The petrifying waterfalls of Roquefort-les-Cascades

Roquefort-les-Cascades
The petrifying waterf ...
To the east of Ariège, between wild forests and pastures, the Cathar Pyrenees are a true paradise for hikers. It is a country of gentle mountains, hills and secret valleys, bewitching and divinely beautiful. In the Plantaurel massif, a few kilometers west of Lavelanet, an exceptional site plunges us further into the heart of this abundant and lush nature. Streaming from the rock and gushing from the high walls, water has built its temple in Roquefort-les-Cascades. A real natural geological curiosity to discover!

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The petrifying spring of Roquefort-les-Cascades

Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls
Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls  Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls

To access the forest of the waterfalls of Turasse from Foix, take the route de l'Herm (D1) towards Lavelanet. After the hamlet of Carol, direction the old village of Roquefort-les-Cascades. An old Michelin terminal points the way! In the center of the village, from the small square with the fountain, follow the signs indicating “ waterfall ”. After 500 m by car, you will arrive at the small car park. Follow the path and let yourself be guided by the melody of the water.

As soon as you arrive on the site, water becomes the common thread of our bucolic walk. We follow the path that goes slightly to the right and start to climb to arrive on a first platform, then a second. In a humid vegetal atmosphere, mosses, lichens and mushrooms dress the trees. The dense vegetation paints a shades of green of bewitching beauty.


Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls
Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls

In front of us stands the majestic tufa 30 meters high, a mass of tuff (light porous rock, often friable, formed of limestone deposits) also called a petrifying waterfall. The geological phenomenon is rare and surprising. When rainwater becomes charged with carbon dioxide on contact with the ground, it becomes acidic and thus dissolves the limestone of the massif in which it circulates, forming cracks and galleries. It then emerges into the open air, giving rise to a source. The water from this source, loaded with limestone and sulphate, is deposited in contact with the air, thus creating this very special rock that looks like a green wall. Here, the limestone deposits form large masses in constant expansion, at a rate of 1.6 to 2 meters every 60 years.


Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls
Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls  Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls
Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls

A magical world to explore all year round

After a contemplative break, we continue our discovery of the place by venturing around the tufa to enjoy the strange and fantastic atmosphere that this forest provides. In places, the peat formations and the inextricable tangle of trees give this place an exotic exoticism. All that's missing are tapirs and howler monkeys...


Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls
Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls

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Continuing on the path, limestone caves are revealed. The mineral and vegetal world intermingle to create this oasis of greenery that changes with the seasons. During our visit in the middle of summer, the waterfall was reduced to a fine trickle of water that streamed over the tufa, the rains not being abundant enough to feed it. In autumn and spring, during the period of rains and snowmelt, this succession of waterfalls offers a magnificent spectacle. In winter, the waterfalls can freeze over and provide a wonderful frozen picture.


Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls
Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls  Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls
Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls

The path takes us to a plateau above the waterfalls and we take another path so as to bypass the massif and descend through the undergrowth. With an elevation gain of 104 m, this walk, free and open access, is aimed at all ages. Allow at least one hour to complete the loop. However, do not hesitate to take your time and think outside the box to fully immerse yourself in this extraordinary place.


Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls
Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls

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Useful information :  

  • Free and open access all year round.  
  • The tufière presents a rare and fragile ecosystem to respect. Do not venture onto its slippery walls as the rock is crumbly and vulnerable.  
  • Good shoes are recommended for climbing the slippery trail in places.  
  • Thank you for respecting the environment and for not leaving any waste there for the greatest happiness of all.

Did you like this report? Find others on the Toulouse Pyrenees Guide Blog. We are on social networks, find the Facebook page of the Toulouse Pyrénées Guide and the Instagram account @guidetoulousepyrenees

 

Report and photos produced by Lesley Williamson for the Toulouse Pyrenees Guide


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