kb
Lake and ruffe : a contrast of colours

Crédit CC Clermontais

Legend of lovers : small stones on the ruffe - JPEG - 182.3 kb
Legend of lovers : small stones on the ruffe

Crédit OT du Clermontais

The banks of the lake Salagou in the autumn - JPEG - 131 kb
The banks of the lake Salagou in the autumn

Crédit Julien Bonet

Multi-layered ruffe on the Mérifons side - JPEG - 142.5 kb
Multi-layered ruffe on the Mérifons side

Crédit OT du Clermontais

The chapel of Notre Dame des Clans near Celles - JPEG - 75.4 kb
The chapel of Notre Dame des Clans near Celles

Crédit CC Clermontais

Panorama of the lake Salagou - JPEG - 63.5 kb
Panorama of the lake Salagou

Crédit Philippe Martin

The ruffe : a geological particularity of the Salagou - JPEG - 99.2 kb
The ruffe : a geological particularity of the Salagou

Crédit CC Clermontais

Red, green, blue : the palette of the Salagou - JPEG - 99.9 kb
Red, green, blue : the palette of the Salagou

Crédit Julien Bonet

Aerien view of the lake Salagou - JPEG - 99.9 kb
Aerien view of the lake Salagou

Crédit Philippe Martin

View of the Salagou plain - JPEG - 90.2 kb
View of the Salagou plain

Crédit Julien Bonet

 
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