Since 2009, the Castillon dam has been home to one of the world’s largest sundials.
Today, these man-made lakes with their crystal-clear waters are a major attraction and an important economic factor.
The primary purpose of these lakes was to irrigate the land.
Indeed, after the water shortage of 1895, the people of Provence had a single idea in mind: to bring drinking water to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille. Added to this was the desire to control the Durance river, which caused flooding and a great deal of damage.
This nationwide project took shape throughout Provence with the creation of the first water reservoir: the Castillon dam.
Its launch in 1948 had many consequences. Before the completion of the major works orchestrated by the Société Hydroélectrique du Verdon, there were inhabitants who worked the land and grew fruit trees. These premises, located in the village of Castillon near the Verdon, have had to move, leaving their land and houses behind.
A few years later, the same fate befell the inhabitants of Les Salles-sur-Verdon when EDF launched the Sainte-Croix lake in 1973. As for the villages of Bauduen and Sainte-Croix-sur-Verdon, they succeeded in reducing the lake’s depth. The villages of Castillon and Les Salles-sur-Verdon will be rebuilt nearby. Today, a few remnants of the village of Castillon can still be seen, especially when the lake is at its lowest. In winter, the Pont Julien reveals part of its history.
Since 2009, the Castillon dam has been home to one of the world’s largest sundials. With almost 13,000 m2 of floor space, it is unique in that it can be read from the shade of the cornice. At 95 m high and 200 m wide, you can cross the dam by car or on foot.
Although the main function of the dams was to irrigate the land, electricity production is still very important for the valley. Currently, the Castillon dam alone is capable of producing the annual consumption of 31,100 people (twice the population of Digne-les-Bains).
In the 1980s, the lakes showed a completely different face. With the gradual development of tourism and the promotion of the Gorges du Verdon by the Touring Club France (a former tourist development association), the Castillon and Sainte-Croix lakes were taken over by water sports centres.
As for the whitewater companies, they were created following the regularization of water releases by EDF. Today, the lakes and water releases are real tourism drivers, making the destination an attractive one.