Vercors regional natural park, Drome and Isère, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

The Vercors Regional Natural Park is a regional natural park created in 1970, straddling the departments of Drôme and Isère. The Maison du Parc (headquarters) is located in Lans-en-Vercors.

A mass emerges from the sea and the dawn of time. 23 million years ago, the Vercors arose from the depths of the ocean. The main features that constitute it are indissolubly linked to a geological adventure which founds the main lines of its landscape bringing together cliffs, plateaus and gorges in an immediate environment of more modest plains and hills. This massif, made up of sedimentary rocks (limestone family) is the legacy of a history in three stages: sedimentation – emergence – erosion, a direct consequence of the movement of continents on the surface of the Earth (plate tectonics). The Vercors continues today to slowly shape itself, under our eyes, by the influence of the climate and human activities.

Located at the transition between the Northern Alps and the Southern Alps, the Vercors is subject to the triple climatic influence of altitude, oceanic precipitation and Mediterranean regimes. These influences, visible as much in precipitation as in temperature, make the Vercors a particular pre-Alpine massif and greatly contribute to the richness of the environments and species encountered in the area.

In the plains and on the first slopes of the massif, the pubescent oak makes up the wooded areas. With altitude, forest stands change. You can walk through the beech-fir groves, typical of the mountain level, or the pine grove of hook pines, more characteristic of the subalpine level. Cultures, meadows or mountain pastures, open environments are very diverse. There are fields of lavender as well as meadows of hay, wild ungulates and domestic species. Rocky environments are omnipresent in a limestone massif like the Vercors. Lapiaz, scree, cliffs, caves and karst networks are the hallmarks of the landscapes here.

Standing at the outpost of the French Alps, the Vercors presents a great diversity of landscapes and reliefs which allows the practice of countless activities, the Vercors is tamed on foot, by bike, on horseback, in rope, in snowshoes or skis, hanging from a sail… From the Hauts-Plateaux du Vercors National Nature Reserve, a heart of nature spanning 17,000 hectares, the wildest of the massif, to the detours of sublime roads to the underground depths, the Vercors is a mosaic of territories inviting to contemplation, to discoveries and adventure… Because the Vercors massif is a space with fragile balances, it deserves the greatest respect. The park’s eco-guards and the Hauts-Plateaux Nature Reserve guards ensure that there is no damage to the environment and provide good advice for hikers.

The Vercors landscape is also the heir of a very long human history which has shaped it over the centuries. The first human trace on the territory is due to agriculture. In the absence of any human intervention, the Vercors would be almost entirely wooded. Indeed, apart from the cliffs and some very steep slopes, humans have transformed the natural elements to compose the landscape today. Shepherds and farmers have created a mosaic of fields and pastures, lumberjacks and charcoal burners have changed the composition of forests… By thus opening up rangelands in the dense forest cover, and by keeping them open, farmers still play a large part in defining the landscape of the massif.

Through the ages, man and the Vercors massif have forged links that nourish the identity of a unique territory, a setting for a heritage that is sometimes discreet but very present and surprising… Along the way, natural rock shelters in caves, ruins traces of distant civilizations, roads corbelled traced to the nineteenth th century monuments commemorating the last world war reflect a rich past, strength for the future.

Two history museums located in Vassieux-en-Vercors are managed by the Parc du Vercors: the Memorial of the Resistance is a central stage of a route to discover, throughout the massif, the places where the actions of Resistance during the Second World War and the Museum of Prehistory, installed on the site of a flint cutting workshop abandoned 4,500 years ago by craftsmen-tailors, exhibits around thirty years of archaeological research. Many other sites allow you to tackle different facets of history: the departmental museum of the Resistance in Vassieux-en-Vercors, the archaeological and historical museum of the Pays Diois and the Diois in Die, the water museum in Pont -in-Royans…

Massif of Vercors
The Vercors massif is a mountainous massif of the Pre – Alps, straddling the French departments of Isère and Drôme, culminating at 2,341 meters above sea level at Grand Veymont. Its mainly limestone geological nature offers a relief made up of cliffs, ridges, valleys, gorges, more complex than the qualifier of ” plateau One might suggest. As a result, it is divided into several regions, geographically and historically distinct: the Quatre Montagnes, the Coulmes, the Vercors Drômois, the Hauts-Plateaux and, in Piedmont, the Royans, the Gervanne, the Diois and the Trièves. The nickname “Fortress” has also been associated with it.

