Wild-water and cold-water swimming in the Pyrénées

As the temperatures steadily rise at this time of year, the French head to the water; either to the seaside, or to one of the many inland lakes dotted around France. Here in the Ariège, we are lucky to be able to choose either the Atlantic coast or the Mediterranean for a day trip or short break but closer (and more appealing in summer when the coasts are packed) are the beautiful mountain lakes and the crystal-clear rivers and streams high in the Pyrénées. These run directly from their mountain springs, starting as trickles which turn to streams and gradually increase in size as they make their way downwards, augmented by the snowmelt and creating beautiful waterfalls, eventually becoming rivers as they descend down to the valleys.

With the popularity of wild water and cold-water swimming, many more people have begun to appreciate the benefits and enjoyment of swimming in natural water sources but, it is often tempered with the worry about the quality of the water in many parts of the world.

This is the advantage of the mountain lakes and rivers here which are very close to their source; natural springs rising up from deep inside the mountains, high in the unspoiled Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Ariègeoises, above the villages and away from all agriculture and crops and hence unlikely to be polluted.

The only disadvantage (as far as I am concerned) is that the mountain lakes can be freezing cold and the rivers are still also pretty chilly, certainly in the early summer, while the final snow is still melting. But now that cold-water immersion is a ‘thing’ and apparently very good for our health, there is even more reason to head up on a hot day to swim or paddle in some of the most beautiful wild water spots to be found anywhere. Plus, unlike at the beach, there are no crowds, and you can always find your own, completely private, secret spot complete with waterfall, swimming pool, flat rocks for sitting and stony beach areas, perfect for picnics.


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