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Saint-Pierre Island

Many times, I had passed by train along the shore of Lake Biel which allowed me to contemplate this strange island. It is rather a peninsula since a strip of land connects it to the mainland. Nevertheless, the name of island is deserved because it is historically correct.

The Seeland, this plain located to the south-east of Lake Biel, and which extends between Lake Neuchâtel and Lyss, was the scene of frequent floods since the beginning of the 16th century. This was because the course of the Aare between Aarberg and Solothurn showed only a slight drop. Thus, in the event of a flood of the Aare, the waters of the other rivers were retained causing the floods. These events had become increasingly frequent from the 17th century on due to the elevation of the riverbed due to alluvial deposits.

It was therefore decided to change the hydrological regimes by diverting the Aare and was the subject of the Jura water correction project. These works, which took place at the end of the 19th century, consisted in the digging of several canals, some of which partly took over the existing waterways (this is the case of the Canal de la Broye, the Canal de la Thielle and the Aare Canal between Biel and Büren). An important element of the project was the digging of the Hagneck Canal, diverting the waters of the Aare from Aarberg to bring them into Lake Biel.

The three lakes (Neuchâtel, Morat and Bienne) have become because of these interventions, a single reservoir of communicating water bodies. An immediate consequence was the lowering of the water level by 2.7m. This made it possible to discover the pile dwelling sites which until then had been entirely under water. But it also created the long strip of land starting from Erlach and joining Île Saint-Pierre.

Before arriving at the island itself, we pass near the Chüngeliinsel (the rabbit island). The slopes of this island are steep, and one could believe that it is a feudal mound. It is not so: the geology is in this in this place.

Further on, we pass in front of the former Clunisian priory in which Jean-Jacques Rousseau stayed (after he was driven out of Môtiers). But his stay did not really last since he had to leave the island by order of the bailiff of Nidau. One didn’t like subversive ideas then.

Itinerary: Erlach – Saint-Pierre Island and back
Distance: 11Km
Altitude gain: 30m
Duration: 2h45

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