This complex geography explains why the Vercors has long lacked a real unity, movements and economic exchanges taking place between the massif and the plain, rather than between the different parts of the massif. Vercors The name itself is of recent usage, to refer to the whole massif: until the mid XX century, it means that the canton of La Chapelle-en-Vercors connected to Royans. The north of the massif, around Lans-en-Vercors, Villard-de-Lans, Autrans and Méaudre, in conjunction with the Grenoble region, is until then called Quatre Montagnes. It is the tragic events of the Second World War, with the creation of the important Vercors maquis, the development of tourism and, finally, the creation of the regional natural park on the territory, which reinforce the unity of the massif.

This is now a sports site in the heart of nature where the environment is protected. Although man has deeply shaped the landscape for the needs of breeding and forestry, reforestation plans make the Vercors one of the main forest areas in France and a reserve for species such as the Southern Tulip and the Grouse. lyre, two of the park’s symbols, to which are added in particular the Alpine Ibex and the Griffon Vulture which have been reintroduced. The fauna and florapresent an important diversity, because of the climatic differences between the northern and southern extremities of the massif as well as of the altitude. The park’s mission is also to promote tourism and support local productions.

Geology, climate and humans influence the expression of natural environments and wild species and contribute to their diversity. Like nowhere else, southern, mountainous, continental species can be found here… Exceptional, this territory is fragile, it is necessary to respect it. The Vercors has a large number of nationally and internationally recognized natural spaces on which the Vercors Regional Nature Park monitors fauna and flora species. An eco-climatic observatory makes it possible to follow the evolutions of these environments and species. This network of protected natural areas includes the Hauts-Plateaux du Vercors National Nature Reserve, integral biological reserves, biotope protection decrees, classified sites, a network of Natura 2000 sites, sensitive natural areas in the departments as well as spaces that have been the subject of inventories (ZNIEFF and ZICO)… Across the entire massif, the Vercors Regional Nature Park carries out management, reception and public awareness actions and pilots or coordinates research programs and scientific monitoring.

The Vercors is a massif of the Pre – Alps located in the South-East of France, straddling the departments of Isère and Drôme (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region), about a hundred kilometers south-east of Lyon. Its area is approximately 135,000 hectares, with sixty kilometers in length from north to south and forty in width from west to east, making it the largest massif in the North Pre-Alps.

It is surrounded by the Chartreuse massif to the north-east, the Taillefer massif facing the Matheysine to the east and the Diois massif to the south. It is with the latter that the only geographic extension is established, at the south-eastern end of the Vercors, at the Col de Menée at an altitude of 1,457 meters. It is watered from the northeast to the northwest by the Isère, to the east by the Drac (Trièves) and to the south by the Drôme (Diois). To the west, it dominates the Rhône valley.

The geography of Vercors is often summed up by the term “plateau”, probably appeared in the Quatre Montagnes. Seen from a distance, it looks simple: the difference in altitude between the massif and the valleys is several hundred meters, reaching the inhabited areas which are between 800 and 1,200 meters above sea level. The relief is commanded by two bars, that of Urgonian limestones and that of Tithonian limestones, the softer marl-limestone formations giving gentler slopes. The ridge of the eastern flank, fifty kilometers long, has several peaks exceeding 2,000 meters in altitude, the interior of the massif oscillating between 800 and 1,500 meters.

On closer inspection, the contrasts are significant: wide valleys (Lans-en-Vercors valley, Autrans, La Chapelle-en-Vercors regions, etc.) and plateaus (Coulmes forest, Lente forest and the immense Hauts-Plateaux du Vercors) are separated by deep gorges (gorges of the Bourne, Furon, etc.) and by imposing cliffs that can exceed 400 meters in height (cliffs of Presles, the combe Laval, the cirque Archiane, etc.) The Mount Aiguilleis isolated from the rest of the massif by an erosion which has notched it on all its sides.

Because of this relief, several parts of the Vercors are particularly isolated from the rest of the massif. Gresse-en-Vercors does not communicate with the interior of the massif: you have to travel a hundred kilometers to reach the south of Vercors via the Rousset pass and around seventy also to reach the north of Vercors via Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte. The villages of the northern end of the Vercors have been cut off from the interior of the massif since a landslide occurred near the Mortier tunnel; the road has never been rebuilt, and it is not expected that it will be. As a result, the inhabitants must go back down to the plain and go up by another road if they wish to access the interior of the Vercors. The Peuil plateau, a small plateau in the east of the Vercors, also has no means of communication with the interior of the massif. This plateau is a witness to the Grésivaudan glacier which, during the ice age, climbed up to this altitude. There is a bog there. It is also one of the belvederes of the Vercors which allows, on a clear day, to see Grenoble,and Belledonne.

