Local tourist information office

You can find in this article the history of the creation of the local tourist information office as well as information on the Lake of Cazaux


Creation of the local tourist information office


In 1964, Jacques Bessou, Deputy Mayor for the village of Cazaux and founder of the local tourist information office, came up with the idea of creating the boat launch. He thus became the driving force behind this project, until its official opening on 22 July 1988. The new site was part of an overall development plan for the lakeside area, a plan which he helped to lead.


The site was quite different in 1964. Back then, you had to take a forest path through the marshes to reach the shores of the lake. Hundreds of boats were moored here without authorisation and represented a threat to this vulnerable natural environment with its reed beds, drinking water intake, and habitats for natural wetland plants and wildlife.


My mission was to reconcile tourist development with the conservation of the natural environment.

His first challenge was to reach a consensus within the Municipal Council. After many debates on the public interest of the project, and its environmental and financial risks, he succeeded in getting a unanimous vote.


He also had to reassure the French Armed Forces, due to their concerns about the security of Air Base 120, where land and air firing exercises were conducted. They own the portion of the lake located in Gironde and this limits the activities that are possible on it. The municipality of La Teste de Buch has a contract with the Armed Forces (authorisation to temporarily occupy the site) which designates the municipality as the site manager. This authorisation is contingent on the fulfilment of several obligations: the marking of areas dedicated to nautical activities, a ban on granting rights for any commercial activities, restricted navigation rights on the military part of the lake.


Finally, he had to convince the State and environmental organisations (SEPANSO, users of the forest) who initially expressed reluctance and made demands in return for allowing the project:

  • Protection of surrounding marshland and lake shores as far as Peyroutas
  • Creation of an exhibition centre on natural environments (Cabane de la Gemayre)
  • Initiatives to help visitors discover the natural environments (guided walks, information documents)
  • Above all, the site had to be a “boat launch”—not a port.


This distinction was a key factor in the site’s development. It closed the door on any opportunities for commercial or industrial development. No shipyards, boating businesses, technical facilities, careening areas or fuel distribution.

Just a water hole, pontoons, water, electricity and… boats. These demands still shape the philosophy and appearance of this site to this day. This commitment to the environment gave the site its character. Wood and stone are still dominant at the site and fit perfectly into the natural environment.


350 boats, sorted by size and type, are now moored along the floating wooden pontoons. Each berth has a water tap and electrical connection. The former resin processing hut has been turned into an office and blends perfectly into the landscape. The screes and docks are weeded without chemicals (burning for the screes and manual weeding to remove marine invasive species). A public slipway is made available free of charge and allows all boaters to put their boats in the water and enjoy the lake.


Eco-friendly transport (shared-use roads, bicycle paths, forest paths) allows access to the site for everyone, including those with disabilities. The wheelchair access facilities are coordinated with the Cercle de Voile de Cazaux Lac sailing club. The club has been awarded the “Handivoile” label for its disabled facilities.


Thanks to all these initiatives, the boat launch has become a major asset for the municipality of La Teste de Buch, along with the Dune of Le Pyla, ocean beaches, the forest, and the port of La Teste de Buch.


The friendly setting attracts local walkers, tourists and recreational boaters. It has become a gathering place that pays tribute to the vision of its founding father, Jacques Bessou.



From abandonment to development


Like other Landes lakes, Cazaux Sanguinet was cut off from the ocean back in the 17th century by sand that obstructed the mouth of the Gourgue river between La Salie and Le Trencat.


The bare white sand dunes surrounding it and the marshes that developed on the banks made for a harsh landscape. In 1801, botanist Jean-Florimond Boudon de Saint Amans described “bleak silence, monotonous waters, desolate shorelines (…) opposite us, a motionless pond reflects the sky, to the right, sad-looking dunes, to the left, vast emptiness, under our feet, ashes of the dead, behind us, the dark forest” (From his book Voyage agricole, botanique et pittoresque dans les Landes).


Yet this solitude was only relative, given that the forest was already being used by resin tappers, colliers, mule drivers, and wild cows (E. Courtès, Si Cazaous m’ère countat). Fishermen appreciated the abundant waters (full of pike, tench, eels, perch, roach) and hunters also had plenty to choose from (hunting with hounds, waterfowl hunting).

Originally a landscape and uses of marsh Landais


Soon, sand carts began transporting visitors to the lake and Cazaux became a popular destination.

To such an extent that in the early 20th century, Pierre Valmont Bal described tourism as one of the resources for the future in his “Study on the past and future of Cazaux”:

“Our village receives daily visits from the neighbourhood of Arcachon, to the benefit of many workers, including headwaiters, cart drivers, guides, hunters, boatmen, fishermen… We know that trips to Cazaux hold the record for outings in the area thanks to its wonderful lake, the most beautiful in France.”

The perception of this landscape had changed to become full of promise for the future. Thus began the great adventure of developing the area. The digging of the Canal des Landes (1834) allowed products to be transported from the surrounding area (resin, mine props). It regulated the lake water and helped to dry the marshes. The creation of a road (1867-1881), and later the arrival of the train (1877) allowed for shorter trips and made it easier for visitors to enjoy the beach and water activities.

