Discover Provence’s lakes and rivers, perfect for a refreshing dip, stroll, sports, or simply chilling at the water’s edge. From the stunning Lac de Sainte-Croix to the Etang de Berre lagoon, plunge into the clear waters of le Sud!
Lac de Sainte Croix and Lac d’Esparron
Blue waters and holiday pleasures
Set in the heart of the Verdon and spanning the Alpes-de Haute-Provence and Var areas, Lac de Sainte-Croix is a vast expanse of translucent waters reminiscent of tropical climes. The view from the village of Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, perched on a rocky outcrop, unveils the lake in all its splendour. Sainte-Croix is a paradise for water sports fans and is France’s second-largest reservoir, inaugurated in 1974. A few kilometres to the West, the Verdon river arrives at the village of Esparron-de-Verdon and a smaller but no less enchanting lake: Lac d’Esparron, where you can revel in the joys of surf sports and bathing, or simply enjoy a break on the sandy beach.
The Durance river
A river brimming with character
As you leave the Alps and cross the gateway to Provence at Sisteron, the impetuous Durance river grows calmer. Its power is partially tamed by dams and irrigation of the land through which it snakes. But the Durance remains an unpredictable river, famed for its impressive and treacherous high waters. It harbours a rich and varied fauna including fish, cormorants, herons and beavers. If you’re a heritage fan, a trip down the Durance unveils such astonishing villages as Jouques, Peyrolles-en-Provence, Meyrargues and La Roque d’Anthéron.
The Sorgue river
Tinted with emerald
The main artery of a maze of waterways running from Carpentras to Cavaillon, to the East of Avignon, the Sorgue is famed for the intense, bright green of its waters. The river springs from Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and winds its way idly to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. From the Middle Ages onwards the village, built on piles, reaped the benefits of the Sorgue. Several centuries later, drapery makers then prosperous silk and textile firms sprang up on its banks. Standing witness to this bygone age, various waterwheels can still be seen around Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, now a paradise for antiques lovers.
The Argens river
As white as silver
Reputed since Gallo-Roman times for the quality of its farm produce, the Argens river springs from Seillons-Source-d’Argens to the North of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume and Brignoles, and throws itself into the Mediterranean Sea, a stone’s throw from Fréjus. The river, which takes its names from the colour of its waters (“as white as silver”) crosses bewitching landscapes and vast agricultural plains. You can explore them on foot or in a canoe. Dotted with beautiful waterfalls, the river’s path crosses various superb Provencal villages: Barjols, famed for its natural springs, waterfalls and fountains, Carcès, Le Thoronet and Entrecasteaux.
Lac de Carcès
A haven of peace
Tucked away in the heart of the Provence Verte area, Lac de Carcès – or Lac Sainte Suzanne -, hugging the villages of Carcès and Cabasse, is the fruit of a dam erected between 1934 and 1939 to supply the town of Toulon with drinking water. A vast expanse of water with luxuriant green banks, the lake is a genuine bubble of peace and tranquillity. From Spring onwards, it is a popular meeting place for locals who gather there to enjoy a picnic under blue skies. Inhabited by carps, perch, pike and bream, it is also appreciated by fishermen.
The Rhône River and Etang de Berre
Precious natural riches
Surging into Provence to the West of Orange, the Rhône winds its way to Avignon, where it runs under the famous Pont Saint-Bénézet, then on to Arles, where it splits up into the Petit Rhône to the East and Grand Rhône to the West. The Rhône Delta and Camargue Regional Nature Reserve are located between the two arms. Tamed over the centuries, this unique blend of fresh and saltwater harbours fragile flora and fauna. To the East of the delta lies Etang de Berre, Europe’s largest saltwater lake, bordering the towns of Istres and Martigues. A major industrial site since the 1930s, Etang de Berre has undergone a major clean-up and now boasts clear and high-quality waters, appreciated by windsurfers and kitesurfers alike.
BEACHES AND SWIMMING IN PROVENCE
With its picturesque coves and its rocky or sandy beaches, the Mediterranean coastline is a sure thing for swimming. But to track down the unexpected spots, don't think twice about heading into the hinterland to the lakes and rivers. Provence holds many surprises for swimmers!