Boatmen of the tarn

Cultural Heritage
Source : Extrait d’un commentaire d’André Arnal, habitant du Rozier

In the 19th century, there were no roads in the gorges du Tarn. The road coming from Florac stopped at Sainte-Enimie.

The blasting work began in 1889 and finished in 1905. The Gorges du Tarn are the longest in Europe (53 km) and have a depth of 500m. Before this date, the transport of travellers (and even that of agricultural materials) was assumed by the boatmen on flat bottomed boats called « toues » which were guided by poles . And this since the fourteenth century!

Two services were provided shared by two companies which made it necessary to have four transshipments : 1° at Pougnadoires – 2° at Hauterive – 3° at La Malène – 4° at les Vignes.

One could travel from Sainte-Enimie to Le Rozier for the sum of 42 francs.



Navigation was not an easy thing :

« Often when coming back upriver (yes it was necessary to come back), one of the boatmen was obliged to put himself in the water and heave the boat with a rope or a chain, while another was guiding with a pole. ».

The most dangerous navigation was between the villages of Les Vignes and Le Rozier. The natural dam at Pas de soucy was completely impassable with the boats and they had to debark the passengers and bagage to transfer them in carts.

In occitan they said : « Qué passo lou Lot , lou Tarn et l’Aveiroun, n’ès pas ségur dé touna dins sa maisoun. » (Who crosses the Lot, the Tarn or the Aveyron, is not sure to see his house again).

After the railway line from Paris to Béziers was created at the end of the 19th century, tourism started with a few hotels and the first excursions of tourist in boats.

A boating company still exists at la Malène, reformed as a cooperative in 1952 for the pleasure of tourists, and the experience on the river is such that they have nothing to fear any more, not even being splashed a little…