The lake’s tributaries provide water that is particularly rich in minerals and sediments giving Serre-Ponçon its characteristic, surprising hue of the southern seas.
The Serre-Ponçon Lake is the largest man-made lake in mainland France and one of the largest inland dams in Europe spanning more than 2800 hectares.
Located on the border between the Hautes-Alpes and the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, and fed by the powerful, torrential Durance and Ubaye rivers, the Serre-Ponçon Lake is at the heart of the Southern Alps. Serre-Ponçon valley’s specific climate lies in its exceptional sunshine regularly reaching 300 days a year for a destination with exotic colours.
Thanks to controlled development, nature remains omnipresent. The quality of the environment is remarkable, and the steep banks guarantee the unspoilt aspect that makes Serre-Ponçon so appealing. Indeed, only 13 km of the lakes 90-km shoreline are suitable for development and dedicated to tourism.
A unique story.
The 1843 and 1856 floods and consequent summer shortages, particularly in 1895 are behind the first plans to build a dam on the Durance.
Two entire villages were razed to the ground before water slowly invaded the valley in 1959. Savines-Le-Lac, the village rebuilt just above the lake coastline, is currently the only village that has its feet in the water. Ubaye, is an abandoned village. Only the cemetery was moved to the crossing with the village of Pontis on the Ubaye side.
Today, the lake is part of the landscape, population displacement is forgotten and Serre-Ponçon has become a major asset for the Southern Alps.
The largest water reservoir in France, it is a reference site for multi-purpose water management: energy production, Provence’s ‘water tower’ with 200 million m3 used for agriculture, drinking water supply, nautical and tourist activities, land and flood management.
Development work began in 1955 so that the reservoir could be filled on November 16, 1959 with works being completed in 1961.
The Serre-Ponçon Lake has 1.27 billion m3 of water (600,000 Olympic swimming pools!), a surface area of 2800 hectares (1555 football fields!) and is 20km long and 3 km wide at its maximum level.
Visit the Serre-Ponçon Lake
There are several places to visit around the lake :
The EDF Water and Energies Centre at the foot of the dam in July and August,
The Serre-Ponçon Lake Museoscope, also in Rousset above the Serre-Ponçon dam is open all year,
Savines-le-Lac’s Centre d’Interprétation de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine CIAP (Architecture and Heritage Interpretation Centre) within Le XXe cultural hub, dedicated to 20th century heritage for which the entire village is classified.
Unless you prefer to visit the lake by boat !
Spotlight on nautical activities
Families will particularly appreciate the nine ‘Blue Flag’ beaches around the lake and the pure water that can reach a temperature of 23°C.
The services of the harbourmaster’s office will make your nautical activities easier, the lake offers nearly 1000 moorings across the lake’s 13 harbours and pontoons as well as 3 refuelling stations. The lake is subject to regulations that respect all activities.
All boat licences are allowed on the lake (coastal, river, deep sea), you can even obtain your coastal licence on the lake from May to October! And boat launching is free…
From May to October, tour boats operate as does the Club Nautique Alpin de Serre-Ponçon at the Embrun lake.
In June, all the nautical bases are operational and you can practice all the possible activities: rowing, stand up paddling, windsurfing, kitesurfing, canoeing, sea kayaking, catamaran, pedal boat, schooner, jet ski, pirogue, boats that require a licence or not, tour boats and aperitif boats, school boats, tubing, water skiing, wakeboard… unless you prefer to fly over the lake in a LM/Hydroplane?
A fun and refreshing playground
White water sports begin in April as the melting snow fills the lake providing the sporting and recreational conditions for kayaking, rafting and hydro-speed.
There are many white-water activities, that are both original and athletic and suitable for all levels and ages. For those who like refreshing experiences, try out these activities as soon as you can !
Serre-Ponçon’s thermals, a valuable asset !
Serre-Ponçon is a Mecca for sailing, in the broad sense of the term and whatever your level. Thanks to a regular, West/South-West, thermal wind, conditions fluctuate between 8 and 10 knots and up to 25 knots in June and July, with water that is consistently at a temperature of 20°C.
The mountains surrounding the lake and the thermal variations between day and night that occur with the onset of summer, generate stable, regular thermal breezes from midday to the end of the afternoon.
Steady, regular conditions, that are more pronounced from Savines-le-Lac (venturi effect) up to Embrun, make this area ‘the spot’ for sailing and kitesurfing, with an increasing number of foils, a new activity that is flourishing in Serre-Ponçon !
The Serre-Ponçon lake and the Embrun lake are also well-known for fishing. Fishermen are the most frequent navigators and do not hesitate to launch their boats in the middle of winter to fish for whitefish, that is specific to the great alpine lakes. Serre-Ponçon is particularly renowned for its pike and lake trout, you will also find perch, carp and other white fish.
Fishing is allowed all year round on the lake with specific regulations for flesh-eating fish, night carp fishing or trolling. The rivers that feed the lake are all 1st category rivers (mainly populated with trout) and are open from March to September except for the mouth of the Durance river in the lake which offers a year-round, no-kill fishing area.
- Find all the specificities of fishing on the Serre-Ponçon Lake on the Hautes-Alpes Fishing Federation website.
- Find the Hautes-Alpes fishing map on the ‘Geopêche’ application.
- Try out, or improve your fishing with our fishing guides
Serre-Ponçon, an ideal base camp for all outdoor activities !
The Écrins National Park extends from the banks of the lake to the high summits at an altitude of almost 3000 m. Altitude lakes (lac Brun, lac de l’Hivernet, lac du Crachet), waterfalls (cascade de la Pisse, de Réallon, des Razis…), pastures and summits can be visited with the Serre-Ponçon lake as a constant backdrop.
Take your pick on the Serre-Ponçon hiking portal! The shores of the lake offer some itineraries that are accessible to everyone. These include the tour of the lake, the Petit Liou marshes, the Crots dyke, the path linking the bays of Chanteloube and Saint-Michel… Then higher up, the Saint-Apollinaire Lake, Les Gourniers, Réallon, Les Orres, Crévoux and the Châteauroux-Les-Alpes valley.
Of course, it is possible to practise other sports around the lake such as cycle tourism and mountain biking, equestrian or motor sports, air sports, all mountain activities or simple, fun family activities (inflatable structures, adventure parks, panoramic chairlift, etc.)