An excursion to the Lac d’Artouste

An excursion to the Lac d’Artouste : a walk in open air accessible to all…

You will head in the direction of Spain, on the road of the Col du Pourtalet  and will drive by several hydroelectric plants. It is there that the history of Lake of Artouste begins …

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Indeed, in the 1920’s, it was decided to enhance the natural lake of Artouste at the tail-end of the valley of Soussouéou, originally based  at an altitude of 1922m.

The construction of a concrete curved weight dam to supply the hydroelectric plant of Artouste was thus inaugurated in 1929. It is the first of a series of several  hydroelectirc sites located along the « Gave d’Ossau » river and that  turbine the waters along the valley.

In 1962, the dam is raised further up again, to reach its present height and brings the lake at 1990 m, 20 NGF (Nivelle General de France). This raising will allow productivity increase as well as supply of another plant, that of the « Pont de Camps »,  situated upstream the lake of Fabrèges, thanks to a gallery dug under the Lurien massif (on the left bank of the lake).

It is by the lake of Fabrèges, at a mountain sports resort, that you will park your vehicle to get a cable car cabin to the peak of Sagette, where there is a railway station. Formerly, it used to be the workers’ train to get to the construction site of the dam. It has been restored for visitors. The little train will take you for a twenty minutes scenic ride, on the mountainside, up to the lake of Artouste. On its way, you may come real close to marmots that  sometimes come begging for food. (One should be careful and avoid feeding them).

Once arrived at the station, there is about a 10 minutes’ walk to the lake.

Before starting the climb, one can see, looking into the direction of the railway track, the entrance of the hydroelectric plant situated inside the dam.

With an installed capacity of 2634 kW, the underground plant is also the starting point of the water galleries to the hydroelectrics production sites of Pont de Camps and Artouste.

During the ascent to the lake, one passes in front of a small pond below the lake which is in actual fact an overflow area. It operates as siphon type and starts off by itself, should there be a sudden rise of waters. A hundred meters above, one reaches the banks of the lake, in front of it, the workers’ house, still being used today for accomodation during maintenance campains of the factory or the dam. At the time of the construction of the dam, a real small village dwelled at that very place.

In front of you, the lake of Artouste, deep blue, its capacity reaching 24 000 000 m3, is bordered over three of its banks, by the National Park of the Pyrenees.It is the distinctive feature of this spot, accessible to all, and being at the same time right in the middle of high mountains and preserved nature.

The lake of Artouste is also a path for hikers wishing to get to the valley of Arrens through the pass of the Col d’Artouste and the lake of Migouélou. It is also possible to climb to Arrémoulit, a refuge where one can spend the night.

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However, check your return time: it is important to bear in mind there are less trains on the way back since the vehicles can pass each other on the railway only in one area, which obvioulsy reduces the number of return trips.

This excursion is a unique and exceptional site with easy access ; a true family outing.

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