Camargue (French pronunciation: [kaˈmaʁɡ]) (Provençal
Camarga) is a natural region located south of Arles, France, between
Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the
Rhône delta. The
eastern arm is called the Grand Rhône; the western one is the Petit
Administratively it lies within the département of Bouches-du-Rhône,
the appropriately named "Mouths of the Rhône", and covers parts of
the territory of the communes of
Arles – the largest commune in
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer – the second largest
– and Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône. A further expanse of marshy plain,
Camargue (little Camargue), just to the west of the Petit
Rhône, is in the département of Gard.
Camargue was designated a
Ramsar site as a "
Wetland of International
Importance" on 1 December 1986.
2 Flora and fauna
3 Regional park
4 Human Influence
5 See also
7 Further reading
Map of the Camargue
With an area of over 930 km2 (360 sq mi), the Camargue
is western Europe's largest river delta. It is a vast plain comprising
large brine lagoons or étangs, cut off from the sea by sandbars and
encircled by reed-covered marshes. These are in turn surrounded by a
large cultivated area.
Approximately a third of the
Camargue is either lakes or marshland.
The central area around the shoreline of the
Étang de Vaccarès
Étang de Vaccarès has
been protected as a regional park since 1927, in recognition of its
great importance as a haven for wild birds. In 2008, it was
incorporated into the larger Parc naturel régional de Camargue.
Flora and fauna
Flamingos in the Camargue
Horses and cattle in the Camargue
Camargue is home to more than 400 species of birds and has been
identified as an
Important Bird Area
Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife
International. Its brine ponds provide one of the few European
habitats for the greater flamingo. The marshes are also a prime
habitat for many species of insects, notably (and notoriously) some of
the most ferocious mosquitos to be found anywhere in France. Camargue
horses (Camarguais) roam the extensive marshlands, along with Camargue
cattle (see below).
The native flora of the
Camargue have adapted to the saline
Sea lavender and glasswort flourish, along with tamarisks
Main article: Parc naturel régional de Camargue
Officially established as a regional park and nature reserve in 1970,
the Parc Naturel Régional de
Camargue covers 820 km². This
territory is some of the most natural and most protected in all of
Europe. A roadside museum provides background on flora, fauna, and the
history of the area.
Humans have lived in the
Camargue for millennia, greatly affecting it
with drainage schemes, dykes, rice paddies and salt pans. Much of the
Camargue has been drained for agricultural purposes.
Camargue has an eponymous horse breed, the famous white
Camargue horses are ridden by the gardians (cowboys), who
rear the region's cattle for fighting bulls for export to Spain, as
well as sheep. Many of these animals are raised in semi-feral
conditions, allowed to roam through the
Camargue within a manade, or
free-running herd. They are periodically rounded up for culling,
medical treatment, or other events.
A 20th-century "gardian" home. The pole is used to climb up and
oversee the animals
Few towns of any size have developed in the Camargue. Its "capital" is
Arles, located at the extreme north of the delta where the Rhône
forks into its two principal branches. The only other towns of note
are along the sea front or near it: Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, about
45 km to the southwest and the medieval fortress-town of
Aigues-Mortes on the far western edge, in the Petite Camargue.
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is the destination of the annual Romani
pilgrimage for the veneration of Saint Sarah.
Camargue was exploited in the Middle Ages by Cistercian and
Benedictine monks. In the 16th-17th centuries, big estates, known
locally as mas, were founded by rich landlords from Arles. At the end
of the 18th century, they had the
Rhône diked to protect the town and
their properties from flooding. In 1858, the building of the digue à
la mer (dyke to the sea) achieved temporary protection of the delta
from erosion, but it is a changing landform, always affected by waters
The north of the
Camargue is agricultural land. The main crops are
cereals, grapevine and rice. Near the seashore, prehistoric man
started extracting salt, a practice that continues today. Salt was a
source of wealth for the Cistercian "salt abbeys" of Ulmet,
Franquevaux and Psalmody in the Middle Ages. Industrial salt
collection started in the 19th century, and big chemical companies
such as Péchiney and Solvay founded the 'mining' city of
The boundaries of the
Camargue are constantly revised by the
it transports huge quantities of mud downstream – as much as 20
million m³ annually. Some of the étangs are the remnants of old arms
and legs of the river. The general trend is for the coastline to move
outwards as new earth is deposited in the delta at the river's mouth.
Aigues-Mortes, originally built as a port on the coast, is now some
5 km (3.1 mi) inland. The pace of change has been modified
in recent years by man-made barriers, such as dams on the
sea dykes, but flooding remains a problem across the region.
Bac du Sauvage
Folco de Baroncelli-Javon
Camargue red rice
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Camargue.
^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Camargue". Encyclopædia
Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
^ "Camargue". Important Bird Areas factsheet. BirdLife International.
2013. Archived from the original on 10 July 2007. Retrieved
Russell, Richard Joel (1942). "Geomorphology of the Rhone Delta".
Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 32 (2): 149–255.
doi:10.2307/2561087. Retrieved 2011-10-09. – also in jstor
Coordinates: 43°32′N 04°30′E / 43.533°N 4.500°E /