There are 7,000 km of rivers, 18 lakes that are bigger than 50 hectares including 13 that are over 100 hectares and 100 hectares plus for the 3 biggest. Last, but not least, the region boasts 400 km2 of glaciers.
with its thousand ponds is also home to the famous Parc des Oiseaux in Villars les Dombes. Located on the bird migration route, it is a popular site for both amateur and professional birdwatchers. More information from the Ain Tourist Office
One of the 1600 ponds of the Dombes
The Route des Etangs de la Dombes winds around the 1600 ponds that make up this unusual landscape, ideal for angling enthusiasts. They certainly wouldn’t want to miss the annual emptying of more than 300 ponds between October and December. Over a total 215 km distance, get on your bike to follow the southern route or use your car for the northern route.
The Gorges de l’Ardèche
The Gorges de l'Ardeche is a stunning site that is also listed as a Natural Reserve that can only be accessed on foot or by boat. During a mini 6 km trip, you will go under the naturally-created arch known as the Pont d’Arc which reaches a height of 60 m. Legend tells that it was made by the Devil. A longer trip, 32 km, will take one or two days to wind through the Natural Reserve with a night spent under canvas.
Gorges de l'Ardèche, kayac near the Pont d'Arc
The Orgnac swallowhole is one of the largest craters in the world and, via its 500 m trail that drops 120 m, offers spectacular landscapes and vast underground chambers. Together with the Choranche cave in the Vercors Regional Natural Park, it has just applied to be considered as a Unesco World Heritage site.
Choranche is in the Gorges de la Bourne and is renowned for its emerald-coloured lake. Its waters are a combination of 2 underground rivers that join together at the lake and then emerge a little further away. A series of waterfalls and pools of crystal clear water in the cave form a lively river, the Serpentine, that reflects the long white stalactites some of which measure 3m in length.
Grand Massif in the Vallée du Haut Giffre
Waterfalls are the crowning glory of the Grand Massif in the Vallée du Haut Giffre, which has been awarded the label “Grand Site de France”. In the summer there are 12 waterfalls that plunge down impressive limestone cliff faces and in the spring, when the snows melt, the total rises to 30.
The Rouget waterfall, known as the Queen of the Alps, is a particularly outstanding celebrity. It’s even thought that the waters will cure infertility. Which might explain why there are lots of tourists who come to the base of the waterfall to freshen up and enjoy the splashing water.
Rhône and Saône rivers
The Rhône and Saône rivers come together in Lyon in stunning fashion, and where they meet new buildings are springing up to create a sort of Manhattan district within Lyon, surrounded by company headquarters and floating island restaurants.
Evening cruise on the Rhône, in front of the Hôtel Dieu
Way up stream, the river god begins life in a mountain stream, labours its way through Lake Geneva and ends up in Lyon having collected various tributaries along the way, permitting various societies to establish themselves on its banks.
The Saône is a small, quiet river that crosses through the Ain, flooding and fertilising its banks on a regular basis. When it meets up with France’s most powerful river there’s a touch of emotion, of romanticism perhaps, which have influenced artists such as the Coustou brothers to create symbolic works of art like the statue placed on Place Bellecour in the centre of Lyon. www.fleuverhone.com and www.saone.org
France’s longest river, the Loire, which travels 1,012 km from its source on Mont Gerbier de Jonc in the Ardèche and its wild gorges dotted with châteaux that overlook the surrounding area of Saint Etienne, recall the scenery of southern Germany. There is an abundance of nature, fauna and flora.
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