FOR something the size of a hydroelectric plant, the Tuilières dam in the Dordogne keeps its visitor centre pretty well hidden.
The dam and adjoining fish ladder, or more accurately fish lift, are found on the D660 between Lalinde and Bergerac and after stopping in a small car park, you walk over a bridge across the canal and then you will see a number of information panels near the main power hall.
The Tuilières dam was started in 1905 and finished just over three years later, and at the time it was the largest hydroelectric power station in Europe. By 1909 it was able to supply 18 MW of electricity and provided power to towns across the south west of France including Périgueux, Bordeaux and Angoulême.
During World War Two it was bombed by the Resistance to put a spanner in the works of the Nazi war machine, but in the years after that it was brought back to use, until 2006 when part of the dam collapsed.
At a cost of €35 million the dam was repaired and now you can learn more about how it works and the electricity production of EDF in a visitor centre, much of which is available in English, located just beyond the final information panel.
But that's not the end of what the Tuilières dam has to offer, because a fish lift has been built to help sturgeon, Atlantic salmon and other species make their way up the Dordogne to the upper reaches of the river.
To reach the lift you need to head back out of the power plant and walk alongside the canal that runs in parallel to the river, and it is well worth taking a short detour via the locks and the lock keepers cottage - but don't get too close to the edge.
There are a number of small signposts pointing visitors to the fish lift and you walk along a sturdy path that is fenced off from the main power station to a flight of steel steps that start with an explanation of how the lift works.
As you walk up you can see the lift shaft and how the fish are channelled into it, before being taken up a couple of floors and then released at the start of a fish ladder a section of which can be seen through a reinforced plate glass window.
The explanatory information on the wall highlights the number of different fish species that pass through the ladder, they are automatically recorded by a video camera, unfortunately it doesn't seem to have been very busy in recent years as numbers are low.
But it is a mesmerising experience seeing the river water bubble and rush past the window, whilst you strain your eyes hoping to spot something in the greeny coloured water.
The visitor centre at the Tuilières dam is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 9am to 12.30pm and then 2pm to 6pm. The fish ladder can be accessed 24/7, although I can imagine it being quite spooky in the dark!
Afficher Barrage de Tuilières sur une carte plus grande
More things to do in the Dordogne
Milling around at the Filature de Belvès
A walk around Prats-du-Périgord, the Dordogne
The peace of the river Dordogne from a canoe
Belves Medieval Fair - stepping back in time
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