History

A visionary carpenter

In 1892, Jean Bochaton, a carpenter from the Gavot plateau, obtaines the authorisation to build "a wooden staircase with iron supports to enable the visit of the Pont du Diable Gorges". He probably discovered the gorges when he was with driftwood collectors who had built access to the water. With the help of a blacksmith and a stonemason, first he built the staircase that provides access to the river (the Dranse).

From the summer of 1893 he guides the first visitors there. They are mainly spa tourists from Evian, an already renowned spa town, or from Thonon. In later years, Jean Bochaton finished the construction of the route uphill in order to provide access to the whole site. In 1908 the gorges are finally listed by the Ministry of Fine Arts for their aesthetic value.

It took fifteen years of labour to fully equip the site with walkways, staircases and steps dug out from the rock. The installations outlived their creator, some of them until ... 1950.

An uncertain future

But tourism is only in its infancy. And when the carpenter died in 1909, no one wanted to take over. The municipalities that owned the land had difficulty persuading a maître d'hôtel, Jean Calligaris, who until then had divided his time between Nice in winter and Thonon in summer, to take over.
However, he finally settled at the Jotty and built the "Mont Ouzon" hotel, which he managed in parallel with the gorges site.

In 1934 the hotel manager sold his rights to the lease to Jean Raibaud, a metal construction engineer who switched to tourism.

The expansion of tourism

Jean Raibaud realised that visitor numbers would increase after paid holidays were introduced. He plans new facilities. Started in 1939, they will only be finished after the Second World War, in 1951.

From 1949, the Jotty dam, that was built one kilometre upstream, diverted part of the Dranse River towards the Bioge hydro-electric power station. The Gorges company received compensation for the diversion of the water and a minimum water flow was ensured.

Today and tomorrow

The walkways have been renovated and new equipment has been added: a reception building, car parks, picnic areas, Woodland Park ...

Properly maintained, the walkways enable over 50,000 visitors every season to discover this original and spectacular site!

Since 2012, the gorges are part of the UNESCO Chablais Geopark, a territory that is renowned worldwide for its remarkable geology.

The photos on this page are from the time the structures were built.