L’Escale, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

L’Escale is a French commune, located in the department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. In history, the town was the scene of events during the wars of religion, then during the resistance of this part of Provence to Napoleon III. It experienced a rural exodus, before exceeding 1,000 inhabitants in the 1980s.

Located on the edge of the Digne pre – Alps, on the edge and east of the Durance, this town was once a stopover for navigation. Today, a dam-bridge has been built there, and human occupation has taken place on the shores of the reservoir. The Bléone river forms the commune’s southern border, then flows into the Durance, which forms the commune’s western border.

In Gallo-Roman times, when the Durance was relatively navigable, the Escale was an important river port. The Bourguet site, located 1 km north of the village was at that time a major residential center. The 1960-1961 excavations before the flooding under the waters of the Escale reservoir brought to light the most important series of ancient bronzes (statuettes and busts) discovered in Haute-Provence.

According to tradition, Saint Consorce, daughter of Saint Eulcher and Saint Galle, sister of Saint Tulle, founded a hospice for travelers at L’Escale, and a Saint-Étienne chapel. She would have been buried in the chapel, later called Sainte-Consorce. It was destroyed in 1962.

L’Escale was a crossing of the river: a ferry to cross the Durance is attested in the xii th century. The fief depended on the abbey of St. Victor in Marseille, then passed to Barras (xiv th century) to the Amalric (xv th century), and finally to Matheron who retained the xvii th century to the Revolution. The community came under the bailiff of Sisteron in 1297 31. The churches came under the abbey of Saint-Victor de Marseillewho received the income.

The independent community Mandanoïs, who had 29 fires in 1315, is strongly depopulated by the crisis of the xiv th century (Black Death and the Hundred Years War) and annexed by that of the Escale the xv th Century.

During the wars of religion, a fight took place at l’Escale (1562), then the village was taken in 1568 by the Huguenots. The royal army took it back in 1572.

In 1835, during the inauguration of the suspension bridge, the cables break and do several victims. It was rebuilt from 1835 to 1837.

In 1851, following the coup d’état of December 2 by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the countries of Sisteron, Forcalquier and Manosque developed resistance to defend the Republic: 15,000 armed men were mobilized. The resistance fighters take control of the prefecture in Digne, and form a “Departmental Resistance Committee”. The army, rallied to Napoleon III, came to the end of this movement. A shoemaker from the village was sentenced to 5 years of deportation to Algeria following his participation in these events and 5 other inhabitants of L’Escale were brought before the mixed commission.

Like many municipalities in the department, Volonne had a school long before the Jules Ferry laws: in 1863, it already had one which provided primary education for boys, in the capital. The same instruction is given to girls, although the Falloux law (1851) does not require the opening of a girls’ school in municipalities with more than 800 inhabitants.

Like all of France, the town has men who died at the front during the First World War. From 1866 to 1946, the rural exodus led to a decrease of more than a third of the population, which went from 560 to 360 inhabitants.

During the Second World War, the department was occupied by Italy in 1942 – 1943, then by Nazi Germany untilAugust 1944. On this date, the town of Sisteron was bombarded by the allies as part of the landing of Provence. Sisteron and Digne were released on the 19th.

The suspension bridge of the Durance, known as the Trébaste bridge, was replaced by the L’Escale bridge-dam and destroyed in 1962. The construction site of the dam and the EDF canal led to the construction of a temporary housing estate intended for the housing of single workers, mostly North Africans. It had an accommodation capacity of 344 places.

From 1946, the town experienced significant demographic growth, going from 360 to 1,245 inhabitants in 60 years.

Old village of Escale
The village of Escale developed in the Middle Ages simultaneously on the hillside of Vière and in the “hamlet of the host”. An obligatory place of passage between Sisteron and Digne, it then spread into small hamlets closer to agricultural realities. To the south of the village, the dovecote dating from the mid-19th century was recently restored to the original thanks to the “Alpes et Lumière” association.

The farmers are mainly arborists (eleven of the farms) and polyculture. The arboriculture, in the form of olive groves and orchards, has developed in the valley, farming on the slopes. The useful agricultural area declined sharply over to 387 ha.

Places and monuments
A dam bridge creates a reservoir on the Durance.

The Notre-Dame-de-Mandanois was rebuilt in 1610 and restored in the xix th century, after being sacked during the French Revolution. Its four bays are of unequal length, the nave is barrel vaulted. Four chapels open into the nave.

