Saint Julien beach on Lac d'Esparron

Natural and historical site

duration of the visit
20 min
bathing on a beach at a lake
ruin

Lac d'Esparron is the last lake on the Verdon before it flows into the Durance. It is therefore the warmest lake along the Verdon, but the access is long. There are few roads leading to its shores, most of the coasts are rocky and the cliffs plunge steeply into the water. The coasts are very little built, there are houses only on the northeast quarter around the village of Esparron-de-Verdon. A single paved but bumpy road leads to the opposite side to access a kind of small fjord. By advancing a quarter of an hour on foot, you can reach two of the rare beaches.

This lake is not very touristic and the site of the Plage de St. Julien was for a long time an insider's secret, the road initially only existing for the maintenance of the water intake for the Canal de Provence. In recent years, the site has been a victim of its own success and access is now chargeable in the summer season. However all the rest of the year we will be there alone, it's the same early in the morning or late in the evening or by pushing a little further on foot in an easterly direction.

Access by public transport

The is no public transport towards the beach of Saint Julien.

Photo all rights reserved © by André M. Winter. Photo taken 2008 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id1900)
sites photo

Car park on the access to St. Julien beach on Esparron Lake

Access by car

A single road leads to Saint Julien beach. Leave Gréoux heading south at the roundabout with the fountain and follow the signs for St.-Julien-le-Montagnier. Continue over the single lane bridge over the Verdon and then take immediately left. Ignore the driveway to the campsite on the left and continue straight ahead for 7 kilometres. The road goes towards a pass in the Mediterranean forest and in a valley. Behind it we see the reservoir for the first time. After numerous more curves we reach the parking lot in a deep bay. From here you continue on foot.

Parking site

The parking lot is chargeable in summer, for a normal car you pay EUR4,-. Access is limited to 200 vehicles. When parking, make sure not to block the access road for the fire brigade and rescue services and park close to the road so as not to be prevented from driving away by those coming later. Vehicles with a total height of more than 2.20 m will be turned away, apparently they want to keep campers out.

Photo all rights reserved © by Alex Medwedeff. Photo taken 2019 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id2804)
sites photo

St. Julien bay as seen from a canoe

Services available

In the bay, under the parking lot, you can rent canoes and electric boats to go further than by foot. This can be an alternative to escape the masses in summer. Only on the south coast and going eastwards you can get to a few beaches, the rest remains rocky.

There is a compost toilet in the upper area of the parking lot. It is a bit far from the beach, but we ask everyone to leave their needs here and not in the forest behind the beach!

If you walk east (right) from the waterfront parking lot, you will find a food stand in the summer.

Short trail

On the water you can only go as far as the water intake point, which looks like a diving tower. In principle, bathing is not allowed in the first bay and on the fortified shore, so let's go to the more natural beaches in the most direct way:

After parking the car, we stay at the top of the parking lot and look for a ravine that runs parallel to the shore into the forest and to the east. This forest road is the former Canal du Verdon, which was built by forced laborers under Napoleon III and has been derelict since the 1970s. The short path where we walk it runs entirely in the forest and in a little rocky section. It is still in good condition here, but the vegetation is slowly taking over.

So we go along this sunken passage and after a long right turn we pass the tower of the water intake. We go on for a few more minutes and take a left turn. The canal then leads very close to the lake shore and we see paths that lead out to the left. This is the access to the first beach.

You can walk another 10 minutes to another narrow beach. The canal has become much more overgrown as it continues, but enough people walk here that a path remains. A yellow-red marking directs us from the ditch to the sea-side retaining wall.

When we come to a bridge, we follow the direction of the canal that skirts another deep bay without going over the bridge. We now go about 50 meters to the north and as before we look for a passage to the left to the beach. Here the bushes are probably denser and getting out of the canal is perhaps more difficult than on the first beach. There are several small beaches here up to the cape, followed by a longer rocky stretch.

You can also advance about another kilometer on the marked path. This is how you get to the only flat shore section of the lake and to some other simple bathing opportunities.

In all cases, the way back to the parking lot is the same.

Photo all rights reserved © by André M. Winter. Photo taken 2008 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id1895)
sites photo

The water extraction point at Lac d'Esparron

St. Julien beach is further back.

Site history

The canal behind the shore of the lake leads much further upstream along the Verdon. Originally water flowed here from Quinson to Aix-en-Provence. The canal was built by forced laborers between 1863 and 1875. It was in service until 1969 and since then has been falling into disrepair. In the 1960s, the canal was progressively closed. The dam at Gréoux, which forms the Lac d'Esparron, allowed the water to rise from 1967, part of the canal and the accompanying path are now below the water level.

Downstream from Quinson, part of the accompanying path has been restored and the Lower Verdon Gorge (Basses Gorges du Verdon) can be hiked again: Canal du Verdon and Sainte-Maxime Chapel. New bridges have been built and it is now possible to explore this section of the gorge for over two miles by dry feet.

Photo all rights reserved © by André M. Winter. Photo taken 2019 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id2807)
sites photo

Passage from the canal to the St. Julien beach

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Photo all rights reserved © by André M. Winter. Photo taken 2008 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id1902)
sites photo

View eastward Esparron village

Photo all rights reserved © by André M. Winter. Photo taken 2008 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id1907)
sites photo

Clear water of the Esparron Lake

Photo all rights reserved © by André M. Winter. Photo taken 2019 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id2805)
sites photo

Bridge over the canal near La Barade

Photo all rights reserved © by André M. Winter. Photo taken 2019 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id2806)
sites photo

La Barade bay an the narrow beach on the left

Photo all rights reserved © by André M. Winter. Photo taken 2008 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id1905)
sites photo

Saint Julien natural beach

Note

The information about this site was collected with the greatest care in 2019. Nevertheless, all information is provided without guarantee. Should you find any errors, please contact the author of this site, thank you!

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