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1 week in the Gorges du Verdon= 2 campsites to discover the richness of this incredible site

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What is the Verdon natural regional park ?

A quick introduction to the Verdon natural regional Park, where many walks are feasible, whether alone or in family. The Verdon is full of wealth, of cities of characters, sometimes rare animals, diverse flora, and landscapes breathtaking. To protect and enhance the Verdon, was creates the Verdon natural regional Park.

What is as a natural regional park?

In France, 48 territories among the finest celebrate the diversity of our heritage with force. These are the natural regional parks, rural territories to natural heritage, cultural and landscape emergency. But they are a fragile balance which justifies a policy of protection and sustainable economic development, under the aegis of the State.
More or less wide, each regional territory of a natural park is characterized by its strong personality. Parks place human and the environment at the heart of their project, in a move active and concrete... and above all sustainable.

What to do in a natural regional park?

For the visitor, staying in a natural regional park is a nice breakaway and the unique opportunity of multiple discoveries. All the riches of the natural regional parks are accessible from original activities and nature friendly equipment. In any complicity with the elements, the visitor can vary the pleasures: hiking, cycle touring, exhibitions, picking mushrooms, architectural or gastronomic heritage discovery... The supply seems inexhaustible!

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A House for the Park

In most of the natural regional parks, the correct address is the House of the Park! Instead of home and information, it has all the information needed to organize his discovery. Not to mention mine of information are other park facilities: museums, ecomuseums, or theme houses. This approach is relayed locally by trails, thematic tours, internships in theme, etc. In a park, the visitor to the curious mind has only one problem: the embarrassment of the choice.

Federations for regional nature parks

Stand-alone structures, the natural regional parks are grouped within the Federation of the natural regional parks in France. Exchange place, tool for reflection and animation, the Federation represents the interests of parks with the public authorities. It is negotiating with them to preserve and strengthen the identity of the parks. Participates in the development of policies for the protection of the environment in France and abroad. Finally, it is a source of public information, including through its site internet

Note by the President of the Region Provence - Alpes-Côte-d'Azur

Dear friends,
Provencal, Alpine, site of origin, adoption and heart, simple travellers, it is with great pleasure that I present to you this guide on the Verdon natural regional park, one of our four natural regional parks. They perfectly illustrate one of the main environmental skills of the Region Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.
The territory of the natural regional park of Verdon whose classification was obtained in 1997, with its 188 000 ha, is structured by the course of the Verdon, real backbone of the territory and around five artificial lakes that punctuate his course. It presents a great diversity of landscapes, fauna and flora within the confines of Alpine and Mediterranean influences. Real Château d'Eau of Provence, it appears very fragile, notably because of its low population density (30 000 permanent inhabitants on 46 municipalities) linked to the decline of traditional economic activities. The important tourist visits (more than 1.5 million visitors per year), mainly concentrated in the gorges and lakes in summer is causing considerable pressure.
Faced with this situation, and in order to reconcile protection and development, men organized themselves jointly and severally liable to maintain agricultural and pastoral activities while valuing natural heritage in order to better distribute the population in time and space.
Two main principles guide the Region in its action to the natural parks regional joint recovery of the environment, the framework of life and development, and local democracy in practice, dialogue and solidarity.
By ensuring the enhancement and protection of its natural resources, the Region through parks contributes to rebalancing of the territory. By promoting dialogue, information, awareness and respect for the environment, the parks are laboratories of ideas, spaces of experience and exemplary for other territories in the region.
I wish you an excellent read of this guide where you will discover the heritage riches of this territory and the environmental action plans between lavender and canyons, and leads the Region.

The Verdon: a river, 7 landscapes

15 walks proposed in this guide will allow you to better familiarize yourself with seven geographical entities that contribute to the diversity of the heritages of the Verdon.
These estates have in common a number of species but possess their specificity for landscapes, architecture and geology.

