A Strategic Gateway
In times past, the only route open to traders and travellers from Switzerland or Germany, towards the South of France went via the narrow Ecluse pass, a natural gate pierced by the Rhône, which linked the Lake Geneva basin to the plains of Lyon.
This coveted strategic location inevitably became an infighting theatre. In the 18th century, a fortified house was built where the passage was at its narrowest by the barons of the Pays de Gex, in order to levy a toll on traded goods.
Gradually, the fortified house became a fortress, which avoided being disturbed too much by major conflicts. The complex looks like a fortified structure dug into the sheer cliff overlooking the Rhône. In the 19th century, the fort was completely rebuilt and impresses visitors with its tunnels, bunkers and artillery embrasures. An internal staircase with 1,165 steps connects the two fortified parts.
A Lively Cultural Centre
Used until the end of the last world war and abandoned by the army in 1956, Fort l’Ecluse became a tourist attraction open to the public in 1995. Since 1998, the site has hosted visits, events and temporary exhibitions in the summer.
All around, there are numerous marked trails allowing visitors to enjoy views across the Rhône Valley. Sports enthusiasts are able to cross the Via Ferrata on the rocky ledges connecting the two forts (fairly difficult level).