Raiers floating down the river, Source: Catalunya Experience

Chronic drought caused this Catalan tradition to change dates

Chronic drought caused this Catalan tradition to change dates

The Baixada dels Raiers honours timber rafting in the Pyrenees

Climate change in the form of various natural disasters, such as prolonged droughts, torrential storms, hurricanes and sea level fluctuations can threaten many of the things we take for granted, such as our cities, villages, landscapes, roads and livelihoods. It turns out it could also threaten our cultural traditions, especially those where water plays a big role.

A case in point is a timber rafting festival that has been taking place every summer in the Catalonian Pyrenees and has even enjoyed UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage protection since 2022. It’s called Baixada dels Raiers and is organized in mountain towns with logging traditions, such as Coll de Nargó and La Pobla de Segur.

This year, for the second time in a row, however, instead of the summer, the festival took place on 30 March and moved well ahead of its normal schedule. Why? Because the chronic drought that has been plaguing Catalonia in the past couple of years put under question the navigability of the Segre River, even for timber logs.

Adapting to climate realities

The picturesque tradition of loggers (raiers in Catalan) navigating timber rafts down the stream of the river was a common part of the livelihood at the end of the 19th century. Times changed, however, and the tradition died out until it was revived as a festival to honour the local heritage in 1979.

The raiers travel a section of the river that extends for 2 kilometres and through spots where the public can gather on the banks to watch them. Pulling the date of the festival early in spring ensured that it could still take place, however, it didn’t come without its drawbacks.

According to Joan Ramon, quoted by Diari de Barcelona, who has been participating in the descent of timber logs for 24 years, the water in spring was much wilder and colder.

The festival also pays tribute to the women of the raiers with a floral offering to a monument dedicated to them.



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