The Valensole plateau

It is located in the northwestern part of the territory of the Park and represents 1/5 of its surface, i.e. approximately 40 000 ha. This immensity, where distances are blurred, seems suspended between heaven and Earth. A vast almost flat surface that appears as a genuine curiosity in a region of hills and medium mountains.
Between hard and Lavandula, sometimes lined with aging almond wheat crops, should describe what major natural heritage interest of the Valensole plateau, it open its very rich and sometimes specific avifauna. The observer attentive (and lucky!) will be able to discover the little Bustard, which the plateau is home to the last population of the Department of the Alpes de Haute Provence. The list of present birds would be too long to be included here but you can still cite the gaudy stone and the Nightjar, species of steppe environments. It is not uncommon to observe many raptors, especially during the periods of migration: short-toed, milans black and royal and several species of Harriers.
The Valensole plateau, by its principal agricultural vocation, also focus the botanist for the messicoles plants that it can observe. Too often unfortunately regarded as weeds, these species closely related to cultivated land, are increasingly threatened by France. The intensification of agricultural practices using pesticides produced their effects. Southeast of France, in particular with the Luberon, is one of the last bastions where the messicoles are still well represented. Like that Luberon, Verdon natural regional park aims to better identify these plants to ensure conservation.

The Lake of Sainte-Croix

Part of the communes (Les Salles-sur-Verdon, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, Aiguines, Baudinard-sur-Verdon and Bauduen) is subject to the regime of protection of the coastal law. However, no sea, no shores on the horizon!
Let us not forget that the coastal law also applies to inland lake areas, from 1000 ha area. The Lake of Sainte-Croix, with its 2,200 ha, thus falls under this legislation. The Conservatoire du littoral and lacustrine shorelines thus pursues a policy of acquisition on the edge of the Lake to assist the municipalities in land control and management of its surroundings.
From a naturalistic point of view, the entity of Sainte-Croix Lake may seem, at first glance, as the less enticing for the person seeking first of all wildlife species and floristic rare. This artificial lake being recent, ecosystems that have been created are still relatively young. In addition, the water level varies according to the activity of the hydroelectric power plant, the Lake has few environments such as reedbeds, that could grow on more gentle slopes and develop a diverse avifauna and flora hydrophytic. Except in its downstream part at the end of the tributary the Mayor, Lake is characterized more by its bare mineral shores.
Water of the Verdon and the Lac de Sainte-Croix tends towards the turquoise, sometimes emerald green. This would be due to the low nutrient load of the River, to the small quantity of particles in suspension in the water and the presence of algae. However the mystery is not resolved.
However, besides beautiful landscape panoramas, ornithologist can observe several species of ducks and grebes period of migrating and wintering: redheads milouins and canvasbacks, mergansers and little grebes.
On the shores develops a flora very special and very discreet, only in places, sometimes flooded, sometimes outdoors, depending on variations in the water level. One speaks, in the jargon of the botanists of amphibious vegetation communities.
Ash genet heaths or woods of holm oaks and White Oaks mostly along the expanse of water. Rare around the Lake are the riverine forest, forests of poplar, alder and willows which usually along water courses and surround ponds, making the transition with vegetation located further back. If moving away a bit of the Lake, without however departing from many, beautiful walks to discover flora and diverse fauna, representative Mediterranean atmosphere of the Haut-Var. If careful, the diversity of orchids with, among others, ophrys (Ophrys fuciflura) Hornet and the Provence ophrys (Ophrys provincialis) will delight lovers of macro photography.

