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Visitor Reception Centre and Gaitanejo Reservoir

Visitor Reception Centre and Gaitanejo Reservoir

Both, longer (access 1 – path) and the shorter access ways (access 2 – way or track) lead to the official start of the route.  From that point you can see the following spots:

  • Control Point or Visitor Reception Centre
  • Gaitanejo Reservoir or Dam, and some cave houses.
  • Cambutas Dam and the dam at the beginning of the canal.

 

Visitor Reception Centre and Provided Services

Having gone past the above spots and after having walked between half an hour and an hour, depending on the chosen route, the path and the way will take you to the Visitor Reception Centre and the information board 'El Caminito del Rey', were these ways cross and the official path starts.  Visitors can collect a hard hat at the Control Point after they show their ID cards. It will be checked if their shoes are appropriate and whether they carry any of the forbidden objects (umbrellas, hiking sticks, selfie sticks, etc.), and groups will be organized. The guides will also give the necessary instructions, which include not dropping litter on the ground.

Caseta de Recepción de Visitantes de El Caminito del Rey. Ardales

The Gaitanejo Hydroelectric Power Station, where the Visitor Reception Centre is, was one of the oldest stations in Spain. The Substation, and the remaining 'S' that refers to the old name and the owner of the plant, Sevillana de Electricidad, are rather interesting in this section.  This building has rectangular base (20 x 12.50 m) and the factory is made of light coloured rough stone. The corners, doorways or space between pillars and the tops are decorated with white limestone. Joinery is green and made of metal.

Inicio del recorrido oficial del Caminito del Rey. Subestación eléctrica Gaitanejo

 

Gaitanejo Dam and Cave Houses

After you go past the old Substation, you will see a kind of small round viewpoint which goes around a pylon. From its rails, you can admire Gaitanejo Dam (1927), projected by Rafael Benjumea, which has a capacity of 4600 m3, it is 20 m high and 55 m long at the top. There was also a floodgate, and a safety system which channelled the water along the Gaitanes Gorge up to the aqueduct over the last canyon. This was a pioneer project for many reasons, but above all, because of the Hydroelectric Station which had large windows inside, called 'cobblestoned windows', as part of its walls which allowed the waterfall to be seen. This station is currently used for water storage only, and it is connected with Nuevo Chorro Plant by piping. From this spot, the cave houses in the Parda Mountains can be seen as well. These were homes to the workers who participated in making this hydroelectric complex.

The troglodytic houses were made in holes, thanks to the softness of sandstone. People who lived there were farmers or shepherds, or they were workers who built the dams, the path, or carried out the maintenance of the canal and the power station. Some of the names of the houses are still remembered, such as Sarteneja, Paco de Encarnación's house, Viñuela, Teresita, Parda, Frasco Reina, Las Conejas and three of them which were named after the power company Sevillana. The path was a fast way to access the village El Chorro and the train station.

El Caminito del Rey. Paraje natural

 

Cambutas Dam, the beginning of the canal and the entrance to the boardwalks

Having walked past the viewpoint, and down a gentle stairway, you will see a dirt road, the river side on he left, the ruins of the small Cambutas Dam, and the canal that starts to at the big casket, the canal inlet, which can still be seen. The old Chorro Dam is just next to the entrance to Gaitanejo Gorge, where the power station had been placed in 1904 before it was changed into the new Gaitanejo Dam Power Station. The first dam, which was partly destroyed in 1921 and dynamited when it was no longer in use, had been built at the river pond which was separated by a small barrier or dam made of stone and concrete. Close to it, the ruins of some old steps and service footbridges can be found. The start of the canal is this dam or the branch of a water inlet at an altitude of 281 m, which was meant to take advantage of the steep ground at the entrance to Gaitanejo Gorge and the exit at El Chorro to a hydroelectric power station.

We advise you to use binoculars to properly see the rocky wall in front of you with plenty of commemorative plaques that mark the water level reached during several historic river floods caused by heavy storms that sometimes hit the area (one on 2nd August 1941, or 27th September 1949). One which stands out happened in 1906, and destroyed trees and branches, making an artificial dam at Gaitanejo, so the water ran through the tunnel, flooding the railways.

When you get to the boardwalks that go over the gorge, stop to look at the ground to see the number which was carved on the boards. The number refers to the number of metres you have crossed. At the beginning, the numbers count in 50s up to the Rocas Llanas [Flat Rocks] Viewpoint, where Hoyo Valley starts and these are written in 100s. At the end of the valley and the beginning of the second boardwalk, the marked length on the boards starts counting in 50s again up to the southern exit, which is at the distance of 3200 m.

El Caminito del Rey. Paraje natural