The Dombes – Land of a Thousand Meres

Espaces Naturels Sensibles


Come and enjoy a simply magnificent moment at one with nature. From autumn through winter, come and witness traditional pond fishing in the Dombes.


A reflection of the Sologne region, the Dombes has over 1,100 meres spread across 11,200 hectares of land. Originally, these large ponds were designed for drainage and breeding fish. It was only from the 11th century onwards that people progressively learned to make good use of the harsh landscape and, thanks to the meres, began farming on land that was previously incultivable.

The Dombes’ history dates back to the Middle Ages

Around the 11th century, Benedictine and Carthusian monks began developing the Dombes and created the first meres, or ponds, for breeding fish by flooding the marshes. Over time, the number of meres was increased in order to meet a growing demand for freshwater fish. The pools are filled for 3 to 4 years in order to fertilise the soil, then dried out so that cereal can be grown.

They are filled with rainwater, runoff and water from other nearby meres. Thanks to a perfectly mastered technique, ponds higher up fill the lower ones through a network of canals and ditches, ensuring that water, a precious resource, can be used in the most efficient way possible. The Dombes’ unique charm is due in large part to this respect for ancient traditions and practices.

Luscious lands, a safe haven for our feathered friends

From dawn to dusk, these meres provide the stage for unique performances. Sedentary, migratory and wintering birds find sanctuary here to feed, shelter and breed. Reed warblers, teals and common pochards sing in chorus while ducks, red-crested pochards and tufted ducks perform gentle ballets on the water.

And in spring, look out for kingfishers and egrets fishing for their breakfast!

Practical information

Opening hours

All year round.


Free access.

Languages spoken

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Pond fishing – a poetic artisanal tradition

According to traditions which go back centuries, each pond is emptied before being fished. This magical moment in the Dombes way of life takes place in the early hours, when the sun has barely risen. In the morning mist, the fishermen slide into the pools to position their nets and, thanks to their unique know-how, produce miraculous catches.

Save the date: Find out more about traditional pond fishing in the Dombes during the Dombes Fishing Day, which takes place on the second Saturday in October each year.

1,500 tonnes!

= The Dombes’ annual fish production, making it the largest freshwater fishing area in France.

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Mis à jour le 27 octobre 2023 à 06:06
par Aintourisme

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