Rivière Souterraine de Labouiche

Useful Information

Location: Between Foix and the Bastide de Sèrou. 6 km from Foix.
(43.00338004072706, 1.5732677978301637)
Open: APR to JUN daily 10-11, 14-16:30.
JUL to AUG daily 9:30-17.
SEP daily 10-11, 14-16:30.
OCT to 11-NOV Tue-Fri 14-16, Sat, Sun, Hol 10-11, 14-16:30.
Alternative tour or closed in case of flooding.
Fee: Adults EUR 12.80, Children (6-16) EUR 10.80.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 10.80, Children (6-16) EUR 9, reservation mandatory.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave SpeleologyRiver cave KarstLosing Stream
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=13 °C, L=3,800 m.
Guided tours: D=75 min. V=70,000/a [2010]
Photography: Not allowed.
Accessibility: Not wheelchair accessible, boat ride requires two changes of the boat.
Address: Rivière Souterraine de Labouiche, BP 37, Labouiche, F-09002 Foix, Tel: +33-561-650411, Fax: +33-561-029077.
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.


AUG-1908 first exploration by Docteur Dunac, a local physician, his sons and friends.
NOV-1908 first visit by Edouard-Alfred Martel.
AUG-1909 exploration by Edouard-Alfred Martel, with the Dunac party, Docteur Cremadells, and others.
1912 exploration by Edouard-Alfred Martel.
1935 Salette, Cremadells, assisted by Norbert Casteret and Joseph Delteil, push the known length to 3,200 m.
1938 opened to the public.
1940 archaeological excavations by Louis Meroc.
1943 end of archaeological excavations.


As the name tells, Rivière Souterraine de Labouiche is a subterranean river. A visit includes the longest subterranean boat ride (1,500 m) in Europe. To make this possible some changes to thr river had to be made: there are various small dams which make the river navigable throughout the show cave part. Nevertheless, it is necessary to change the boats twice. About 4 km of the river are accessible.

The cave has a long history, during excavations remains from the Magdalenian were discovered. Also some Gallo-Roman remains, which are about 2,000 years old, were discovered.

Then it seems the cave was forgotten, until it was first explored by the local physician Mr. Dunac, his two sons, and two young army officers named Leguiller and Rochette. They followed the small brook named Fajal into the Ayguo Perdent (Lost Water), a typical karst sink or loosing stream. After some 600 m they reached a water filled siphon. The discovery was told Edouard-Alfred Martel, the famous Ferench speleologist, who visited the cave the next month.

In the next year an exploration by Martel became rather famous, or lets say infamous. The party consisted of Martel, Dunac and his sons, Docteur Cremadells, Rudeaux, Maréchal, Fournier, Cassagne, Ferlus, Rochette; and Thibault. They took inflatable boats with them, which was obviously a bad idea. The river contained sharp rock edges, created by the erosion, which punctured the boats and one after the other was lost. Finally Martel had a shipwreck and almost drowned, a story which became rather famous by his own description. Despite this disaster, the expedition was able to cross the siphon due to a lower water level. They explored about 150 m of unknown cave passages. Again it stopped at a siphon, at the far side of the dry passage called Petit Barrage (Small Dam). Further explorations by Cremadells and Martel did not reveal much more. Finally, the exploration stopped with World War I.

The next milestone in the cave exploration was in 1935, when the 17 years old speleologist Jacques Raynald started to explore the cave. He discovered the Salle Reynald, a dry passage with many cave formations, after a dangerous climb. This was the key to many new discoveries. Again Cremadells, Paul Salette, and Martel explored the new passages and the cave length increases to 3,200 m.

The development of the cave is the idea of a local prehistorian, Mr Mandement, who established a company for the cave development. The development took three years and the cave was opened to the public in 1938. Today it is the second most popular tourist spot in the Ariège with 70,000 visitor per year.

At the same time the cave exploration continued and 600 m more were discovered. The final end of the cave is a siphon which is 20 m deep and narrow, and until today not diveable. The diving attempts by Davies, a British explorer, in 1949 and by an Anglo-French expedition in 1955 both failed. Today the cave has a total length of 3,800 m.

This is a river, and so the water level in the cave may change because of heavy rains in the catchment area. On rare occasions the river part is flooded. The cave offers so-called upstream visits, into a fossil part of the cave. During flood possibly only this tour is available. In the event of major flooding the site might be closed by the management.