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A mosaic of lakes


The sky reflected in a little lake in the Latus valley (A. Rivelli/PNAM).

The Maritime sector of the Alps is one of the richest in natural lakes, most of them nestling in the basins hollowed out by glaciers in the Quaternary period or formed by the walls of moraine that they left behind.

One of the few exceptions is Rovina Lake, at 1535 metres above sea level in the Valle Gesso di Entracque: as the name Rovina = ruin, implies, the origin was a ruinous landslide in the distant past which blocked the river's path. Today this lake no longer has its natural appearance, because it has been modified and reduced in size in the course of work to build a large hydroelectric plant for the electricity board Enel. Two vast artificial reservoirs were created to supply the underground power station, these are Piastra in the lower part of the valley and Chiotas at the base of the East face of Argentera.

The biggest natural lake is the Upper Sella Lake (approx. 123,000 square metres), set in a rocky depression in the Matto massif at a height of 2329 metres. Only slightly smaller (approx. 107,500 square metres) is the Lower Sella Lake (1882 m). Other large, scenic lakes in Valle Gesso are: Vei del Bouc (2054 m) above San Giacomo di Entracque, Brocan (2000 m) near the Genova-Figari Refuge, the round Portette Lake (2361 m) near Questa Refuge, Lower Valscura Lake (2274 m) and Claus (2344 m). This last lake is particularly attractive as it has a narrow, rocky peninsular of roches moutonnées and a little island emerging from the water. The Valle Stura side of the Maritime Alps also hosts a number of lakes. The largest of these the Upper Valletta Lake (2231 metres), is in the Park, in the secluded Valletta di Aisone.

The highest two lakes in the Maritime Alps are in Valle Gesso. The highest of all is the picturesque Maledia pool, at almost 2900 metres near the peak of the same name, it is often full of snow and ice well into the summer. In second place is Nasta Lake, at the foot of the mountain of the same name.

Waterfalls are another transitional phenomenon,like the lakes most were created by the erosive action of ancient glaciers. You will find foaming waterfalls in almost every valley in Alpi Marittime. Among the most spectacular is the large Ischietto waterfall, part of a secluded secondary tributary of the Gesso di Entracque.

In compact rocks such as the gneiss of the Argentera Crystalline Massif, erosion by ancient waterfalls often formed deep, narrow gullies locally known as gorge. In Valle Gesso there are some particularly wild ones, such as those cut into the northern buttresses of Monte Gelas.

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