Lake Salagou is a jewel to discover time after time. It is impossible not to stop and contemplate the stunning beauty that reaches over its 750 hectares (2.89 square miles). The hills of red rock surrounding it combined with the greens of the vineyards, shrubs, and trees create a particularly exceptional color palette. These clay-like sediments, rich in iron oxide, contrast with the black volcanic basalt and blend harmoniously with the blue hues of the sky and water.

It has the impression of always having been there, but don’t be mistaken. A river once ran through this valley until the creation of a water reservoir at the end of the 1960s. The area was being devastated too often by floods, and the government decided to regulate the water levels. This 70-kilometer (43-mile) long man-made lake provides the irrigation necessary for the surrounding abundant fields of crops and vineyards.

The geology and biodiversity of this protected site make it unique, earning it and the neighboring dolomite enclave of Mourèze the title of “Grand Site de France.” The volcanic remnants of the past are still visible in the red hills and black rock found throughout the area, but the present is visible in the small hamlets, villages, and farms known for their olives, honey, and plentiful vineyards. For me, this is a special place, representing a new beginning, being born again, and endurance as fire has turned to water and devastation has turned to bountiful production and sustenance.

One of the most beautiful ways to admire Lake Salagou is undoubtedly by climbing Mont Liausson (533 meters, 1,748 feet). The view is exceptional and well deserved after an hour-plus hike up. This VAST image was captured from the peak, overlooking the village of Liausson and the rest of the lake. To get the sun rising over the horizon to represent a new beginning, I awoke at 3:00 am, drove out to the lake, and hiked up the mountain in total darkness, passing through large spider webs that had