A couple of years ago in late May, MBFF went for 🍏 a picnic with friends up at 🎣 Lac de Javen in Megève – it was mild May that year!
🎣 Lac de Javen is a popular picnic spot for families in the summertime, as it is just a short hike to get there and there are plenty of activities on offer:
- ☕️ buvette and restaurant;
- 🌈 small playground, 🌈 trampoline and other loisirs (later in the summer);
- 🎣 fishing;
What I didn’t know was that at this time in the year in a 💦 tiny pond right next to the lake, 🐸 frogs (or toads?) are busy breeding! My boys spent the ENTIRE afternoon observing the different phases of the 🐸 têtard (tadpole) ⇒ grenouille (frog) cycle: tadpole, tadpole with legs, swimming frog . . . and found 🦎 the odd triton (newt)) too – they were delighted! (we even had to mount a whole rescue operation, as an unsupervised child had dumped a whole load of tadpoles on the side of the pond, and they lay there looking pretty lifeless; we reanimated them and got them back to the safety of the water).
A little biology
🐸 a little tadpole ⇒ frog science: early on in their education, children learn about 🐸 the cycle de vie de la grenouille here in France, and my boys learned on a recent treasure hunt organised by the Réserve Naturelle de Passy, that our local frogs and toads (amphibians) go to water to lay their eggs; they do not actually LIVE in the water in our area. Many different species of frogs and toads breed in 💦 shallow water of temporarily flooded areas of woodland, ditches and small ponds; certain species breed so quickly that the waters can be ephemeral, lasting for little more than a month or two, to allow the breeding! Larger species head to 💦 larger ponds, permanent bodies of water like marshes, wetlands, ponds or the shallow waters of small lakes.
[ ⇒ watch a great 🎬 little video showing the development of 🐸 a tadpole though to frog here ]
🐸 why do frogs chorus? I love the spring chorus of frogs and toads! 🐸 Frogs and toads 🎼 sing when the waters of 💦 their selected breeding area reach the right temperature for breeding; depending on the species of frog or toad, you’ll get a choral progression! And there are all sorts of different 🎼 songs, higher and lower pitched: singing, snoring, trilling, chattering, plucking (when I lived in 🇦🇷 Nicaragua many years ago, I still remember a very distant frog song that sounded like a Sony Gameboy – pow pow, pow pow, pow pow!).
And we all remember that 🎬 famous 1984 Paul McCartney & 🐸 The Frog Chorus – We All Stand Together song, right? Here it is for you!
🐸 different frog sounds in different languages: frogs in the 🇬🇧 UK go ribbit, in 🇫🇷 France they go croac croac. And so, in France la grenouille coasse, “ the frog croaks ” (the verb coasser also means to gossip about someone). To read more about animal sounds in France (I find the linguistic differences fascinating!), see this article from FluentU.
Colour code for listings:
Chamonix Valley (Chamonix, Argentière, Les Houches, Servoz & environs) and Vallorcine
Passy & environs
Sallanches, Combloux, Cordon & Domancy
St Gervais, Le Fayet & environs
Megève, Praz-sur-Arly & environs
Les Contamines-Montjoie & environs
🇫🇷 Further France
Where to see tadpoles, frogs & toads
With 🐸 the reproduction of frogs and toads covered (😂), let’s move on to where you can head to spot this fascinating cycle of life 🏔 au Pays du Mont-Blanc! I am only listing spots that are easy to get to with small children. Please feel free to send me any other locations that you have found (some of you have kindly already done so!).
NOTE: please observe the tadpoles and frogs, but leave them be in their pool of water!
[ thank you to: Cassie Degnan of Little STemCells, Jonty Knightly, Michala Fischer and Timothée du Peloux for your additions to the list! ]
Lac des Gaillands & Lac à l’Anglais (Les Gaillands, Chamonix)
I’ve not been down here for a look, but I’m pretty sure you’ll spot some 🐸 tadpoles in 💦 these shallow lakes . . . and if not, then you can have a walk or bike ride in the adjacent 🌲 forest clearing, have a picnic on the grass or in the shade, or watch the rock climbers! Great buggy walk through the woods and along the 💦 river Arve here!
🅿️ getting there & parking: 🅿️ parking on-site at Les Gaillands! Two buvettes / crèmeries to try: Buvette des Gaillands (on-site) and Crèmerie des Aiguilles (nearby, and with a children’s play area – UPDATE: sadly, due to Covid, this little buvette has had to shut!);
Paradis des Praz (Les Praz de Chamonix)
Even if you don’t find any tadpoles at this bucolic stream running through the woods in Les Praz, you’ll have a lovely time at this bucolic spot!
Lac des Praz (Les Praz de Chamonix)
This is a fishing lake (rainbow trout) and easy to access . . . perhaps you’ll find some tadpoles here? Let me know!
