The Roquefavour Aqueduct is a beautiful 19th-century 3-tier stone aqueduct across the Arc river about 10 km west of Aix-en-Provence. Roquefavour, the world's highest stone aqueduct, was built in the style of the Roman Pont de Gard aqueduct as part of the Canal de Marseille.
The Canal de Marseille was needed to bring the water of the Durance river to drought-stricken Marseille. The canal begins at a point between Cadenet and La Roque-d'Anthéron on the Durance, winding 80 km south to Marseille.
The chief engineer, 26-year-old Franz Mayor de Montricher, chose two plateaux of similar height as the point to cross the Arc river. Construction was started at the beginning of 1841 and the water from the Durance began flowing across the aqueduct on 30 June 1847.
Nearly 400 m long, the three-level aqueduct crosses over the river at a height of over 80 m. By comparison, the similar stone aqueduct, Pont du Gard, is about 270 m long and 50 m high, but 18 centuries older.
This part of the Arc river crosses a nicely wooded area, but surrounded a few km away by the built-up areas of Aix-en-Provence and Les Milles to the northeast, Ventabren and Velaux to the northwest, Rognac, Vitrolles and the Berre-l'Etang to the southwest, and the high-speed train TGV runs through the center.
Transportation Roquefavour Aqueduct
The D65 road runs along the Arc river valley, passing between Velus and Ventabren 4 km to the northwest, to the industrial zone of Les Milles 5 km southeast. Aix-en-Provence is 10 km east, on the D64 road. The Aix-en-Provence TGV station is 8 km south, on the D65d road.
IGN (1/25,000) #3143 ET "Aix-en-Provence, Vitrolles, Lambesc"
A hiking trail actually crosses over the aqueduct bridge. To the north, the trail passes through some very nice hills, eventually to the village of Ventabren, but with some forestry-track alternates along the way.
There are forestry tracks to the west of the aqueduct, south of the river, towards Velaux. An interesting site about 3 km to the west is the oppidum Ste-Propice on a small hilltop.
To the southeast, the marked hiking trail follows the river, then roads and tracks to make a small loop, including a parking area near La Mérindolle.