Passage du Gois: A Disappearing Road in France

Passage du Gois is a causeway in the Bay of Bourgneuf, linking the island of Noirmoutier to the mainland in the department of Vendée, in France. But the 4,150-meter long causeway only becomes visible and accessible twice a day. Around 1 ½ hour before the lowest tide and 1 ½ hour afterwards. For the rest of the day, the road is submerged under under 1.3 to 4 meters of water.

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In the early days, the only way to reach Noirmoutier was by boat. Then the Bay of Bourgneuf gradually silted up and the causeway was formed allowing people and animals to wade through the waters to the island. In fact, the name “Gois” comes from the verb “goiser” which means to walk while wetting one’s shoes. It was in 1701 that the passage connecting the mainland to the island was first mentioned on a map.

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Around 1840, a regular service was provided by car or on horseback. In 1971, a bridge linking the island to the mainland was built as an alternative route to the island of Noirmoutier.

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Crossing the causeway is considered perilous. Although tide times are precisely marked on either side of the causeway on large signs, the water comes in at an incredible rate and many visitors get caught out every year.
Elevated rescue towers are located all along the Passage du Gois for those caught between the tides. One can climb these towers and wait until they are rescued or the tide falls again.
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