What a story!
Come for a visit, a stroll or a swim at this historic and verdant UNESCO World Heritage site.
A bucolic spot
The lake of Saint-Ferréol is sheltered in the valley of the Laudot, surrounded by the green wooded slopes of the Montagne Noire. Construction began in 1667, but it was not until the 18th century that the site was adorned with trees.
The first plantations stabilised the soil around the lake, and today these pines fill the air with their scent. The shade from their green needles will make you want to take your time and relax, or perhaps enjoy a picnic.
A park and leisure activities
The pine forest is complemented by a park downstream of the dam wall where you will find magnificent specimens of Douglas fir. From the dam, follow the paths which take you all around the lake through a green, shady tunnel that is even suitable for pushchairs.
A place full of history!
The genius of Riquet
In 1648, Riquet settled in Revel and began to explore the Montagne Noire, and in particular, the valley of the Laudot. He found a place where the river was squeezed through a narrow, rocky gorge, and this geological feature allowed him to build what is today the oldest dam in France.
Construction lasted from 1667-72, and when Riquet’s dam was finished, it could store 3.5 million cubic metres of water. The structure of this massive dam consisted of three parallel dam walls and the space between them was filled by soil and stone.
A few years later, Vauban raised the height of the dam and doubled the volume of its reservoir. Saint-Ferréol has attracted several notable visitors over the centuries, including the brothers of Louis XVI and, in 1787, Thomas Jefferson, who at that time was the ambassador of the United States.
In the middle of the 19th century, two new valves were added to make the site more attractive to tourists. They allowed water to be supplied to the English landscape garden below the dam thereby creating waterfalls and a fountain powered to a height of thirty metres by the pressure of the lake.
Saint-Ferréol a beach in the moutain
From swimming to windsurfing, Saint-Ferréol offers a wide range of water-based activities.
Storing water fot the Canal du Midi
An incredible history!
Do you like history? Don’t miss the Réservoir, the museum of the Canal du Midi.
Are they taps?
Yes, these three giant taps, or valves, used to control the flow of water from the reservoir.
A 350-year-old feat of engineering
For its day, Saint-Ferréol was an astonishing technical achievement: with a perimeter of 4.5 kilometres and a surface of sixty-seven hectares, it was the largest; at thirty-two metres, it was the deepest; holding six million cubic metres of water made it the most voluminous; and its end-to-end length of 1,600 metres made it the longest.
An unusual location
Saint-Ferréol is on the boundary of three departments: Aude, Haute-Garonne and the Tarn, four communes: Vaudreuille and Revel (Haute-Garonne), Sorèze (Tarn) and Les Brunels (Aude). Technical management of the lake is the responsibility of VNF (French waterways).
Some claim that all these administrative divisions unite at the so-called pyramid,. It is in fact a stone obelisk designed to serve as a giant depth gauge of fifteen metres tall. It is only visible when the lake is drained every decade.