In recent years the village of Burgui
, at the southern end of the Roncal valley, has become the capital of the almadía (river raft)
thanks to the work of the Asociación Cultural de Almadieros Navarros [Cultural Association of Navarrese Rafters].
The museum is housed in the Town Hall on two spacious floors. It is dedicated to perpetuating the memory of this ancestral occupation of the Navarrese Pyrenees
that disappeared in the middle of the 20th century following the construction of the Yesa reservoir.
Recently reformed, the museum receives the visitor with a recreation of a pine forest. This serves as a starting point for a description of how forests are worked, how the rafts were built and the way in which they made the descent of the river.
The centre is structured around a number of themes: life in the forests, dress, the role of women or the Día de la almadía
(Day of the Rafter), among others.
In the Pyrenean valleys of Roncal, Salazar and Aézcoa the exploitation of forests has been the main source of income since time immemorial. Ships of the Spanish Armada were built thanks to these forests, as were the Imperial Canal, the Citadel of Pamplona or the Royal Palace of Olite, and the water in their rivers was the medium for transporting the wood to places where it could be sold for conversion. The wood was transported on rafts called almadías.
They were made of sections of wood of identical length tied together with strands (strips of hazelnut, wild willow, etc.), with oars at the front and the back to guide the raft down river.
Although in the Middle Ages the Aragonese used this form of transport in the Pyrenees most, from the 17th century onwards it was the Navarrese rafts that were more numerous; over a thousand a year from Roncal. They came down the river Esca and the Irati on their way to the Aragon and then the Ebro, in a week-long trip that usually finished in Saragossa.
Being an almadiero was a risky and adventurous way of life that was deep-rooted in the people of the mountain valleys. Many lost their lives negotiating the hazards of the rapids, eddies, dams, stones, and the speed of the water, which was very fast after the spring thaw.
The development of roads and vehicles, together with the construction of the reservoir at Yesa, put an end to this activity in 1951.
Nowadays, thanks to the Museo de la Almadía we can recall this ancestral occupation or river rafter. The exhibition consists of photographs, publications, documents, films and audiovisuals that have the raft and the rafters as protagonists. You can also get to know the period dress of the rafters and the tools they used to make the rafts, plus other aspects of life in the valley at the time.
To finish off the visit, why not take the easy itinerary called "Burgui, village of crafts"? Apart from seeing a full-scale model of an almadía, there is also a bread oven, a charcoal pile, a mediaeval 'fridge' and a limekiln.