For more than 20 million years, the Tarn has been digging its bed in the limestone soil of Lozère. To the point of creating balms, parades, cliffs 500 meters high. A set of geological wonders over 53 kilometers, today called the Gorges du Tarn.
In summer, the river is shallow. So difficult to get around there, but the inhabitants have always had the solution: long flat boats and boatmen armed with a pole to steer them.
Thomas Persegol was born in these gorges, like his father before him, he goes down the river every day loaded with vacationers. “We have a nice office” , rejoices the young boatman. “And then I like the contact with nature, the setting and the contact with customers is pleasant: these are people who are there on vacation, we can share our love for the area with them”.
For a long time, the tradition has been passed down from father to son. At the time when the road did not exist, the boatmen allowed the transport of people, goods and animals along the Tarn. For 150 years, tourists have replaced cattle, the village of La Malène has become the capital of boatmen.
“La Malène has always been known to boatmen. This does not mean that there have always been boatmen only. But La Malène was the starting point of the most beautiful part of the river and the tradition of inland waterway transport has remained strong and well anchored in the village ” , recounts Eric Persegol, retired boatman and father of Thomas.
La Croze, a hamlet cut off from the world
Along the water, it is sometimes enough to lift your head a little to catch signs of hidden life like a small cable car suspended between two shores. It is used to transport groceries and luggage to the hamlet of La Croze. Located on the left bank, it is inaccessible by road and completely private.
“A man from Millau fell in love with the place” , relates Gilles Fages, the caretaker. “He bought the houses one after the other and completely restored them. Today, it is the heirs who benefit from it, it has become their holiday village. They come to 25-30 people in July and August. ”
The village is entirely made up of stone houses with slate roofs, typical of the region. That is to say limestone cut and placed on vaults also in stones. The hamlet is only open to the public once a year, on the occasion of heritage days.
Le Pas-de-Soucy, feet in the water
But this rocky chaos can also be visited with your feet in the water with adequate supervision . The aquatic hike is a canyoning formula in a family version, 3 hours of walks during which the most intrepid can cross siphons, let themselves be carried by rapids or jump from the cliffs.
“It is enormous ! It’s the first time I’ve jumped so high, it’s impressive, it’s adrenaline, but it’s good, it’s strong! ” reacts a holidaymaker from Angers with his wife, who marvels at the landscape: “the place is really very beautiful! If I compare it to the Gorges du Verdon, I prefer this one. I like the obstacles on the course, the water is transparent! This is really beautiful !”.
Paddleboard descent under the stars
To unravel the best kept secrets of the Gorges, it is better to wait until the end of the day… and have some notions of balance. Because the ride is done in paddle over ten kilometers. On the program: a few rapids, but also and above all the discovery of a landscape that changes with the sunset.
Tourists and canoes desert the place, and nocturnal animals appear, to the delight of adventurers: “It’s original, we have the paddles that light up. We wait for nightfall, we hope to see beavers, ” says one of them. “It’s peaceful, you can hear the flowing water. That during the day, we won’t hear it because there is a lot more crowd ” , confides a boatman who is trying the experience for the first time with his partner: “ We hear all the noises of nature, it is is really that us and the silence around… We remember it ”, she specifies.