La Mare aux Têtards (tadpole pond) in Argentière
In 🌲 a forest clearing, with 💦 a stream running through it, you might catch a glimpse of 🐸 some tadpoles in pools of water in the late springtime. Even if you don’t, this is a fabulous place to play and make dams and there is also a small playground (this is also a great place to head on ☀️ a hot summer’s day, as you’ll have lots of shade!).
getting there & parking: from the 🅿️ Parking Grands Montets, head up the track towards ☕️ La Crèmerie du Glacier, and then turn left onto the Petit Balcon Nord in the direction of Le Tour; after crossing the bridge (over the 💦 Torrent de Lognan), you will find a small playground and stream; you can also get there from Argentière village, by following the road across the 💦 Arve river, past the church and through the village (route du village, turning into chemin de la moraine); go through the passage under the railway line, and turn right after 20m . . . when you reach a junction, you’ll see the playground and stream / 🗺 see Google Maps for location;
. . . and you could pop in to the ☕️ Crèmerie du Glacier on your way back for homemade tart . . .
Lac des Chavants (Les Houches)
Last springtime, MBFF reader Michala Fischer let me know that she and her girls spent an afternoon down at 💦 Lac des Chavants watching 🐸 tadpoles! In April 2021, we observed hundreds of toads a-mating there (note: toads walk and frogs jump – this is how you can tell the difference!)
💦 Lac des Chavants is a great option for tadpole-spotting, as there are so many other activities there: 🌈 playground, 🧗♂️ climbing rock, 🗺 parcours orientation, 🎣 fishing (with a permit), 🎾 tennis courts, 🌲 forest . . .
[ ⇒ see here for MBFF article about Lac des Chavants ]
🅿️ parking: FREE on-site parking, just after the 🚡 Télécabine du Prarion;
Lac de Clairtemps (Taconnaz)
Until Mon Petit Chamonix posted a photo of this small fishing lake, I honestly had no idea that it even exisited! Of course, me being me, I googled it right away to find its exact location! How had I never known?
Lac de Passy (Passy)
I often see children playing down by the ☕️ Buvette de la Plage, near the accrobranches at 💦 Lac de Passy, in a shallow, narrow pool of water that sits between 🏖 the sandy beach and 💦 the Bialle stream in the woods. I’m pretty sure you’ll spot some aquatic wildlife here, but I can’t confirm you’ll find 🐸 tadpoles and frogs! To read more about 💦 Lac de Passy, see MBFF article here.
Mont-Blanc Plage campsite & l’Écureuil restaurant (near Lac de Passy)
There is 💦 a small pond located next to the 🐿 Restaurant L’Écureuil (within a campsite), and I’m pretty sure that there must be some tadpoles to observe, as 🐸 the frogs are in noisy chorus there in springtime!
MBFF regularly walks past the ⛺️ Mont-Blanc Plage campsite’s 💦 pond (private) and it is worth the walk from 💦 Lac de Passy, just to hear those 🐸 froggies! If you have lunch or dinner at the restaurant at ⛺️ Mont-Blanc Plage (and then you are allowed to use their private Lacs de la Cavettaz, with diving board and water slide!), then you might spot some frogs sitting on the lily pads (so cliché!) or swimming in the water (I nearly swallowed one on our last visit!).
Jardin des Cimes (Plateau d’Assy)
There are so many great reasons why MBFF recommends a visit to 🌻 Le Jardin des Cimes, and spending time at 💦 the little pond on-site and looking for 🐝 bees, insects, tadpoles, dragonflies and more is just one of them! The 🌻 Le Jardin des Cimes is a magical and innovative alpine garden and it has now reopened after winter hibernation, and will remain open until the end of September / price: adults 5€ to 6,50€, children (4 o 16 years) 3€ to 4€, under 4s FREE and family 14€ / good to know: there is a lovely café & restaurant (open to the public, no need to pay garden entrance) – Le Café du Jardin – serving seasonal dishes AND workshops for children on Saturday afternoons / website;
[ ⇒ see here for MBFF article about 🌻 the Jardin des Cimes ]
address: 447 route du Docteur Davy, Plateau d’Assy, 74190, Passy / tel: +33 (0)4 50 21 50 87;
Lac Vert – 1266m (Plaine-Joux)
Cassie Degan, of the fabulous 🧬 Little STEMcells workshops in Chamonix (🧬 science & technology workshops), was up at 💦 Lac Vert last springtime, and informed me that she and her family saw lots of 🐸 tadpoles! 💦 Lac Vert is a superb desination for a family hike with small children. There is a small gouille next to the lake, and you’re likely to see tadpoles there;
[ ⇒ see MBFF article for more information about Lac Vert ]
🅿️ getting there & parking: in summer, you can park directly at 💦 Lac Vert, or for a longer hike, you can park at Plaine-Joux or at the 🌉 Himalayan suspension bridge (Passerelle Himalayenne in Plateau d’Assy;
Plan d’Eau Biotope (Combloux)
After listening to 🎥 the video posted on Combloux Tourisme’s Instagram story of the 🐸 froggie chorus a-happening up at the 💦 Plan d’Eau Biotope, I shall certainly be taking my boys up there to listen! Even if we don’t spot any 🐸 tadpoles, this is such a beautiful spot to hang out, even before the naturally-cleaned lake is open for swimming! Read more about the 💦 Plan d’Eau Biotope here;
🅿️ parking & getting there: FREE parking on-site, next to adventure playground;
La Gouille (Mountain Store, Passy)
My elder son and I explored the landscaped area around Mountain Store recently, and then we headed down the river pathway to enjoy the art and flora and fauna (we saw 🐍 a grass snake near the ruches!) along the way. In the landscaped area is a small 💦 gouille, representative of 💦 a mountain gouille (small mountain pond), and you might spot some 🐸 tadpoles there! Even if you don’t, this is a great spot to play and picnic;
[ ⇒ read more about our exploration of this area and the parcours d’art along the Arve river here ]
Lacs des Ilettes (Sallanches)
In 💦 the shallow waters of the lakes you can normally spot some 🐸 tadpoles – try 🎣 the smaller fishing lake or 🌾 the nature reserve lake.