The hills of the Haut-Var

The high country var is the southwestern part of the Park. It extends from the Durance to the plan of Canjuers. Note that access to the military camp of the same name is, of course, strictly forbidden!
In this sector, the forest is an important part of the surface (more than 50% in most common) and is one of the riches landscape and heritage of the area (see the Pelenc wood arboretum). This massif has, of all time, was exploited in ways very various: cade oil manufacture, collection of "wild" truffles, manufacture of charcoal, etc.
Malassoque sector is home to several protected species such as Jourdan violet, dictamnus (which you can also observe at Bauduen), ophrys Drôme (national protection) as well as the genet of Villars. The latter is particularly original because it is a genet crawling on the ground. This part of the Park is home to the southernmost stations for this species.
The villages are clinging to the sides of the hills (Moissac-Bellevue, la Verdière) or on headlands (Julien) and offer dramatic silhouettes. AUPs is an exception, protecting its bourgeois facades by walls installed in the plain, surrounded by vineyards, olive trees and meadows of mowing.
On the commune of la Verdière, small agricultural plains offer a mosaic of areas very favourable for many species of birds of open and steppe environments as the stone curlew, the hoopoe, the quail and the Ashy Harrier. Traditional agricultural practices, kept in several locations, resulted in the maintenance of a procession of species messicoles, these once-common plants in fields that have now disappeared from many regions of France. The sector of the Haut-Var still houses the lizard Ocellated, the largest of his family. Rather discreet and particularly fierce, it leaves itself approach nor observed easily. Its presence is poorly known on the Park of the Verdon and will in the future require inventorying in order to better protect it.

The Artuby

This series of sunny and dry valleys, on the arc of Castellane, position of hinge between the causse de Canjuers and top of the Lachens, offers large welcoming landscapes. It is the southeastern part of the Park. At the gates of the big Gorges du Verdon and great visitor sites, this area is characterized by an alternation of forests and cultivated areas or meadows. The hydrographic network is dominated by the Artuby, tributary of the Verdon.
The Fund's valleys are occupied by grain and vegetable crops, as well as meadows of mowing, and through depressions, small wet areas. These are without a doubt one of the major attractions of the natural heritage of the Artuby. Wetlands, called "cold" environments, are generally of low surface. They are above all places of encounter between Mediterranean and mountain climate influences and are home to many protected plant species, limit their range. According to the seasons, the hiker can observe feathery "treadmills" cottongrass (spring), the flowerbeds of colchiques (from the end of August) and daffodils of the poets (in the spring) or delicate flowering of gentian pneumonanthe (end of summer). Us more Rocky slopes of the Artuby allow to discover the splendid lys de pomponne.

The lakes and mountains of the Verdon

This mountainous region is located in the northeastern part of the territory of the Park and is part of the alpine foothills. Position of transition between the Alps and the Mediterranean, it is marked by these two climatic influences.
The rural economy has long been dominated by small-scale activities from factories in Saint-andre-les-alpes (draperies, cannery, pulp...), missing today.Pastoral activities (mainly sheep pasture) is still well established and uses, from the end of spring, the lawns of the various surrounding peaks. The Mourre de Chanier, with its elevation of 1,930 m, is the highest point of the Park. The fall, animals are settled in the Plains and wintered near the farms.
The example of Castellane, the built heritage is very rich on the entire sector with many old houses, sheepfolds, bridges Romans, mills... Some hamlets are exceptional because of their situation and their architecture. Fruit trees (Apple, pear, plum and walnut trees mainly) there are still many. If today they are hardly maintained, their real mark in the landscape and the presence of old kilns which were used to preserve fruits, show the importance once the orchards in the local economy and the lives of the inhabitants. The abandonment of agricultural, accompanied by desertification of the villages, induced risk, particularly because of the closure of the space by the recolonization of the forest, slip of land and fire.
From a naturalistic point of view, the pre-Alps have many treasures. At the end of the spring, the Peony officinalis, strictly protected species and therefore banned harvesting, offer spectacular flowering on the well sunny slopes. The hiker photographer will be delighted to discover among other wild tulips and carpets of pasque flower of the Alps. The fauna of altitude is also very rich.
The forests are not left out, in particular, the presence of the black woodpecker, but also and especially that of the black grouse and the Hazel Grouse. These latter two species are scarce, because in the southern limit of their range. On the barren lawns of altitude you might have the chance to observe or hear the scream of marmots, also few in number, for the same reasons. It is not uncommon to regularly observe chamois.
The whole is to be discreet and to listen.
Mountain pine to pine are finally home a beautiful protected Orchid, Dactylorhiza Spitzel, at a few stations in the Verdon known only. In addition to the fauna and flora, this sector has great geological and palaeontological interest which justified the creation of the Haute Provence geological Reserve.

