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Les bisses

at La Tzoumaz 

  • Historical monuments which have played a role in the Valaisan landscape since the 14th century

    Irrigation canals in the Valais

    A little historyHistorical monuments which have played a role in the Valaisan landscape since the 14th century, the bisses have borne witness to the epic tales evolving both economically and socially in the...
    Irrigation canals in the Valais

    A little historyHistorical monuments which have played a role in the Valaisan landscape since the 14th century, the bisses have borne witness to the epic tales evolving both economically and socially in the canton. Originally built to humbly irrigate meadows and pastures at altitude so that livestock would have adequate fodder, many of these spectacular structures span extraordinary sheer walls. Most have disappeared, victims of modernisation and economic progress. At the beginning of this century, there were still 200 bisses between the top of the Conches valley and the shores of Lac Leman. This translates into some 1800 km of canals, built, all too often, at enormous risk to those involved and always entirely by hand.


    Although most of the bisses have been lost, in some cases, if the landscape is carefully observed, their course can just about be made out. Those remaining arouse ever increasing interest from the local population and their role as a tourist attraction is one of the reasons they are being laboriously repaired and maintained.

     Practical InformationBy following the trails outlined on this site, you will discover wonderful walks on gentle slopes surrounded by landscapes that are among the most idyllic and least well-known of the canton. A few helpful linking itineraries are also included.


    On these walks, well off from the beaten track, you will almost never come across a café or restaurant so it is wise to always carry something to drink, and perhaps a picnic too! Of course, we advise good walking shoes and protective clothing. Don’t forget that the bisses are, in most cases, mountainous walks at between 600 and 2500 metres altitude, and the weather can sometimes be unpredictable. The bisses are frequented by locals even in winter, in light snow and it is possible to walk the bisses in snowshoes but you are advised to make enquiries among the local population before embarking on any such adventure.


    It is easy to avoid retracing your steps as all walks are served by public transport making it possible to park your car close to a bus station and use public transport options to connect to the beginning and end of your chosen bisse.


    The bisses are irrigation canals built and maintained by a private consortium and, more recently, by non-profit associations. They are not public property and have an essentially agricultural and, more recently, touristic role. Any damage sustained can result in heavy repair costs which could call into question their existence. Damaging the banks or throwing branches or other objects into the water can cause overflowing.


    Mountain biking is forbidden along the bisses.


    Dogs must be completely under control and not cause any disturbance to either walkers or wildlife.
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