38 Rue de Trois Fontaines, 55000 Robert-Espagne.
From Nancy A31 towards Paris, then at Toul exit 12 towards Paris on N4, after 63 km exit D4 La Houpette. On D4 to 4.7 km to Haironville, turn left on D997 to Ville sur Saulx, then Robert-Espagne. Turn left towards Abbaye de Trois-Fontaines, park 45 m after town at the Croix du Bois.
|Sentier Karstique Karst Karst cave
|L=4 km, D=90 min.
A la découverte du sentier karstique Beurey-sur-Saulx
Atelier Corinne François, 20??, 11 pages.
|Sentier karstique de Beurey-sur-Saulx, Robert-Espagne.
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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|siphon of the Rupt du Puits first crossed and cave nehind discovered.
|Gouffre de la Laie is formed by water flushing out the sediment filling.
|Gouffre Paul (Paul Chasm) openes during the summer of 2014 following heavy rainfall in July.
|first panels of the karst trail installed.
Sentier karstique de Beurey-sur-Saulx is also known as Sentier Karstique de Robert Espagne. It was named after nearby towns Beurey-sur-Saulx or Robert Espagne. It was created by the Groupe d'Etudes et de Recherches Spéléologiques Meusien GERSM (Meusien Speleological Study and Research Group) and the Comité Meuse de Spéléologie (Meuse Caving Committee). Financed by the communauté d’agglomération Bar-le-Duc Sud Meuse (Bar-le-Duc Sud Meuse agglomeration community) educational signs were erected. The cavers offer guided walks during summer, which are organized by the office de tourisme Meuse Grand Sud (Meuse Grand Sud tourist office). The trail starts at the road from Robert Espagne to Abbaye de Trois-Fontaines, right after the last houses park at the first curve marked by a pilar with a cross on top called Croix du Bois. From here the trail follows the single lage gravel road straight ahead. There are numerous trails in the forest, each marked with its own animal. The karst trail is marked with a salamander.
The loop is about 4 km long which is a net walking time of an hour, with the explanatory signs and some photography probably 90 minutes. There are several rock formations, small caves, resurgences and a loosing stream. The trail is very well maintained and has stairs, wooden railings, and outlook platforms.
Some stops are the résurgence du Rupt du Puits, a karst spring with a 400 m long siphon behind, the Gouffre de la Laie, which is a collapse doline. There are three more potholes in this area, the Gouffre Paul, the Gouffre OTSI and the Gouffre Phillippe au Carré. The French word gouffre means abyss or pothole, so these are daylight shafts or collapse dolines, which are entrances to the cave system below. And at the far end of the loop is an area with numerous dolines, this time rather shallow solutional dolines. The main sight of this karst trail is actually not accessible. One stop is the artificial entrance shaft to the Rupt du Puits, the largest cave in the basin of Paris. It has a surveyed length of more than 21 km and is accessible only to cavers.
The village Beurey-sur-Saulx and Robert Espagne are located in the valley of the river Saulx. Between the two towns is a resurgence, actually two of them, where the underground drainage of the karst area west of the valley reappears. The lower spring is called Rupt de Freiniau and corresponds to the lower, completely water filled level of the cave system. This spring flows all year. The Rupt du Puits, which gave the cave system its name, is the level above. It is still partly water-filled, but normally no water flows out of the entrance. Only during times of high flow, this layer is reactivated and the spring starts to flow. This happens after heavy rains or probably snow melt. However, even if the spring does not flow, the fist 445 m of passage are continually filled with water forming a siphon or sump. It was crossed for the first time on November 13, 1971, which was not only the day of the discovery of the cave but also the world record for cave diving at that time.
Obviously a long and dangerous siphon restricts the number of cavers which are able to enter this cave dramatically. After determining the location of the dry passage behind, the Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières (BRGM, Geological and Mining Research Bureau) and the Direction départementale de l’agriculture (DDA, Departmental Directorate of Agriculture) decided to drill an artifical shaft into the dry passage, to circumvent the siphon. They started with a small hole, and when they met the cave passage, they used a bigger drill to widen the hole. The resulting shaft has a diameter of 80 cm and is 50 m deep. The upper end, a one-meter-high iron tube with a lid, is one stop on the karst trail.
The Gouffre de la Laie is quite young, at least in its current form. The cave develops for a long time, with a shaft forming along cracks through which surface water enters the limestone and widens them by solution. The crack was filled by unconsolidated sediments, which were flushed out by a flood in 2002 and so the shaft became a collapse doline.
The nearby Gouffre du Philippe au Carré is a similar collapse doline nearby, opening at the bottom of a shallow doline and has a vertical shaft of 29.5 m. It is a nice vertical cave, but unfortunately has no navigable connection to the cave system below. It ends at a crack which is too narrow to follow. However, the surface area show some important karstological features, The shallow closed depression was created by the dissolution of limestone by water which contains a little carbonic acid. So while the shallow solutional doline is formed from above, at the same time the cave below widens upwards along the crack from below. Such was the opening of the Gouffre Paul (Paul chasm) during the summer of 2014 following heavy rainfall in July. When they meet the loosened material falls down creating a so-called collapse doline, and if the debris is removed by a cave river in the passage below it may become and entrance to the cave system.
Another highlight of the trail is the perte (sinkhole) or sometimes doline perte, where water flows into the depression of a doline and vanishes underground in the sinkhole. The limestone is actually not porous, it is water-resistant, only the cracks allow water to flow through, and after widening the cracks allow even more water. Underground drainage is a stage of development phase, but still there are patches on the surface where the way underground is blocked due to the lack of cracks or them being filled by clay. So after rains the dry valleys reactivated, for a short time small rivulets flow down until they finally meet one of the numerous swallow holes.
The GERSM offers five types of activities, spleological conferences, guided walks, cave trekking in a river cave, abseiling in an 85 m deep pothole, and the visit of an underground quarry. All those tours are available only after appointment. They provide insurance, individual equipment including helmet and headlamp, ropes and the necessary climbing gear. Bring boots, old clothes, and fresh clothes, towel and plastic bags to change afterwards.