Start at 1.30 pm at La Malene
The sky is blue and the Tarn, which takes on its color with emerald reflections, ripples joyfully through the two large cliffs that surround it. What could be more pleasant to discover the Gorges than to take a boat trip with a guide who knows the place like his pocket?
We get into the boat with Éric, a boatman for almost 30 years. This lover of the Gorges left his quiet life in Montpellier and his work in the administration to come and settle on the land of his grandparents, whom he came to visit in summer during his childhood. A crazy bet, said some, now rewarded: the Boatmen of the Gorges du Tarn, who have offered their services to tourists since the 1875s, are still emblematic figures of the Gorges, and previous generations have succeeded in perpetuating their passion and their know-how to young people who will take over.
The visit with Eric
From the beginning of the visit we are amazed by the landscape: the cliffs which overhang us offer us shapes like no other, the crystal clear water of the Tarn completing the picture. Eric then explains to us with passion how the gorges were formed, and why the rocks of the cliffs sometimes take on such special aspects.
He also explains to us on the 53 km of the Gorges du Tarn, 40 resurgences coming from sources and providing in volume half of the water of the river, allow to temper the water to 20 ° in summer: it is very important for trout that cannot stand too hot water. And the river does not only welcome trout: in the air, on cliffs or under water, the Gorges are teeming with life. During the visit, we will see pretty gray wagtail and diving squirrels by the river, while the majestic griffon vultures swirl above the cliffs. Some inhabitants who are more reasonable in size are however less discreet: the howler frog which aptly bears its name surprises us with its hoarse cry. It seems that otters are once again populating the crystal clear waters of the river… just like beavers, which leave many traces on the banks. The astonishing "long-leafed plumes", carnivorous plants with beautiful purple flowers, complete the picture.
An exceptionally preserved river
If all these species populate the Gorges, it is because the Tarn is an exceptionally preserved river. From its starting point so far, it will have crossed no town except Florac: thus, no industry and few dwellings in its wake, it arrives here almost virgin of any source of pollution. La Lozère, nicknamed "the land of 1,000 sources", has 3,000 km of river classified in 1st quality for their water: an exceptional rate for this department where nature reigns supreme.
We arrive at the Straits: this is the highest and narrowest part of the Gorges, from the bank to the top of the cliffs, 500 meters separate us. Our guide confesses that this is his favorite part of the Gorges here. And we understand why: the cliffs that surround us are like no other. How can you not feel privileged when you know that this view worthy of the most beautiful postcards is only accessible from the river?
In the footsteps of our ancestors
Continuing our ride on the water, we are in front of the charming hamlet of Croze with typical architecture: inhabited since the 12th century, it now comes to life during the few months of summer. If nature here is queen, humans have known from time immemorial to live in harmony with it. Certain "balms", caves which shelter the cliffs, welcomed Men from the Neolithic era, and we find in the heart of the Gorges traces of dwellings from the 5th century AD! Eric tells us that the Gorges road that we took to come, was only built in 1905 ... difficult to imagine living here, with the only means of access and transport of goods, the boats! No wonder if the boatmen have always occupied an essential place here, and there are traces of the use of the boat from the 6th century.
We still enjoy the landscape a bit before the ride ends ... this good hour with our guide seemed to last us only for a moment! We are here to sail on the Tarn, to the rhythm of the undulating river. We let it continue its race while we land on a beach, and we let the mini-bus guide us to our starting point, images always full of mind, with the desire to start again and again!