Haute Marne Geography and Natural Beauty

Lac du Der-Chantecoq, Haute Marne, Champagne Ardenne, France

Lake Der

The 4,800 hectare Lac du Der-Chantecoq was created in 1974 as part of a large project to control the River Marne which affected flooding of the Seine in Paris.

Three villages (including Chantecoq) were submerged to form possibly the largest man-made lake in Europe.

The lake, which spans the border with Marne, has become a holiday location for lovers of water-based leisure pursuits.

Sailing begins in early spring and a special 600 hectare area is set aside for motor boats and jet-skis. There’s boat fishing for carp, perch, roach and more.

Swimmers and sunbathers congregate on Lake Der’s 6 beaches in summer and in autumn thousands of migratory birds flock to the lake shores to over-winter or continue south. See birds like geese, white-tailed eagles, swans and breeding pairs in spring. The lake is an important staging post for thousands of common cranes. To watch France’s largest wild birds arriving back at the lake silhouetted against a November sunset is a memorable sight.

Visit Lake Der’s bird and fish house and take a lake steamer ride. Way-marked trails through the beautiful surrounding countryside are ideal for walkers, horse riders and cyclists.

Visit the Museum du Pays Der to learn more about local traditions. The Der area is known for it unique wooden churches and a trip along the Stained Glass and Timber-framed Churches Road is worth taking in if you are visiting the lake.

Marne Valley, River and Canal

The River Marne rises in the Langres Plateau and flows north-west via Langres and Chaumont to join the Seine and Paris. Tributaries of its upper reaches are a delight for trout fishermen, and canoeing and kayaking are popular. The Marne is navigable as far as St Dizier and has a lateral canal from Vitry-le-Francois to Epernay.

Leisure boating along the Marne-Saone Canal is punctuated by locks. Look for kingfishers and herons along its wooded banks and enjoy fishing or a picnic near pretty lock-keepers’ cottages.

Since opening to ship cast iron and iron ore in 1907, the canal has completed a link between the Seine and Rhone rivers via Champagne and Burgundy. Engineering this 224km waterway, now mainly used for pleasure, involved the construction of complex bridges, 4 reservoirs and even a 4821m tunnel (Le Souterrain de Balesmes) passing 40m under the church of Balesmes.

The canal’s highest point marks the divide between waters flowing to the English Channel and those to the Mediterranean. Cycle the tow path or enquire about boat hire at places like Chaumont and Chamouilley.


Cascade d’Etufs, Rouvres-sur-Aube

Downstream from Rouvres-sur-Aube on the border with Cote-d’Or, the young River Aube cascades over porous tufa limestone. Deposits from the silver waters have created a series of beautiful petrified waterfalls fanning out at the base of wooded hills.

In the past, local farmers would sell items placed in the streams and it is said a whole dress could be covered in limestone within a few months. This picturesque site in the forests west of Langres is worth a detour. Three washhouses in the little village of Rouvres are decorated with flowers in summer and date back to a time when the area supported a steel industry.

Lake Liez

The largest of 4 man-made lakes in the vicinity of Langres, Lac de la Liez (290 hectares) was created in 1888 by a dam to control the River Marne. Lake Liez is a great area for water-based leisure pursuits and a 16km circuit around the lake is ideal for walking and cycling.

Children can enjoy everything from pedalos to donkey rides in summer and a flag on the sandy beaches at Peigney signifies when a lifeguard is on duty for swimmers in July and August.

Take sailing courses at Liez Sailing School, tel: (00 33) 3 25 87 16 72 and water-skiing, wake boarding and more are all available at Liez Water Sports Association, open from April, tel: (00 33) 6 83 56 20 48.

For the energetic a 75km cycle route takes in all 4 Langres lakes including Liez. Others may prefer to sit and quietly fish for outsize carp and pike along its shore.

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