The particular relief of the Vercors earned it two nicknames. That of “Fortress” testifies to the difficult access of the plain to the Vercors: it is most often necessary to go through gorges of limestone cliffs or steps accessible only to hikers; that of “ French Dolomites ” refers to the Italian limestone massif known for its particular rock shapes.

Due to this particular relief, the center of the Vercors is divided into several distinct regions. Les Coulmes, to the north-west, has always been the most wooded part of the massif. The forest was exploited in XIX century to make charcoal, particularly by those original Italian. In this region, the Vercors looks more like a mountain than a succession of plateaus, the folds of the Urgonian limestone being more rounded. Several impressive roads allow you to get to the Coulmes, in particular the Nan gorges road, and the Écouges gorges road.

The Quatre Montagnes are today the most developed area of the Vercors for tourism, in particular cross-country skiing and downhill skiing. This region is very popular with Grenoblois for their weekend outings. Nevertheless, there are still traditional activities in the Quatre Montagnes, in particular dairy cattle breeding and cheese production. The four main villages (Autrans, Méaudre, Lans-en-Vercors and Villard-de-Lans) are spread over two plateaus separated by wooded mountains. These four villages are ski resorts but still have working farms. The Drôme Vercors is made up of smaller, but more numerous plateaus. Some of these plateaus are spectacular (Ambel, Font d’Urle), and offer beautiful views over one another or over the surrounding plains. To the north of the Drôme Vercors are several gorges crossed by impressive roads carved out of the cliff. The grassy plateaus of the Drôme Vercors are used as mountain pastures in summer. The transhumance is the occasion of a festival in Die.

The Hauts-Plateaux du Vercors constitute the highest, wildest and most protected area of the massif. This area has no permanent residents, no paved roads, and no motor vehicles are allowed. The only economic activities are the exploitation of forests according to the model of the garden high forest and the use of pastures as mountain pastures in summer. On the perimeter of the massif, the Vercors regional park partially or completely covers four other geographical areas.

The Royans, northwest, is a hilly area dedicated to the breeding and culture of walnut. Three of the most impressive gorges of the Vercors converge towards Royans: the gorges of the Bourne, the cirque of the combe Laval, and the valley of Echevis, comprising the Petits and the Grands Goulets. It is the region most turned towards the interior of the massif. La Gervanne, in the south-west, is a hilly area at the foot of the plateaus, where there are pretty villages. It is mainly oriented towards Crest.

Le Diois, to the south, corresponds to part of the Drôme valley around the town of Die. This region has a more marked Mediterranean character, with vineyards and lavender fields. It is a buffer zone between the Gervanne and the interior of the massif. However, despite its relatively easy access with the latter, it has largely turned away from the plateaus in favor of the valley. The Trièves, to the east, is a hilly low plateau, between the highest peaks of Vercors and the gorges of Drac. It is from the Trièves that we have the most beautiful views of Mont Aiguille. It is also the most isolated region from the rest of massif.

Major peaks
From North to south:
the Moucherotte, 1,901 meters, the summit which dominates Grenoble, the most northerly of the massif;
the Saint-Michel peak, 1,966 meters;
Roc Cornafion, 2,049 meters;
the ridges of Gerbier, 2,109 meters;
the Great Flycatcher, 2,284 meters;
the Little Flycatcher, 2,156 meters;
the Tête des Chaudières, 2,029 meters;
the rocks of Balme, 2063 meters;
the summit of Malaval, 2,097 meters;
the Grand Veymont, 2,341 meters, the highest point of the massif;
the mount Aiguille, 2086 meters, the characteristic shape; its first ascent in 1492, would be the birth certificate of mountaineering;
the Dôme or Pié Ferré, 2,041 meters, east of Die, in the mountain of Glandasse.

