Grotte de Clamouse


Useful Information

Location: Route de Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert RD4, 34150 Saint-Jean-de-Fos.
Between Montpellier and Béziers. A 750 exit 59 Gignac, D32 to Aniane, D27 to Saint-Jean-de-Fos, D4 towards Saint-Guilhem le Désert. At the begin of the Gorges de l'Hérault on the left.
(43.709916, 3.552677)
Open: MAR daily 10:30, 12:00, 14:00, 15:30.
APR to may daily 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30, 15:30, 16:30.
JUN daily 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30, 15:30, 16:30, 17:30.
JUL to AUG daily from 10:00 to 17:30.
SEP daily 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30, 15:30, 16:30, 17:30.
OCT daily 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30, 15:30, 16:30.
Online booking is recommended.
[2023]
Fee: Adults EUR 13.90, Children (13-18) EUR 12.40, Children (4-12) EUR 8.80, Children (0-3) free, Unemployed EUR 12.40, Students EUR 12.40.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 10.50, Children (13-18) EUR 9, Children (4-12) EUR 7.50.
[2023]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave TopicLiving Isolated Underground
Light: LightLED Lighting
Dimension: L=3,740 m, VR=120 m, A=75 m asl.
Guided tours: L=1,000 m, D=60 min.
V=150,000/a [2000]
Photography: allowed.
Accessibility:
Bibliography:
Address: Grotte de Clamouse, Route de Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert RD4, 34150 Saint-Jean-de-Fos, Tel: +33-467-577105. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1945 cave discovered.
1965 opened to the public.
1989 French television series L'Or du Diable shot at the cave.
2000 Michel Siffre spent more than two months in the cave.
2010 LED light system installed, first cave in Europe completely lighted by LED.

Description

In 1947 the Martel Prize for Speleology was awarded to the Speleo Club of Montpelier for the discovery and exploration in 1945 of a new underground river in the Hérault Gorge, called the Grotte de Clamouse. The source of the river is the Causse de Larzac, it eventually resurges as a beautiful spring in the middle of the wild groves of Hérault, close to Guilhen le Désert.

Today, speleologists are not the only ones who can enjoy the wonders of Clamouse, for it has been opened to the public. Because of the rarity and richness of the formations, Clamouse is a contender for the title of "Subterranean Capital of the World". The present day tourist route by-passes the difficult path taken by the early explorers, and leads directly into the "Sand Hall". This is one of the largest chambers in the cave. The route takes a semi-circular tour through the "Red Niagara Room" and the "Subterranean Canyon", both of which are profusely adorned with stalactite formations. The passage narrows and one passes a splendid array of aragonite crystals and beneath a veritable forest of straw stalactites about 2 m long. The pathway climbs up to the Sale du Chaos - a massive boulder chamber, eventually the tourist reappears in daylight via a man-made tunnel.


Text by Tony Oldham (2003). Based on an article in The British Caver Vol 58 1972 by Tony Oldham. With kind permission.

The Grotte de Clamouse (Clamouse Cave) is located at the entrance to the Gorges de l'Hérault, the narrow gorge of the Hérault river. The water of the river is used for irrigation in the plains south of the limestone massif, so there is an irrigation water channel on the eastern side of the gorge. However, water is needed on both sides of the river and so half of the water crosses the river on an aqueduct right beneath the cave. The cave entrance is a resurgence above the road, and the water originally flowed into the Hérault river. The steep descent, a series of waterfalls called Cascade de la résurgence, was used since the Middle Ages by a water mill, which is now ruined. The ruined water mill is on one side of the road, the resourgence on the other, a deep vauclusian spring or sump, which is the natural entrance of the cave. Such caves are hard to explore as the entrance requires cave diving. But here the cavers got lucky, in August 1945, long before cave diving was invented, there was a draught and the sump opened up, at least partially. Speleologists from the Caving Club of Montpellier entered the network for the very first time. In the first week they explored 350 m of normally water filled cave passage. At the end of the next month they reached 600 m and accessed the higher parts of the cave which are fossil, and full of speleothems. Now exploration sped up, it's easier to navigate dry floor than partly water-filled passages. And in only one week they explored another 2.4 km of passages.

Today visitors enter the cave through an artificial tunnel, a result of the surveying by the speleologists, so it was possible to find a suitable place for the tunnel. The entrance is higher than the spring and further up the valley, the parking lot and the bus station are even further up. Since many visitors do not even see the fantastic spring because it is not on the way to the cave entrance, we would like to take up the cudgels for this little diversion, which is really worthwhile.

The cave has three level, the upper level is fossil and full of speleothems. The intermediate level is reactivated after heavy rains or rainy periods. It is called the labyrinth, as there is a network of passages instead of a main branch. The lower level is completely filled with water, except during severe drought, when it becomes a partially filled river cave.