The large expanse of water and gentle slope of the beach, sheltered by the dunes, made the lake a favourite spot for families. In the 1890s, two steamboats, Le Cazalin and Le Mistral were put into service. The amenities available at the lake grew little by little: Mme Olive’s refreshment stall was replaced by an open-air café that eventually became Café Beau-Site (1935). Jean Labat, “the inventor of Cazaux-beach” (SO, 18/7/1997), began renting boats for holidaymakers to take out on the lake.  A sailing club, Le Cercle de Voile de Cazaux-Lac, also opened.


The lake was a huge success. In 1978, it was added to the official list of scenic spots. Yet this success was not without its challenges. In addition to illegal constructions, there were increasing health and safety concerns. Firefighters and emergency services had a difficult time reaching the site when there were fires or medical emergencies, due to a narrow road and chaotic parking. A lack of sanitary facilities and overcrowded beaches further complicated the situation.

The solution was a comprehensive development plan for the lake: a new, wider access road, parking areas, walkways, picnic areas, sanitary facilities, emergency stations, a helicopter landing site, a botanical trail and an information centre (La Gemeyre). A boathouse was built for the Cercle de Voile sailing club (1984) and the boat launch (1988) added the finishing touch, making the site an exemplary model for environmentally-friendly tourism, land and marine planning.

Specific regulations govern the use of the site in order to maintain this balance. These regulations also take into account the military base and its firing range. Copies of the regulations are available at the Boat Launch Office.

It is each individual’s responsibility to read and abide by these regulations in order to make the most of our wonderful lake and forest.



The boat launch: an exceptional setting


Visitors travelling from the centre of Cazaux on the road overlooking the boat launch will see it appear like a gem, perfectly adorning the blue ring of the lake, framed by the green forest.

A closer study of this breath-taking view reveals fascinating geographical, geological, historical and legal realities.

Lake of Cazaux-Sanguinet: a natural wonder in need of protection

Spanning 2 French departments, Landes (Pays de Born) and Gironde (Pays de Buch), the Lake of Cazaux-Sanguinet covers 55 km2, making it the second-largest natural freshwater lake in France after Lake Geneva (French-Swiss). Unlike many lakes, it has oligotrophic, or low-nutrient waters, making it suitable for drinking water production. The pumping station located on the Cazaux side of the lake supplies 50% of the water used by the municipalities of La Teste de Buch, Arcachon and Gujan-Mestras.

Like all the lakes that make up the lake chain along the Aquitaine coast, it formed naturally under the influence of two forces:

  • accumulation of water from the Landes plain (Gourgues river)
  • coastal dunes preventing outflow to the sea.

Only the Bay of Arcachon avoided this fate by maintaining its connection with the sea thanks to the strong flow of the Leyre river and the strong tides flowing through its channels.

The shores of the lake are home to a wide variety of fauna and flora, including some rare species. The lake is therefore part of the “NATURA 2000” network of retro-dunal wetland sites in Pays de Born and Pays de Buch.

The User Forest: exceptional history, fauna and flora

To understand the user forest, you must first understand about its history. It all started during the 15th century, when the Captal of Buch, Jean de Foix de Grailly, established an agreement (Baillette de 1468) to officialise an authorisation first granted by his father, allowing the inhabitants of La Teste, Cazaux and Gujan to use the forest. The understanding was that the inhabitants could tap the trees to collect the resin in exchange for payment of royalties (“droit de gemmayre”). They could also collect dead wood for firewood and cut green wood to build cabins and boats.


In order to understand just how exceptional this arrangement was, it is important to consider the feudal law of the day, which allowed lords to hang anyone found collecting wood on their land. This 15th-century arrangement still governs the use of the forest today. The applicable rules are still referred to as Baillettes (agreements granted by the various Captals to their local inhabitants) and Transactions (agreements negotiated between the various parties, Captal, Municipalities, landowners, and users).

The main steps in the process were as follows:

  • Baillette of 1746, which recognises the forest landowners as legitimate owners, provided that they comply with the user rights.
  • Transaction of 1759 specifies these rights and remains the foundation for current uses. Only the forest landowners have the right to tap the trees for resin, but all users have the right to collect and cut wood.

However, the following transactions have best defined the user-forest concept for centuries:

  • the Transactions of 1604 and 1645, which refer to the preservation of the forest, and the importance of exercising user rights with due diligence, by avoiding any damage to the forest, carefully choosing which pine trees to cut down, and preventing forest fires. To this day, despite numerous conflicts between landowners, users, municipalities, the French government and even Europe, the philosophy for managing this exceptional forest continues to influence the quality of its fauna and flora.

Covering 3,860 hectares of La Teste de Buch, with an approximate perimeter of 8 km by 4 km, the forest has been characterised and shaped by two elements:

  • it is a rare example of a natural forest, which means it regenerates naturally (no tree planting)
  • it is one of the few forests to be used only for resin collection and not forestry.

