All posts, Órgiva and environs, Nature, walks and wildlife

Rio Guadalfeo and Rules Dam

Rio GuadalfeoWant a jaw-dropping view, one that reminds you that you’re just a tiny speck in nature’s wonder? Then peer down into the Guadalfeo river valley – the basin that collects water from the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

A drive up from the south towards Órgiva, hugging the curly-wurly roads from Motril, is a good start. And as you cross Seven Eye(s) Bridge you can look down to the wide expanse of craggy rocks and silt. Depending on when you see it, it could be roar or a whisper. We’ve yet to see its higher banks darken with water.

There’s no escaping the Liffey in Dublin or the Thames in London but if you were to wake up in central Órgiva – or approach from a different direction – you could miss the Guadalfeo entirely.

Head out of town towards Camping Órgiva and in 20 minutes’ walk you’ll be there. It’s where we shot the brief film below. You often see families enjoying a dip. There’s a bar there too which looks like it’s stepped out of a spaghetti western.

The Rio Guadalfeo flows through Las Alpujarras for much of its course – a network of tributaries feeding from, among others, the Rio Poqueira and Río Trevélez which join east of Órgiva. It enters the sea between Salobreña and Motril – but not before it reaches the mighty Rules Dam (Presa de Rules).

Las Alpujarras map showing rivers

Click to enlarge map

The stunning gorge by the Sierra de Lújar cushions the approach to the recently-built concrete marvel built across the river near Vélez de Benaudalla. On our walk westwards from Órgiva to Lanjarón, the reservoir shimmers in the distance like a vast sheet of ice.

A section of the valley was flooded to create the gigantic reservoir and like most major projects of its kind, the building of the dam ruffled a few feathers.

Despite occasional floods, we’ve heard there’s not enough water to get close to filling it to capacity. Its water is used for irrigation (c. 5,000 hectares) and to supply the residents of Salobreña and Motril on the coast, about 250,000 people. It also protects against flooding further down the valley and it’s where helicopters collect water to fight summer fires (there was a bad one recently near Lanjarón with many residents being evacuated).

Driving the curly-wurly, it’s quite a sight. The geolocation website has some amazing photographs of the dam. Anyone old enough to remember the disaster movies of the 1970s will shudder.

Our neighbour – the Rio Chico, currently bone-dry – will once again empty into the Guadalfeo once the snows melt.

The Guadalfeo may be a vampire waiting for lifeblood, but we think it has a while to wait before it properly awakes.

We’ve captured the Rio Guadalfeo before on film in Driving in Las Alpujarras and Driving into Órgiva which begins with a drive over Seven Eyes Bridge. Below is a rather shaky film – note the cars winding their way down the curly-wurly and crossing the bridge.


Related posts:

Skies, dam, skies and stale biscuits

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All about Granada, Órgiva, La Alpujarras, Las Alpujarras, Andalucia, Spain – tapas, history, local guides and more.


2 thoughts on “Rio Guadalfeo and Rules Dam

  1. When we get a car we’ll visit it too. Were the buildings submerged when the dam was filling up?

    Posted by con jamón spain | September 5, 2013, 11:26 am
  2. We stopped at the dam on our way back from Granada last month. Pretty impressive.

    The first time I saw it, years ago when we had only just moved to Spain, you could still see the buildings in the bottom of the valley. It took years to fill up.

    Posted by Marianne | August 26, 2013, 10:08 pm
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