In Pays d’Issoire, water is everywhere in all its forms, shaping the landscapes. These bodies of water are ideal for all kinds of activities: walks, hiking, fishing, canoeing, swimming or just taking it easy…
The backbone: the River Allier
The Allier is a tributary of the River Loire, running across Pays d’Issoire from north to south, and is known as the last river in Europe in its natural state. It has, in fact, been little modified by mankind, and contains great ecological riches with remarkable, protected plants species, many animal species (including otters and beavers) and over a hundred species of nesting birds.
At one time, there were large numbers of salmon, which came to the river to reproduce. There were so many that it was even stated in the contracts of workers employed nearby that they should not eat salmon more than twice a week! Long absent, salmon have returned in the last few years after modifications were made to the river and to dams.
Today, the river can be peaceful or unpredictable, depending on the moment, and is an ideal place for canoeing and fishing.
To get closer to the sources, couzes (mountain streams)or waterfalls, we have set up a driving itinerary to discover water in all its forms in Pays d’Issoire.
To the west of the River Allier is the land of the couzes (an Auvergne word for mountain stream): the couze of Ardes, the couze Chambon, the couze Pavin. These streams run down the Sancy mountains and join up with the Allier between gorges and along paths carved out by lava flows. The couzes are ideal spots for trout fishing.
- The Gour d’Appât waterfall in Apchat: “Gour” is an old local word for deep, water-filled hollows formed at the edge of rivers. This site stands out through the unusual way that the water has carved out, polished and rounded the granite rock, forming a kind of raised chapel with a waterfall pouring down from it.
- The Y-shaped Apcher waterfall is on the border of Puy-de-Dôme and Cantal, and rises up suddenly after a bend in the road. It is 500 metres beyond the village of Apcher (part of Anzat-le-Luguet) on the road to Allanche.
- The Breuil waterfall in Sauxillanges is easily accessible from the town centre along a small path. This is a shaded place for a walk and very pleasant on a hot summer’s day.
- On the couze d’Ardes, the Jassy waterfall, not far from Saint-Alyre-es-Montagne in the village of Jassy, is a refreshing spot during a trip to Le Cézallier.
- In Issoire, in the René Cassin park on the couze Pavin, right next to the Tourist Office, there is another attractive waterfall to see.
Sources are a very original element in the natural heritage of Auvergne, and Pays d’Issoire has a large number of them.
Auvergne is famous not only for its cheeses, but also for its mineral waters. To enjoy water that is really "made in Pays d’Issoire", we recommend Ardésie from Ardes-sur-Couze or Hydroxydase, a naturally sparkling mineral water from Breuil-sur-Couze, which is only sold in chemist’s shops.
How were these sources formed?
Rain water filtered deep down through the cracks, and on its way towards the earth’s depths, the water is heated up and rises, lighter. On the way, it gathers mineral salts and carbon dioxide. These elements are dissolved in the water, and vary in nature and in the chemical composition of the rocks that the water runs over, so that each source is unique!
Among these sources, some are high in salt and contain “halophile” (salt-loving) sea plants.
With these sources, it is as if the sea had reached the foot of the volcanoes!
Some of the source waters are bottled and sold, which proves their high quality!
Swimming in the Vernet-la-Varenne lake
The only “official” site for swimming in Pays d’Issoire, this 3-hectare artificial lake is a peaceful, pleasant spot to spend the day with your family. In July and August, lifeguards are on duty from 11 to midday and from 2 to 6 p.m. Pedal boats available for hire and there is a snack bar on site.
In a lake, a river, a couze or a pond, in Pays d’Issoire, the fishing spots are as varied as anyone could wish. The king of the fish here is, of course, the trout, but you can also find pike, bleak, chub, burbot, salmonids, carp and tench, while using your favourite fishing technique!