[ ⇒ to read more about this fabulous family destination, see MBFF article here ]
🅿️ parking & getting there: FREE parking on-site / also a great destination 🚵♂️ to bike to!
Les Hauteurs de Cordon
MBFF reader, Timothée du Peloux, wrote to me last year with some suggestions in Cordon for 🐸 tadpole and egg-spotting. One of these suggestions was some 💦 ephemeral flaques d’eau (pools of water) just above 🅿️ the Parking des Plaines, on the way up to the Col du Jaillet, on the piste forestière ( 🅿️ Parking des Plaine – this is one of MBFF’s picnic suggestions for a hot day, as the tables are set up in a bucolic spot in the woods, and this is the starting point for the annotated 🌲 Sentier Découverte de la Foret – see here)! Another spot that he suggested was some 💦 ephemeral flaques d’eau around the Cabane du Petit Patre (not for tiny observers this one, as this is a bit of a hike!
Lac de Gannaz (Le Fayet)
This 🎣 small fishing lake in Le Fayet, is located next to 💦 the river Arve. I’m pretty sure that you’d spot some tadpoles in the shallow waters!
🅿️ parking & getting there: address – chemin des Peupliers, 74190, Le Fayet, Saint-Gervais;
Lac de Vivier (Saint-Gervais)
Another 🎣 small fishing lake, located near the Bonnant river and the chemin du Val Montjoie, you’ll also find picnic tables and BBQ facilities here!
🅿️ parking & getting there: 74170, Saint-Gervais-les-Bains;
La Gouille au Lac de Javen – 1397m (Megève)
It is an easy family hike to reach this 🎣 small fishing lake in the summertime (in winter it is on ❄️ a ski de fond boucle for more experienced cross-country skiers, or a snow-shoeing or hiking trail). It’s a super spot to admire the 🏔 Massif des Aravis, the Aiguilles de Varan, the Aiguilles Croches and the chaîne du Mont-Joly.
Next to the main lake is 💦 a small, ephemeral 🐸 mare aux têtards, which I imagine dries up once the summer sun hits hard!
☕️ eating options: there is a restaurant on-site with playground games, and you can 🎣 fish for trout! (on some days you can pay to BBQ your catch);
🅿️ parking & getting there: address – 1350 chemin de la Rée, 74120, Megève / 🅿️ FREE parking (follow signs off road up to Côte 2000; turn of at hamlet Le Maz), followed by a 15mins uphill walk to 💦 Lac de Javen (for non-walkers, you can drive all the way there, or if you are eating in the restaurant on-site, you are allowed to park here) / also a great destination 🚵♂️ to bike to!
[ question: can you spot 🐸 the little frog in the third photo (middle right)? ]
Lac des Evettes – 1350m – (Praz-sur-Arly)
This 🌲 forest hike is perfect for families . . . the sentier has annotated panels to read, and a marmot observation post! You can also 🎣 fish at the small lake. I cannot confirm that you’ll see tadpoles here; but I imagine you would;
☕️ eating options: picnic tables and the mountain refuge La Montagnette is lovely;
Lac à Pêche du Parc de Loisirs du Pontet (Les Contamines-Montjoie)
This 🎣 little fishing lake is located within the Parc de Loisirs du Pontet in Les Contamines-Montjoie, right next to the ☕️Chalet du Lac restaurant. I’m pretty sure that in the shallow water you’ll find some 🐸 tadpoles! If you don’t, then at least you’ll be next to the great playground!
🅿️ parking & getting there: park at Parc de Loisirs du Pontet, opposite the Télécabine de la Gorge;
Lac d’Armancette – 1950m – (Les Contamines-Montjoie)
This 💦 little mountain lake is nestled within the Réserve Naturelle des Contamines-Montjoie, under 🏔 the Dômes de Miage, and La Combe d’Armancette, and sits next to 🐄 the ancient alpages / the hike starts in the hamlet of La Frasse, weaves through 🌲 the forest, and then you follow signs to 🏚 Chalets du Truc . . . and perhaps you’ll see 🐸 tadpoles?
🅿️ parking & getting there: park at hamlet La Frasse, under the Dômes de Miage / distance: 2,5km / duration: 2h30 / dénivelé: +/-10m; / see article on super family hiking website Randos en Famille for more information about this family hike;