Its decor is almost entirely renewed at that time, and offers a good sample of the religious art of the xix th century: Souls of Purgatory, St. Peter and St. John the Baptist, Donation of the Rosary, Ascension, Holy Family. Several stained glassadorn the church. The bell predates the Revolution, and dates from 1710 (classified as a historical monument under object). The carved lintel of the old Sainte-Consorce chapel is preserved in the parish church. Dating from before the year 1000, it is also classified.

In Clément, the chapel of the Virgin (or of the Immaculate Conception) was built in 1870 by public subscription. It was recently restored. The Sainte-Anne chapel, in the Coulayès hamlet, undated, has also been recently restored. On the hill of Ville-Vieille, where the medieval village was located (lieu-dit Vière), we find the ruins of the watchtower and the Saint-Michel church. The ruins are those of the chapel built in 1840, succeeding the parish church St. Michael built before the xv th Century.

Trail de l’escalo (nature race of 5.10 and 25 km) in February / March
The escalaise gambade (memory thierry Carmona) race around the lake 5.10.21 km at the end of September
the town has three permanent routes to discover the practice of trail: 25 km red markings with its positive elevation of 1600 mt for experienced runners with a magnificent panorama of the Durance valley, a 10 km blue markup and these 640 mt of altitude difference and for beginners a 5 km green markup.

The Durance borders the town to the west; it is a river that is both alpine and Mediterranean, with a very particular morphology. It is called “capricious”, and was once feared for its raw (it was called the 3 scourge of Provence) as well as for its low flow. It is fitted out with the Escale dam-bridge, with a theoretical maximum height of 432 meters.

It is at the southern limit of L’Escale that the Bléone river flows into the Durance 8; Bléone means “the river of the wolf ”.

Small intermittent streams run down the slopes of the ravines to end in the Durance.

L’Escale Dam
The L’Escale dam-bridge is located on the course of the Durance in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence between the municipalities of L’Escale on the left bank and Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban on the right bank.

Work began on the dam in 1959, which was completed in 1963. With a height of 30ms it retains 15.70 hm³ of water. It is 126 metres long with a road carriageway along which runs the Route Napoleon. There is attached to the dam a power station whose three units produce a total of 170,000 KWs of electricity.

The Escale dam is a gravity dam type with embankments. It consists of a concrete part, 30 m high, which supports bridge, and a 610 m 2 long dike for a total length of 760 m 1. It serves as a water intake to supply the part of the EDF canal which ends at the Oraison power plant, as well as the Manosque canal.

The concrete dam is extended to the east (left bank side of the Durance) by a 610 m 2 dyke. A thousand-year-old flood of the Durance can reach a flow rate of 4,500 m 3 / s at L’Escale, five slits 18 m wide are fitted out to allow passage to flood waters.

The dam is based on the poudingue of the Valensole plateau, under the bed of the Durance and some layers of marl.

The bridge
The dam was built 60 m upstream of the Trébaste bridge, dating from 1837.

The bridge overhanging the dam allows you to cross the Durance. Borrowed by the RN 85, it connects the municipalities of L’Escale and Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban. It has a length of 126 m. The roadway is 7 m wide and is bordered by two 1.45 msidewalks.

The lake
The lake, at an altitude of 432 m, stretches from the confluence of the Vançon and the Durance rivers upstream to the downstream dam established between L’Escale and Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban. The rising water levels called for the development of the RD 4 departmental road, formerly the Napoleon road. The level of the lake varies according to the output of the Oraison power station, but in small proportions. The authorized tidal range is only 50 cm.

Ornithological Reserve
The artificial lake of Escale located on the Durance was created in the early 1960s with the construction of the hydroelectric bridge-dam. Sedimentation was strong until the 2000s and favored the installation of the reed bed, which is now stabilizing.

Four main types of environments have been identified: wetlands and aquatic environments, forest environments, open environments, and anthropogenic environments. This reservoir now concentrates a biodiversity of a richness almost equivalent to that recorded in the Camargue.

Ornithology enthusiasts can observe on the shores of the lake nearly 140 species of birds, often hidden in the reeds or gravel banks, others are easily visible on the bodies of water. Around the lake, a two-hour walking trail allows you to discover this important ornithological site.