Ruins of Spanish Town Emerge After Decades Underwater

A worsening drought in northern Spain has nearly emptied a reservoir, revealing what remains of a long-abandoned town.

After particularly dry summers, the Spanish town of Mansilla de la Sierra reemerges from its watery depths.

Currently, the reservoir that now sits in its place is filled to only 15 percent of its capacity. The region's drought has revealed structures that have only rarely been seen over the past half a century.

During the early 20th century, the small town in the northern Spanish province of La Rioja was home to roughly 600 people. In 1959, the local government moved to capitalize on the region's three fast-flowing rivers, and by 1960 those 600 inhabitants were forced out.

The dam's construction promised to bring hydroelectric power to the agriculture-based region, and a reservoir was built in Mansilla de la Sierra to control the powerful flow of water that irrigated crops and provided electricity.

Abandoned structures can still be seen when the reservoir waters recede. The ruins look like an eerie ghost town with crumbling brick buildings. In addition to homes, children's playgrounds, churches, and bridges emerge when the reservoir water recedes.

In interviews with Spanish news site El Periódico, former residents fondly remembered the sleepy yet comfortable town they were forced to leave nearly 60 years ago. While walking through the abandoned area, they reminisced and eagerly pointed out to grandchildren where their homes once were. Life in Mansilla de la Sierra, however, is recalled with a tinge of pain.

While the reservoir has created a new power source in the region, those who are old enough to remember the old town also remember being forced into a new, nearby town, where families had no choice but to pay for a new place.

The doomed town was newly revealed in the final weeks of summer and will begin to fill up after the drought ends, a prediction that remains uncertain. When the reservoir is at full capacity, it appears like a serene blue lake with few hints of the town lurking beneath.

Mansilla de la Sierra wasn't the only town to be subjected to total, sudden flooding during the mid 20th century. Following the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco encouraged dam and reservoir projects that promised to bolster the country's economy. Dozens of towns, villages, and even ancient Roman ruins were flooded, reappearing only when rivers run dry.

Earlier this year, Spain's drought revealed lost ancient Roman ruins that normally sit hidden in the waters of a reservoir.

Related Articles

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
We use our own and third-party cookies to improve our services, personalise your advertising and remember your preferences. If you continue browsing, or click on the accept button on this banner, we understand that you accept the use of cookies on our website. For more information visit our Cookies Policy AcceptClose cookie policy overlay