The lake's tributaries provide water that is particularly rich in minerals and sediments, giving Serre-Ponçon its surprisingly distinctive South Sea hue.
Lac de Serre-Ponçon is the largest man-made lake in mainland France, and one of the largest earthen dams in Europe at over 2800 hectares.
Straddling the Hautes-Alpes and Alpes de Hautes-Provence departments, fed by the powerful torrential rivers of the Durance and Ubaye, Lac de Serre-Ponçon lies at the heart of the Southern Alps. The special climate of the Serre-Ponçon valley is characterized by exceptional sunshine, regularly reaching 300 days a year, making it a destination of exotic colors.
Thanks to controlled development, nature remains omnipresent. The quality of the environment is remarkable, and the steep banks guarantee the wilderness that gives Serre-Ponçon its charm. In fact, only 13km of the lake's 90km of shoreline have been developed for tourism.
The Serre-Ponçon dam
A unique story
The floods of 1843 and 1856, and subsequent summer shortages, particularly those of 1895, led to the first plans for a dam on the Durance.
Two entire villages were razed to the ground before the water slowly invaded the valley in 1959. Savines-le-Lac, rebuilt just above the lake shore, is the only village to date with its feet in the water. Ubaye, an abandoned village where only the cemetery has been moved to the crossroads for the village of Pontis on the Ubaye side.
Today, the lake has become part of the landscape, population movements have been forgotten and Serre-Ponçon has become a major asset for the Southern Alps.
The largest water reservoir in France, it is the benchmark for multi-use water management: energy production, Provence's "water tower" with 200 million m3 dedicated to agriculture, drinking water supply, water sports and tourism, land use and flood management.
Construction work began in 1955, with impoundment of the reservoir on November 16, 1959 and completion in 1961.
Lac de Serre-Ponçon holds 1.27 billionm3 of water (320,000 Olympic-size swimming pools!), covers 2,800 hectares (1,555 soccer pitches!) and is 20km long and 3km wide at its maximum level.
Why is the lake low in winter?
So how does the lake fill up in spring?
Visit Lake Serre-Ponçon
To help you get to know our lake better, there are a number of unique and fun tours on offer:
- At the foot of the damEspace EDF Odysselec Maison de l'eau et des énergies de Serre-Ponçon in July and August,
- Visit Muséoscope du Lacalso in Rousset, above the Serre-Ponçon dam, open all year round,
- The Architecture and Heritage Interpretation Center, CIAP in Savines-le-Lac is part of the Le XXe cultural center, dedicated to 20th-century heritage, which has earned the village its own label.
Unless you prefer visit the lake by boat !
Focus on water sports
The services offered by the harbourmaster's office will facilitate your boating activities, as the lake offers nearly 1,000 moorings spread over 13 ports and pontoons. ports and pontoons and 3 refuelling stations. The lake is subject to appropriate regulations that respect all boating practices.
All boating licenses are authorized on the lake (coastal, river, offshore), and you can even take your coastal license on the lake from May to October! And launching is free...
By June, all the water sports bases are operational and you can enjoy a full range of activities: rowing, stand-up paddle, windsurfing, kite-surfing, canoeing, sea kayaking, catamaran, pedal boat, schooner, jet ski, boat with or without a license, touring boat and aperitif boat, school boat, towed buoys, water skiing, wakeboarding... unless you prefer to fly over the lake in a microlight/ hydroplane!
An invigorating playground.
The whitewater sports begin as early as April, with kayaking, rafting andhydrospeed. In fact, it's hard to imagine a better base camp for white-water enthusiasts than Serre-Ponçon. Two rivers renowned throughout Europe for the quality of their rapids. On one side, the Ubaye, the last naturally flowing river in the French Alps, offers 52km of courses and 60 rapids for rather sporty navigation. On the other, the more accessible Durance offers a progressive and varied course. Fed by the glaciers of the Ecrins massif, the river's flow remains sufficient, even in the height of summer. At Châteauroux-les-Alpes, the Rabioux wave is a freestyle mecca that attracts riders from all over the world.
There's a wide range of whitewater activities for all ages and abilities, all of them original and sporty. A must-try for those who love refreshing sensations!
The Serre-Ponçon thermal bath, a sure bet!
Serre-Ponçon is a mecca for sailing, in the broadest sense of the term, and for all levels of sailor, thanks to a regular thermal wind from the west/southwest, with conditions ranging from 8-10 knots to 25 knots in June and July, and constant water temperatures of 20 degrees.
The mountains encircling the lake and the thermal amplitudes between day and night, which start to develop in fine weather, favor the appearance of almost daily thermal breezes from midday until late afternoon.
Stable, regular conditions, more pronounced from Savines-le-Lac (venturi effect) up towards Embrun, make this area "the spot" for sails, kite-surfing and more and more foils, the new glide that's flourishing in Serre-Ponçon!
Lac de Serre-Ponçon and Embrun are also renowned for their fishing. In fact, fishermen are the most assiduous sailors, and don't hesitate to launch their boats in the middle of winter to fish for whitefish, a fish specific to the great Alpine lakes. Serre-Ponçon is particularly renowned for its pike and lake trout, but you'll also find perch, carp and other white fish.
Fishing is permitted all year round on the lake, with specific regulations for carnivorous fish, night carp fishing and trolling. The rivers feeding the lake are all in 1st category (mainly populated by trout), open from March to the first Sunday in October. This is an advantage for the Hautes-Alpes, because in other French departments, 1st category rivers close in mid-September, so you have 15 extra days of trout fishing in the Hautes-Alpes! Another advantage is that the mouth of the Durance into the lake offers a "no-kill" fishing trail that can be fished all year round!
Other services for angl ers include a handi-fishing pontoon at the Embrun lake, and the "cabane des pêcheurs" at Les Eygoires in Savines-le-Lac, a town that has been awarded the "Station Pêche" label (next to a boat launch): a place for information and numerous fishing events. Since 2018, the Serre-Ponçon lake has been awarded the "parcours passion" label by the FNPF national federation and the Hautes-Alpes fishing federation, thanks to its many services and exceptional site, with a high diversity of fish species.
Serre-Ponçon, the ideal base camp for all outdoor activities!
The Ecrins National Park stretches from the shores of the lake to the highest peaks, at an altitude of almost 3000m. High-altitude lakes (Lac Brun, Lac de l'Hivernet, Lac du Crachet), waterfalls (Cascade de la Pisse, de Réallon, des Razis, etc.), alpine meadows and peaks can all be found here, with Lac de Serre-Ponçon as a backdrop.
Make your choice on the Serre-Ponçon hiking portal ! The shores of the lake offer a number of itineraries accessible to all, mainly the tour of the lake, the Petit Liou wetland, the Crots dike, the path linking the bays of Chanteloube and Saint-Michel... Higher up, the lake of Saint-Apollinaire, Les Gourniers, Réallon, Les Orres, Crévoux and the Châteauroux-Les-Alpes valley.
Of course, you can also enjoy cycling and mountain biking, equestrian and motorized sports, aerial sports and all kinds of other outdoor activities. outdoor activities or simply family fun family (inflatable games, adventure park, panoramic chairlifts...)