Some amazing nature surrounds the Lac du Salagou, which makes it feel like this lake has been here forever. However, Lac du Salagou is an artificial water reservoir, built in the late sixties to irrigate the neighbouring agricultural fields. The scenic surroundings of the Lac du Salagou invite you to marvel at this surreal environment of remarkable red earth. Peacefully, with a simple stroll or picnic on the shore, or more actively by practicing one of a wide range of sports. Either way, if you want to wind down in a magical landscape, the Salagou Lake is where you should go.
A good starting point to begin your exploration is at the Rives de Clermont l’Hérault, where you will find the Base de Plein Air. Here there is a small tourism office during the summer, and you can do all kinds of leisure activities. Swimming of course, but also hiking, cycling, sailing, canoeing, and surfing, to name just a few. This is also one of the places to rent equipment if needed. But you can also do so at other spots around the lake, like Salagou Wind 34, the Base Nautique du Salagou at the Rives des Vailhés, and the Relais Nautique at the Rives d’Octon. However, keep in mind that most of the water sports rentals only are available in the summer.
Palette of colours
Because of the red earth around the lake, the landscape is often compared to the Arizona desert in the USA. In France! ‘La Ruffe’, as the French call this the red-tinted earth, gets its distinct colour from the widely present iron. Together with the bright green of the trees and bushes, and the deep blue of the sky and the water, you’ll be surrounded by a vivid palette of colours. Apart from all the activities on and in the water, there are many hiking and mountain biking routes through this red landscape. The full circuit round the lake covers 28 kilometres, but there are other, shorter routes. And the daredevils among us can try one of the longer circuits, including some exciting descents.
Neck de la Roque
When driving West via Liausson, you will spot a somewhat peculiar grey rock with a cross in the distance. It’s called the ‘Neck de la Roque’, which is the remains of an ancient volcano. That’s right, millions of years ago, active volcanoes surrounded Lac du Salagou. The Neck de la Roque used to be the basalt chimney, called ‘neck’ and was the heart of a volcano some 1.7 to 1.5 million years ago. There is a little parking lot, where you can park your car to explore further. Walking over the red earth will give you out-of-this-world views of the Sure hill and the blue lake in the background. And the messages and names written with white stones add to the surrealness.
Another remarkable place to visit is the ghost town of Celles, located on the north bank of the Lac du Salagou. This deserted little village was evacuated before building the dam to control the river Salagou. Miraculously, the rising water stopped right in front of the houses. To this day, this unusually beautiful and quiet village is still abandoned, although slowly life is coming back. There are plans to make the village habitable again, however, they want to avoid it becoming a tourist trap. Therefore, the closest restaurant before the hamlet is Le Mas de Riri. From here, you will have the most photogenic view of Celles. However, if you want to have the best view over the Lac du Salagou, you should climb Mont Liausson by doing the Cirque du Mourèze or Mont Liausson hike. It’s a bit of a ‘calf biter’ but worth every effort.