Part of the border area between Mol and Dessel consists of a patchwork of large ponds. Those small lakes, the oldest of which date from the end of the nineteenth century, are the permanent marks of the white sand exploration.
Between 1843 and 1856 the Kempisch canal was dug as part of the connection between the Scheldt and the Maas. During the same period, the Dessel-Turnhout-Schoten canal was dug and a connection was established between the Kempisch canal and the Demer in Hasselt. The construction of these channels provided employment for the poor people in the region. The water from the canals enabled an abundant irrigation of farmland. Agricultural exploitation in the hitherto barren and desolate heathland areas became an unconditional success.
By digging the canals, the valuable white sand of Mol was discovered. It was Antoon Van Eetvelde who in 1862 was the first to receive an official license to exploit the white sand. A new profitable industry was born in the Kempen. The canals and the white sand then played a key role in the economic development of the region.
The view of the Kempen landscape was thoroughly changed and the white sand exploration left its mark on the region. The following decades, white sand extraction turned many hectares of Kempian fields, meadows and forests into ponds.
These small lakes exert a great attraction on many birds and are therefore chosen places to spot and observe birds. Perhaps you have already asked yourself what the name of the sand pits are and where they are located. For the answers to those questions, take a look in the gallery above. (source: birding kempen)
The lakes of Mol and Dessel are great for water enthousiasts and bird watchers but of course there is some controverse about the loss of the forests and meadows. Keep in mind that on most of the lakes there still is Industrial activity. Most of them aren't free to paddle on. Number 11 is free, 8 has some Industrial activity but is in use by the surf club of Mol.
Number 13 and 14 are forbidden since 2016, when they became protected nature parcs.
Number 2 is the property of the SCK, because of the vicinity of the nucleair reactor and safety issues, best before a paddle to contact the nuclea yachting club.