The lower gorge

If the Basses Gorges du Verdon, of Baudinard in Esparron-de-Verdon, do not have the magnitude of the big Gorges, located more upstream, they don't host in less flora and a very rich fauna. They offer the hiker or the kayaker a quieter discovery, in an intimate and unspoiled.
The Basses Gorges are a preferred nesting site for several species of raptors, including the Golden Eagle. The vulture was still breeding in 1997 and could resettle in places over the next years. 22 species of bats were identified in the natural regional park of the Verdon, on the 31 species listed in France. All are fully protected throughout the national territory. The sector of the Basses Gorges du Verdon is a major challenge for the preservation of many species, including the murine Capaccini. This bat, typically Mediterranean, is in net decline in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. The Park contains one of the most numerous colonies of France. The murine Capaccini is the flagship of the territory species and is subject, as such, regular follow-ups and a preservation program.
Between Vinon-sur-Verdon and Gréoux, where the Verdon exits the tightened passage gorges before joining the Durance, you can observe, with a bit of perseverance and an eye, curious traces left on the vegetation: trees cut bevel, gnawed and tapered branches found on the shores... As evidence of the presence of a rather inconspicuous host: the Beaver. Having recovered the Durance, the latter established himself quite naturally in the Verdon. He also prospected the downstream part of some tributaries. Needless to seek type dams such as you might see in television reports, our beaver is more a follower of terriers-huts, buildings less spectacular and more discreet. With a bit of luck, you can also observe clues of his presence in the Durance and the Asse. And with a lot more uncertainty, you can enter, for a moment, the vision of a Beaver in ride night on the watercourse. Attention, not to be confused with the nutria, also present everywhere...

The Gorges du Verdon

The great Gorges du Verdon is needed to immediately to the vision. On slopes that can reach 700 m, the Grand Canyon reveals an extraordinary landscape and a series of prestigious landscapes dominated by mineral environments. The steep slopes and the turmoil of the lines reflect the harshness of the places. A few benches and the presence of sources allowed the man to settle and develop subsistence agriculture. Pastoralism is still practised on the slopes overlooking the Verdon to the North.
This area contains immense biological wealth. The avifauna of the Grand Canyon is remarkable, both in terms of the number of species as the heritage interest of a large number of them: 145 species inventoried including 102 are nesting and among these last, 17 species of European interest. The flagship species is in doubt the Griffon Vulture, since its reintroduction in 1999.
Natural border and transition between climatic influences Mediterranean, mountain and the wetter climate of the Alpes Maritimes, the great Gorges du Verdon shelter a very rich flora including several endemic species of strict, i.e. in only found worldwide in a given location. The cliffs of the great Gorges du Verdon welcome a small fern unique in the world, the Verdon Spleenwort, protected at the national level. It seems that it is a relict from the ice ages. Other plants, to very limited geographical distribution, are well represented in the great Gorges du Verdon. the intermediate moerthingie including. Botanical inventories, combining rock climbers helped begin to better understand the ecology and distribution of the species.
The Kingdom of fish, trout fario is pervasive; some beautiful shots made the reputation of the Verdon with fishermen. But it is another species, much more discreet and not biting the bait which is the major attraction of the River: the apron. This small fish, dependent of a very good quality of the waters, was discovered recently in the area of the big Gorges and fact subject, since 20058, a more thorough follow-up. Once better represented in the Southeast quarter of the France, he is now more present than in some rivers of which the number is easily counted on the fingers of one hand. A prefectoral Decree of protection of biotope regulates and oversees the water activities including swimming since 2013 in this sector.

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