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camargue, camargue horses
The Camargue French pronunciation: ​kaˈmaʁɡ Provençal Carmaga is a natural region located south of Arles, France, between the Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the Rhône River delta The eastern arm is called the Grand Rhône; the western one is the Petit Rhône1

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 Metropolitan France, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer – the second largest – and Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône A further expanse of marshy plain, the Petite 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


  • 1 Geography
  • 2 Flora and fauna
  • 3 Regional park
  • 4 Human Influence
  • 5 In popular culture
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
  • 8 Sources
  • 9 External links


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 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 faunaedit

Flamingos in the Camargue Horses and cattle in the Camargue

The Camargue is home to more than 400 species of birds and has been identified as an Important Bird Area IBA by BirdLife International2 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 conditions Sea lavender and glasswort flourish, along with tamarisks and reeds

Regional parkedit

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

Human Influenceedit

Humans have lived in the Camargue for millennia, greatly affecting it with drainage schemes, dykes, rice paddies and salt pans Much of the outer Camargue has been drained for agricultural purposes

The Camargue has an eponymous horse breed, the famous white Camarguais 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

The 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 and weather

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 Salin-de-Giraud

The boundaries of the Camargue are constantly revised by the Rhône as 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 31 mi inland The pace of change has been modified in recent years by man-made barriers, such as dams on the Rhône and sea dykes, but flooding remains a problem across the region

In popular cultureedit

  • The area was the namesake of Operation Camargue during the First Indochina War of the French in its colony of Vietnam
  • Captain Horatio Hornblower, RN raided the Étang de Vaccarès in 1810, according to C S Forester's 1938 novel A Ship of the Line
  • The 1953 children's film Crin-Blanc, known in English as White Mane, portrays the Camarguais horses and region through the eyes of a boy Directed by Albert Lamorisse, the black-and-white film won the Prix Jean Vigo award and the Cannes Film Festival's Grand Prize, both for short film
  • The majority of the youthful romance movie Friends 1971 takes place in the Camargue, with numerous scenes of wetlands and wildlife "Michelle's Song," from the soundtrack by Bernie Taupin and Elton John, includes the phrase, "tiny daughter of the Camargue"
  • The Hammer Films thriller Maniac 1963 was partly filmed in the Camargue
  • Part of the plot of Alistair MacLean's thriller, The Way to Dusty Death, is set in the Camargue
  • Large parts of Michael Moorcock's Dorian Hawkmoon fantasy cycle take place in a future version of the Camargue spelt Kamarg in the novels
  • Part of Eagle Strike, the fourth book in the Alex Rider series of spy novels for young adults by Anthony Horowitz, is set in the Camargue
  • The ultra-rare Pininfarina-designed Rolls-Royce Camargue was named after the region
  • Patricia Wilson's book, the Gathering Darkness, is set in Camargue with the hero Luc holding the title of a Marquee3

See alsoedit

  • Bac du Sauvage
  • Folco de Baroncelli-Javon
  • Camargue red rice
  • Camargue horse
  • Camargue equitation
  • Gardian
  • Manade


  1. ^  Chisholm, Hugh, ed 1911 "Camargue" Encyclopædia Britannica 11th ed Cambridge University Press 
  2. ^ "Camargue" Important Bird Areas factsheet BirdLife International 2013 Archived from the original on 2007-07-10 Retrieved 2013-08-31 
  3. ^ http://wwwgoodreadscom/book/show/911601The_Gathering_Darkness


  • Russell, Richard Joel 1942 "Geomorphology of the Rhone Delta" ANNAL Association of American Geographers 32 2: 149–255 Retrieved 2011-10-09  – also in jstor paywall

External linksedit

  • Documentary on Camargue video
  • Nacioun Gardians Cultural association, Camargue, France
  • The Camargue at armchairfrancecom
  • Parc naturel de Camargue in French, English and Italian
  • Tourism Office of Saintes-Maries de la Mer
  • Tourism Office of Arles
  • Camargue Photogallery
  • IMDB Crin-Blanc

Coordinates: 43°32′N 04°30′E / 43533°N 4500°E / 43533; 4500

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