When visiting the Cirque de Navacelles, I suggest you also go to the Moulins de la Foux. These 900-year-old (!) water mills were built like a bridge, so horizontal waterwheels could tame the Vis running through. The mills stopped working in 1907 and were abandoned until their renovation in 1997. Now, it is a paradisiacal spot with plenty of butterflies in a lush green setting.
Moulins de la Foux parking
When driving or walking from the Belvédères de Blandas to the hamlet of Navacelles at the bottom of the canyon, you make a stop at the small Moulins de la Foux parking lot. From here, it’s a short walk of 1.1 kms to the impressive site. It’s also possible to do a circular walk of 12 kms in 4.5 hours, which combines the two lookouts of the Cirque de Navacelles, the hamlet and the Moulins de la Foux. Or you can walk from Blandas (8.8 km in 2.15 hours) or Vissec (8.4 km in 1.45 hours). In summer (mid-July to end of August), free shuttles will take you from the Belvédère de Blandas to the hamlet of Navacelles and back, with a stop at the Moulins de la Foux parking lot. If you’re not walking, this is the best option to avoid traffic jams on the narrow roads.
The Moulins de la Foux were built around 1097 and played an important economic role in the region. A noble family from nearby Vissec offered them to the community. In those early days, bread was one of the main sources of food. Therefore, a grain mill was very useful to fulfil the need for 1 kg of bread per adult, per day. Also, it brought money into the bank of the lords. At the beginning of the 17th century, the water mills were destroyed by the Religious Wars. After being rebuilt again, they fell victim to several floods, and the great flood of 1907 demolished the mills, leaving them abandoned. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the national and local governments realised the site’s historical importance and started a big renovation project.
The Vis is a rather peculiar river. It originates in the Cevennes mountains, to disappear underground through the limestone and pop up again at the Moulins des Foux. After the brute force of the water falling down through the waterwheels of the mills, the river peacefully continues its way in the Gorges de la Vis. The water of the Vis River is some of the cleanest and clearest in France. I couldn’t believe the bright blue colour of the water, it looked like I was somewhere in the tropics! Along with the bright green vegetation and the hundreds of fluttering butterflies, it was pure magic.