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The Gorges of the Sioule

The Sioul...

The Sioul originates at lake Servieres. Between the Saulzet and Orcival, this circular lake is around eighty feet deep and covers fifteen hectares. It fills an ancient volcanic crater between Puy Servieres to the north and Puy de Combe Perret to the south — ancient volcanic peaks, today both wooded with pine and spruce. To the east, green pastures stretch off to the distance, and the waters are almost flush with the lip of the crater. The weir stream flowing from the lake is considered to be the mother branch of the Sioul which thus rises in the Monts Dore, at 1200 metres altitude.


The Sioul crosses the departments of Puy de Dôme and Allier, along a hundred miles, the majority in the Puy de Dome département. It joins the river Allier north of Saint Pourçain sur Sioule, just beyond Contigny, 250 metres above sea level. The confluence is in fact a kind of delta with many islands.


This meandering, often wild river, with its clear water where trout thrive, scores a line across the Combraille. Both banks are dominated by basaltic volcanic rock, piercing the granite.


The fairly wide Pontgibaud basin is followed by a region of picturesque meanders, with many bends having artificial sand embankments, vestiges of the old lead ore extraction sites, which today make pretty beaches.


Below the cliff of Montfermy, the river forms a two kilometre loop around a volcanic cone. Undoubtedly the most beautiful Meander is that at Queuille.


Along 35 kilometres, between Heume l’Eglise et Manzat, it crosses the remains of an ancient volcanic chain formed of basaltic plateaus.


Around Messeix and st Gervais, it skirts the small coalfields of the region.


To the Northwest, it flows between the hills of the Combraille country, which forms the transition to the Millevaches plateau and the Bourbonnais plain.


and its gorges…

The river is easy to follow between Châteauneuf-les-bains and Ebreuil. Sometimes slow and languorous, sometimes brash and lively, it passes through wide open valleys and dark gorges before reaching the calm banks of the Bourbonnais, where it joins the Allier and ends its long run. This part is the best spot during summer for thrill seekers and adventurers who come to discover the Sioul by Canoe.


Beyond the new bridge at Menat, a winding road leads to Ebreuil crossing the wild, narrow gorges that the Sioule has carved into the granite down the millennia. Cut into the rock, a ledge runs along the river, dominated in places by towering boulders. These fantastic silhouettes, furrowed by the waters, appear to have been formed from eternity itself, by some demented sculptor!


The rocks are venerable witnesses to the obstinate and stubborn struggle of the river to make its way through the extremely hard granite massif barring its way.


At the end of the ever-meandering gorges, the valley widens between smiling hills, where the silhouette of the Chateau de Chouvigny looks down from the heights.


After the bridge of Saint Gal, the landscape changes completely, and the Sioul languishes between the wide banks at the Gulf of Ebreuil.