These two features enable the forest to host a wide variety of trees and a greater diversity of undergrowth and wildlife than man-made forests.



Home to a wealth of wildlife and plants


The Lake of Cazaux has oligotrophic, or low-nutrient, waters. This offers two benefits:

  • The water is suitable for drinking water production (among the French lakes with the purest water)
  • High biodiversity. This is because the species that have developed here have found unique and specialised survival strategies.

Any nutrient supply (eutrophication) in the environment will generally threaten this specific biodiversity.

Preserving this rare and fragile environment, home to several internationally protected species and habitats, is therefore of utmost importance.



The shores of the lake are home to great diversity:

  • wet moorlands, with more or less peaty environments, and wet woodlands in the flood area.
  • reed beds, which favour the development of fish species.
  • oligotrophic amphibious grasses, which are home to rare and vulnerable plants like water lobelia, and even endemic plants (specific to a certain area) like the Isoetes boryana (a small aquatic fern). Another endemic species of South West France, Thorella (Caropsis verticillato-inundata) is regularly observed in the wet moorlands and grasslands subject to frequent flooding. This species expresses itself differently depending on its location and only flowers once the flooded area has drained.


  • In the air: In addition to a variety of passerines, wild ducks and seagulls, close observation of the pine trees reveals guano produced by Great Cormorants, who come from the nearby Bay of Arcachon to feed on fish. The little bittern, a rare species, can also be found here. This bird with bluish feathers is the smallest European heron. The lake’s shores welcome wildlife in all seasons. In the winter, you can find a wintering population of common loons and a few Arctic loons who come to warm themselves in South West France.


  • On land: The shores are home to common reptiles and amphibians, as well as a rare species, the European pond turtle. In the spring, frog migration creates an impressive show on the Boat Launch entry roads, as billions of tadpoles line the ground and provide a tasty treat for cormorants and otters.


  • In the water: In terms of forage fish, you can find roach, rudd, bream, ruffe, and gudgeon. Tench and carp also enjoy these waters. Some impressive carp, well-advanced in years, can be seen swimming in the Boat Launch waters. In terms of predatory fish, fishermen will be happy to find perch and pike here. There are also eels, pikeperch and black bass.

Certain species are endemic (specific to the area), while others have been introduced recently. Some species, such as the rusty crayfish, pond perch, and catfish are considered invasive because their development is detrimental to local species.

The diversity and rarity of these plant and animal species is protected and they have been added to the NATURA 2000 network.



Protecting the site: we all have a part to play


The Lake of Cazaux is a protected area and part of the NATURA 2000 network. This key European policy tool aimed at preserving biodiversity promotes the inclusion of biodiversity issues when designing human activities.

The Natura 2000 approach therefore promotes collective efforts to find sustainable and balanced ways of managing areas, while taking economic and social concerns into account. The network is made up of 27,522 sites in Europe. 1,766 French sites are protected by this program.


The municipality of La Teste de Buch, along with all the parties involved–hunters, fishermen, boaters, Air Base 120, neighbouring municipalities and inter-municipal organisations–aims to find a balance between preserving the natural environment and allowing for human activity. The municipality has set limits for the human activities permitted on the lake (regulations, markings, lifeguards) in order to ensure harmonious coexistence.

  • It provides FREE facilities, including beach ashtrays, bilge water holding tanks, public toilets.
  • It facilitates access for electrically-powered boats (technical facilities and prioritised assignment).
  • In partnership with COBAS (inter-municipal organisation for the south of the Bay of Arcachon), it has installed waste-sorting facilities at the Boat Launch pontoon exits as well as bins for batteries.
  • Since we each have a part to play, the municipality frequently provides information about good environmental practices.


What’s at stake: the preservation of a natural environment, a major source of economic development for the municipality, and protection of an area that produces 50% of the drinking water for the southern Bay of Arcachon area.

To accomplish this, in addition to initiatives led by institutions, each individual must become aware of the need to follow important guidelines.


Lake water is not a toilet!

The municipality has provided public toilets, free of charge, for your convenience at all Cazaux beaches (Centrale, Halte Nautique, Laouga),


Beaches are not giant ashtrays!

Please stop by the Boat Launch Office, Tourist Office, or Town Hall for a free beach ashtray.


Public places are not dumps!

Beach bins are available at each swimming area, and waste sorting bins can be found near the beaches and boat launch.


Protect your skin from the sun while protecting the environnement!

Each year, 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen ends up in the water. Oxybenzone, octinoxate and nanoparticles are present in sunscreen and are all harmful for aquatic fauna and flora.


Alternatives, such as biodegradable mineral sunscreens (containing titanium dioxide, zinc oxide), are not harmful for the environment.

You can also simply follow this advice to reduce the impacts of your sunscreen on the environment while still protecting your skin:

  • Wait 20 minutes before entering the water after applying sunscreen;
  • Use UV-protective swimsuits and T-shirts;
  • Avoid sun exposure during the middle of the day.