The Sella, economic resource.

The river Sella, more than a river!

Oh, beautiful River Sella,

Bring your wandering song to my Heart

And leave with the sun or the star

And the landscape in you immersed

That by merging with the cup of my verse,

I heard you and sang to you!

of Ángel Pola, poet Llanisco.

The Sella, economic resource and generator of wealth of the region of the Picos de Europa.

Reserve the descent of the Sella

Rivers, sources of life

The rivers have been/meaning, from prehistory, an essential area of settlement and without a doubt a factory of unlimited resources for the development of the human being.

The human being was positioned beside its shores, not only to obtain water, but to supply itself with food. Well to surprise the animals that hunted as they came to drink, well to fish and extract fish from their waters.

In this way, the river basins were places of development of different settlements that in addition to need, they used the rivers like a natural resource of subsistence.

The River Sella. A river laden with history!

The Sella is born in the Picos de Europa, in the municipality of Leonese de Oseja de Sajambre, specifically in the area called “Fountain of Hell”, in the place known as Jonseya. After traveling 65 kilometers, it empties into the Cantabrian Sea, forming the estuary of Ribadesella. Having its basin an approximate area of 1,284 km2.

Its name has a Roman origin, Salia. Having this same root as for example the Besaya in Cantabria. These names alluded to the currents that formed frontiers in the territories that now make up León, Cantabria and Asturias. Thus, according to Pomponio Mela (1st century after Christ), the Sella demarcated the lands belonging to Cantabrians and Astures.

It is, like most northerners a narrow, short and mostly plentiful river. Due to these characteristics, over the centuries has been eroding the landscape with the strength of its flow and shaping the profile of the current valleys that runs during its passage.

During his short, but intense life, he travels through unique places. For starters it is born within the National park of the Picos de Europa. In its first stretch it runs between the walls of the gorge of the Beyos, creating one of the most beautiful landscapes of Asturias. It crosses Cangas de Onís under the so-called Roman Bridge of the villa and empties into the seafaring villa of Ribadesella, painting a pin-stamp.

Two historical notes

  • Roman road. The nearby and today trekking route, path of the Archdeacon, was old Roman road. It was built to transport minerals from León to the sea.
  • During the Spanish Civil war the popular army intrenched around the corridor of the Sella before the advance of the Francoist troops. Thus becoming a natural trench of water and fire.

The Sella as economic resource

Next to the Picos de Europa, the Sella is one of the main economic generators in the region. As a monetary resource, the river offers, at present, hydroelectric exploitation, active and fluvial tourism, farmland and pastures for cattle, to name just one of the most important.

Let us say that the first industry that is generated around it would be the so-called “lithic industry”, which constitutes itself the first industry generated by the human being. Developed during the Stone Age, it consisted of composing useful objects and other decorative ornaments through the use of the stone. This affirmation is corroborated by the discovery of the so-called “seal Concheros”. Discovery made in 1877 by Justo del Castillo. These were clusters of marine mollusc shells, remnants of human nourishment. The useful associated with this “lithic industry” par excellence is the so-called “Pico Asturiense”. A carved song with one end of blunt point, used especially for the collection of molluscs.

Fishing in the Sella

It goes without saying that the river Sella is considered one of the main rivers salmon of Spain.

Biological studies show that Asturian salmon could be the oldest in Europe. It appears that it descends from salmon of about 40,000 (glaciations) that sought shelter in the headwaters of the rivers of the Cantabrian slope.

That is why from prehistoric times it is fished in the estuary and in the lower part of the river. They are from the Middle Ages the first written reference of the fishing in the Sella.  Later the nobility and the clergy, the monastery of Villanueva at the head, managed or rather exploited the fishing of the salmon in the Sella. Controlling fishing under the payment of a commission.

In the eighteenth century were captured in the Sella around 12,000 salmon.

Throughout the twentieth century, fishing enters the culture and tradition of riverside people. Legendary fishermen sagas are established adding more color and fame to the fishing of the Sella. And the preserves and wells that were formerly baptized with illustrious names, such as the so-called “captain’s Well”, bring Solera and prestige to this ancestral activity.

Being its meat one of the tastiest and equally quoted in Europe, it is consistent that its fishing takes on a considerable magnitude. Especially on the day of the capture of the first salmon of the year, the so-called “Campanu”

As a result of fishing, it is established in the Sella another productive activity added. The fingerling center of the Salmona Caño in Cangas de Onís aims to capture salmon to encourage the rearing of fingerlings, their reproduction and artificial spawning for their subsequent release and follow-up. All this to favor the salmon repopulation of the Sella.

Hydraulic use

Due to the torrential nature of our protagonist’s waters, it is not surprising that all kinds of hydraulic mills proliferate in the region. Machines that were powered through the water force, played the most varied functions. From the pylons that shaped the hot iron in the ironworks, to the robes to mazar the wool. Deriving in more recent times in the hydroelectric power plants.

At present, there is only one important hydroelectric use, and it is not found in the Sella River. But in one of its tributaries, the Dobra, specifically in its highest section. Known as La Jocica Reservoir, this small reservoir has been active since 1964. It has three units, the named dam of the Jocica and the Centrals of Camporriondi and Restaño. and Camporriondi, and on the banks of the Sella.

Rodezno Mills.

The main industrial ingenuity of the Asturian rivers. One of the most popular wealth generating activities since time immemorial, is the harinera industry. Its origin can be dated in the 17th century, following the appearance in Asturias of maize cultivation.  Although in mills, others are milled from maize, products such as spelt, wheat or barley. The image of the mill on the diverted riverbed of the rivers, can be one of the most beautiful in the Asturian territory. 

Experience tourism.

The Sella is an active generating machine of emotions. Today the business of active tourism, which has as flagship “The Descent of the Sella in canoe” is one of the main engines of economic development in the region of Picos de Europa.

The sector generates around 450 fixed jobs throughout the principality. Only around 350 people are hired in the Sella area. Some 25,000 people go down the Sella year after year to practice some of the so-called experience and adventure sports.

A sport that feeds both the waters and the beauty of the Sella. An activity that does not in any way decrease the catches of salmon in the Sella, thanks to the current agreement on time zones of use of the river, between fishermen and active tourism companies.

A sport of nature, where after studies of environmental impact, has been shown that does not damage the fluvial ecosystem of the river Sella. Provided it is carried out in a responsible, orderly, controlled and compliant manner.

Feast of Les Piragües

It is quoted lastly the most charismatic of the, say “activities”, generating wealth around the river Sella.

“The Feast of Les Piragües.” This playful-sporting event, the Great Festival of Asturias, brings a global dimension to the Sella. Every August is celebrated in its waters the “international Descent of the Sella”. Festival declared of international tourist interest and a very lively sporting competition in which around 1,000 palistos of different nationalities participate. And where thousands of people crowd each year to celebrate the descent between the towns of Arriondas and Ribadesella.