The abandoned hamlet of Roche Rousse was a hotspot for canoeing in Ubaye in the 1970s

The abandoned hamlet of Roche Rousse was a hotspot for canoeing in Ubaye in the 1970s
The abandoned hamlet of Roche Rousse was a hotspot for canoeing in Ubaye in the 1970s

In the valley of the legendary Ubaye, the last natural river in Europe, the history of white water sports began in the 1940s with its first explorations by practitioners from the Paris region. During an evening organized in La Fresquière, commune of Méolans-Revel, Michel Baudry, former president of the departmental committee of the Canoe-Kayak Federation, returned to this epic tale.

In the journal archives Riverhe found testimonies of these pioneers who evoke “Ubaye with black waters” in reference to the color given to the waves by the melting snow.

Impassable areas

In 1943, a first descent was made between La Condamine and Barcelonnette. It was aboard wooden canoes, very heavy because they carried all the camping equipment, that the canoeists from Val-de-Marne began to descend the Ubaye. The journey began with the journey by train to Prunières station then on foot with all the bulky equipment loaded on two-wheeled carts dragged by arm power alone to the river.

This “carriage” was also used to avoid very busy sectors, long called the “impassable”. It is from this period that the names of certain sectors of the Ubaye date, such as “le goulet de la renunciation”, “L’anse des Bouchons”… It will be necessary to wait until 1954 for a complete map of the route of the ‘Ubaye be elaborated. The last one was in 1976 by Denis Raimbault.

During this evening, Pierre-Martin Charpenel presented the film made about his 40 years spent in Ubaye. This screening was an opportunity to discover that the growth of white water sports is closely linked to the village of Roche Rousse, located in the commune of Lauzet-Ubaye. It was in this hamlet abandoned by its inhabitants, during the construction of the Serre-Ponçon dam, that enthusiasts, including Denis Raimbault, settled and developed the first base for white water sports. “In 1976, for us, young Parisian adventurers passionate about canoeing, this magical place made us dream. The idea of ​​restoring these ruins and creating a base will become an obsession and shape our journeys“, recalls Denis Raimbault.

The dream will last seven years. The municipality of Lauzet refusing to sell the properties, it was at Four-à-Chaux, du Martinet, also abandoned, that he continued the adventure and successfully reproduced the Roche Rousse model, leaving, constrained and forced, this hamlet falls back into oblivion.

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