VIDEO: Curious Dordogne river well back after rainiest May since 1981

The mesmerising ‘well’ is still somewhat of a mystery

The phenomenon appeared most recently after Dordogne had its rainiest May since 1981
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An ‘aquatic curiosity’ has re-emerged in a river in Dordogne after the region experienced its rainiest May since 1981.

The Bontemps ‘well’ is a stone structure located between Périgueux and Terrasson, at 143 metres altitude. More specifically, it lies around 1.5 km to the south of the commune of Brouchaud, near Limeyrat, around 60 km east of Bergerac (Dordogne, Nouvelle-Aquitaine).

After heavy rain, it can push up to 18,000 litres of water through it per minute - up to 300 litres per second - in an incredibly strong column of water.

It is not 100% clear why it happens, but the phenomenon always seems to appear from the underground channels of Limeyrat and Ajat after heavy rainfall, and has proven to be an enduring attraction for tourists and locals alike.

The stone circle is usually dry, and has vegetation growing all over it. Yet, when the water level rises, it appears to converge underground, and finds a place to ‘escape’ via this channel.

The water then runs down to the small rivulet of Blâme.

Read also: Illegal Dordogne bridge could still be built over French river 

Science journalist Frédérique Boursicot, who first wrote about the well for the magazine a m'intéresse, said: “It was while looking for a phenomenon taking place in France that I came across this peculiarity in the Dordogne and started looking into the subject. 

“What's interesting is that the explanation is still a bit of a mystery,” he told FranceBleu.

Rainiest May in more than 40 years

The latest appearance of the ‘well’ comes after the rainiest month of May in the Dordogne area since 1981 (43 years ago). An average of 161 mm fell; double the usual monthly amount. This broke the record for the month of May in the department, which had previously been 148.5 mm.

Before this, the area had been suffering from increasingly-severe drought, after two very dry months.

And in May 2022, just 26 mm of rain fell in Dordogne.

Read also: See: Huge rockfall blocks road in Dordogne, south-west France 

Other departments, Corrèze and Vienne, had their rainiest month on record in May 2024, while the month was - nationally - the fourth-rainiest since 1959; behind only 2001, 1983, and 2008, said forecaster Météo France.