Sunday, 22 January 2012

Rivers and Streams

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We failed to find or imagine a fitting title for this little article but we did come across this magnificent, if less than entirely relevant, masterpiece:

The petty streams that pay a daily debt
To their salt sovereign, with their fresh falls' haste
Add to his flow, but alter not his taste.' 
 "The Rape of Lucretia"  William Shakespeare
We've been looking at a little local project to photograph the upper reaches of the River Drôme.  The Drôme is not a mighty river but it is endlessly attractive and despite its unimpressive size it has hugely influenced the landscape and the lives of the people who live in its valley.  It has also given its name to the Departement where we live in France.

By coincidence, we had climbed to the top of the Pic de Luc a few weeks ago and found a splendid view of one of the most striking features of the upper Drôme.  In 1442 a huge chunk of the Pic de Luc fell into the valley.  Enormous house-sized boulders, now known as Les Claps, peeled off the mountain and blocked the flow of the river forming natural dam which created, behind it, a lake five kilometres long.  In 1804 inevitably progress got its way, the dam was breached and the lake drained.  Now the Saut de la Drôme makes an impressive short waterfall and rapids, formidably difficult to photograph.  A helicopter would be ideal but perhaps we'll just wait for better times.
The lake bed, rich alluvial soil, with the deceptively discreet Drôme zig-zagging across the fields on the right, hidden by a line of trees.
Close-up of the lake bed and river.

Above Les Claps farming has largely taken over from the original marshlands.  But as the valley narrows, the Marais de Bouligon is now a modest nature reserve.  The local tendency to build dams has been revived by a family of beavers who have made the entry to the nature reserve a little more complicated by blocking the exit stream from the marsh and raising the water level. 
A stand of deciduous trees on the edge of the river, opposite the Marais de Bouligon.

The ice-bound Marais de Bouligon.
  
The source of the Drôme was a bit of a disappointment.  A municipal plaque, passed by a stream which rises quite a lot further up the slopes behind the hamlet of La Batie-des-Fonds, announces the river's source but we're inclined to walk up to the top one day and have a look for ourselves.

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