On descending 103 metres to reach the underground river, by taking either the lift or the stairs, you are at the start of a mystery voyage 500 metres long.
After disembarking in the Rain Lake chamber, the visit continues on foot to La Salle des Grands Gours, La Salle du Grand Dôme whose vaulted ceiling rises up 94 metres high with its own Lake Superior at 27 metres above the river bed.
The visit lasts about 1½ hours with a total tour
of 2,000 metres.
The abyss was formed when the vault collapsed; the date this happened has not been established. We do know that it existed in the third century AD.
It was inhabited at the end of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, at a time when the local people dug out the saltpetre.
Since time immemorial it has been known as the Devil's Doorway.
The famous speleologist, Édouard Alfred Martel was the "discoverer" of the Padirac pothole and its underground river. He explored the river for the first time on 8th 9th and 10th July 1889 over a distance of 2400 metres (one and a half miles), accompanied by Louis Aramand, Emile Foulquier and Gabriel Gaulpillat. The discovery of the Great Dome chamber dates from 9th Sept. 1890.
The first formal visit took place on 1st November 1898.
The official inauguration ceremony was held on 10th April 1899 by the Minister of Public Instruction, Mr Leygues, in the presence of the Minister of Fine Arts and eminent personalities from the region.
The "New PADIRAC"
On 7th May 1939, the Padirac visit was extended by a further 300 metres
with visitors returning to the Rain Lake along a ledge 47 metres above the level of the river.
On a very dark night, Saint Martin, with his mule at his side, was walking over the Causse (the limestone plateau). He was feeling discouraged at finding not a single soul deserving to go directly to Heaven.
Suddenly, Satan appeared before him, his haversack full of the damned from the Causse. Seeing the sad face of Saint Martin, Satan suggested he could win a batch of the damned. Saint Martin
armed with all his courage, spurred his mount and with a single stupendous bound, leapt to other side of the abyss, leaving
behind a hoof print in the rock that is still visible today.Satan, overcome by panic, disappeared into the depths of the chasm.
Close to the Gouffre you will find :
- A large free parking area for coaches and cars. - Shady park. - A games area. -A picnic spot. -Several restaurants.
Adults - 9,00 €
Children (4-12 year)- 5,70 €
The visit lasts about 1½ hours with a total tour of 2,000 metres.
•Availability : Open from 4 april to 8 november.