Camargue Province

The Camargue (Camarga or Camargo in Occitan) is the space formed by the swampy delta of the Rhone River.

Camargue is a spacious strip of land of 145,300 hectares in southern France, situated geographically between the two main arms of the Rhone delta and the Mediterranean Sea.  The territory spreads to the east to the plain of the Crau, to the west to Aigues-Mortes, and to the north to Beaucaire.  It therefore comprises the departments of Bouches-du-Rhone and Gard.

Camargue is categorized as three parts, being Petite Camargue, in the west of the Petit Rhone, Grande Camargue, between the two arms of the Rhone, and Plan du Bourg, east of the Grand Rhone.

Camargue is located mainly in the territory of the municipalities of Arles, which is the largest town in metropolitan France, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, and Port St. Louis du Rhone.    The northern part is made up of farmland, and the southern part consists of marshes and salt lakes which form a particular ecosystem.  This ecosystem has vegetation consisting mainly of samphire and salt-tolerant plants The Etang du Vaccares (Pond of Vaccares) is in the centre of Camargue, and the stretch along the sea is lined with salt ponds.

It is also an area for raising horses and bulls, rice farming and salt mining (from the salt marshes).  Its particular flora and fauna led to the creation of a national nature reserve in 1927, encompassing 13,117 hectares.  The Regional Natural Park of Camargue was created in 1970 on 30,000 hectares. The annual evaporation rate is more important than the contribution from rainfall.  It is the river that makes the difference and thus helps the region avoid being burned by salt.

The Camargue is a site of both European importance and major national importance for local birds, for migratory, and especially for wintering birds.   From 2000-2005, the site has been ranked as the number one location in France for its number of wintering birds each year. Approximately 122,000 birds can be found in the Camargue, followed by the Arcachon basin, which hosts 105,000. The Camargue is also known for its pink flamingos.

The coasts of the Camargue undergo intense and contrasting transformations.  There are areas of sea erosion around Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer, and opposite Faraman there are areas of deposits and silting, primarily around the mouth of the Grand Rhone Beauduc and lighthouse Espiguette (Grau-du-Roi). And, because the area is in the delta lowlands, it has begun to feel the effects of global warming.  These effects include rising salt content, which is linked to the rising sea level.