©SNAT 2019|Alexandre Lamoureux

Ponds and lakes in Saint-Nazaire

Nothing is easier than to explore Saint-Nazaire’s ponds and lakes. A 30-minute stroll or a 2-hour hike, everything is possible. The countryside with its lakes just outside the town, which is particularly pretty in spring, has also interesting things to tell about Saint-Nazaire’s history: all the lakes are man-made!

In deep water

If Saint-Nazaire is surrounded by water, the town nevertheless faced big problems with drinking water supply when it expanded rapidly in the second half of the 19th century. Neither the water from the Loire river, containing too much salt, nor the water from the nearby Brière marshes was fit for human consumption. In the beginning, when there were only a few hundred inhabitants, private wells and some public fountains were enough. But from the 1850s, once the harbour was built and Saint-Nazaire was booming, the situation changed dramatically. Around 1880, there were already 13,000 inhabitants, and the needs for drinking water were enormous. The city dwellers needed drinking water, and both industry and the ship steam engines also consumed huge amounts of freshwater.

In the 1880s there was still no regular and safe drinking water supply. In order to collect rain water, artificial ponds were created in natural basins. This is how the Guindreff and Belle-Hautière lakes came into being. Unfortunately the fresh-water yield turned out to be far lower than estimated.

After massive works, the ponds of Québrais and Guindreff could finally play their role… when the situation changed radically once again. In June 1917, the first American troops landed in Saint-Nazaire. The town was to become a huge military basis, and between 1917 and 1919, nearly 200,000 American soldiers were to be stationed in Saint-Nazaire. The water problem was more critical than ever. The Americans undertook huge works among which the digging of the Bois-Joalland lake.

The lakes and ponds are still there, today a source of pleasure rather than of drinking water. The water that flows out of the taps in Saint-Nazaire comes from a protected groundwater table, near Campbon, and from the Férel water treatment plant. But above all it is of excellent quality!

From pond to pond

With a surface of more than 108 acres, the Bois-Joalland lake is the biggest body of water. You can easily park on its shores, route du Bois-Joalland. You will also find a caravan park nearby. The path around the lake is about 1,9 miles long and offers varied views. A rowing and sailing centre stands on one side of the lake, and at the far end, a BMX track gets the adrenaline pumping. Slightly set back from the route du Bois-Joalland, a wooden playground with ropes to climb has been built.

Three other lakes await you not far from there: the ponds of Québrais, Guindreff and a little pool called La Belle Hautière, almost hidden by trees. Several starting points for walks are possible. You can park either at a car park route des Bassins, between the Québrais and Guindreff lakes, or route de Guindreff, near the crossroads with rue Guy de Maupassant.

The footpaths around and between these lakes offer loops as long –or as short- as you wish. You will enjoy the calm, as there are only a few anglers and walkers along the peaceful shores. Ducks, geese and moorhens dabble in the water, sometimes you can watch a couple of crested grebes… You might even be lucky enough to see a kingfisher flit by.

These lakes definitely look as though they have been there forever… but just over a century ago, they did not exist! They were created in order to resolve a problem which weighed heavily on 19th century Saint-Nazaire: drinking water supply.

What to do near the lakes of Bois Joalland and Guindreff

Saint-Nazaire has a fabulous leisure area around its lakes, featuring picnic spots, walks, playgrounds and watersports. Bring the family and enjoy all the spots that have been set up for you to enjoy, in the heart of this unspoilt countryside.