The various climatic influences, the altitudinal amplitude and the diversity of the geological substrates lead to the diversity of the natural environments that make up the Vercors massif (wooded, open, humid, rocky). They are also shaped by the many human activities (agriculture, forestry, peddling, coal mining, skiing…) shaping our landscapes of yesterday and today. In the Vercors karst massif, rainwater, poorly filtered by the soil, quickly penetrates the subsoil. They then circulate in underground galleries to emerge at the level of the foothills. They are therefore difficult to store. In addition to being vulnerable to pollution, water resources are also subject to significant seasonal variations, accentuated by climate change. Water is a precious commodity in the Vercors and the question of permanent access to this vital resource is strongly asked.

The rocks which constitute the Vercors are formed by sedimentation from 165 million years ago, during the Middle Jurassic, at the bottom of the Alpine Tethys. Deposits of animal origin form hard limestones while detrital rocks mainly resulting from erosion of the Hercynian range make up the marls, in an alternation marked by climatic changes or variations in depth. One of these layers, called Tithonian (ex-Tithonian), is characteristic of the Diois and Trièves.

Then, around 130 million years ago, in the Cretaceous period, an increase in temperatures combined with the presence of shallows contribute to the establishment of coral reefs among which abound rudist- type mollusks, at the origin of the Urgonian limestone composing the upper part of the massif, mainly in its northern part. This primitive fauna leaves many fossils, like those present at the Rencurel site in the Coulmes. In the Paleogene, the Tethys closes. Around 23 million years ago, at the beginning of the Miocene, the erection of the alpine massif leads to the formation of a bed load and pushes back towards the west, while lifting them by about 2,000 meters, the sedimentary rocks, originally present above the current region from the Ecrins massif.

The folding of these rocks creates in the massif a succession of anticlines and synclines interspersed locally, due to the hardness of the rock, by faults. Subsequently, various marine transgressions are concomitant with a secondary sedimentation in basins, following the digging of the gorges and the erosion of the cliffs by the action of runoff, thus forming the molasses present at the foot of the massif in the Royans, but also in the valleys of Lans, Autransor even Rencurel. At the end of the Miocene, a new phase of uplift contributed to the final withdrawal of the sea.

Erosion and karstification
As soon as it is formed, the massif is subjected to significant erosion which accentuates and modifies the relief. The various synclines are widened to form the valleys of Autrans — Méaudre, Lans — Villard – Corrençon, or the one connecting the cols of Romeyère to that of Rousset. The water hollows out the Cirque d’Archiane and the remote areas of Bournillon and Combe Laval. The dissolution of the limestone leads to the formation of a karstic relief, characterized by lapiaz and dolines, and pierced by numerous cavities (Berger gulf,Trou Qui Souffle, etc.) known, locally called “pots” or “ scialets ”. Elsewhere, the Vercors presents an alternation of steep slopes that can reach 300 meters in height, corresponding to the erosion of hard limestones and less steep slopes corresponding to the erosion of marl or softer marl-limestone rocks, as well as a uncrowded highland area.

There is a lack of complete ice cap coverage, even during periods of glaciation. A glacial tongue of the Grésivaudan glacier, 2,000 meters thick, overflows the northern part of the Vercors into the Lans valley and deposits allochthonous rocks there. On the other hand, glaciers that are not very abrasive due to the low slope locally occupy part of the Hauts-Plateaux, the Lente forest and, to the south-east of the massif, the Lus-la-Croix-Haute syncline. Finally, small local glaciers were able to form, at Roc Cornafion as at Grand Veymont, leaving morainesand a drumlin downstream from the summit, between Chichilianne and Gresse-en-Vercors.

Throughout the western slope of the Vercors, a periglacial dynamic was present: the alluvium transported by the small rivers descending from the massif form alluvial cones. These materials, coming from the Alpine mountains and accumulated during the Quaternary period, cover a large part of the Tertiary molassic bottom of the plain and the fluvio-glacial deposits of Isère.

The gorges are the intermediate stages of circulation between the mostly underground runoff from the plateau and the piedmont areas on the outskirts of massif:

Grands Goulets, dug by the Vernaison and crisscrossed by a vertiginous road carved into the wall;
gorges of the Bourne, dug by the Bourne;
Gorges du Furon, dug by the Furon;
Engins gorges, dug by the Furon;
Nan gorges, dug by the Nan;
Gorges des Écouges, dug by the Drevenne;
Omblèze gorges, dug by the Gervanne;
combe Laval, dug by the Cholet.

These well oxygenated and fresh waters are rich in fish. In addition, the Vercors Eau Pure project aims to restore water quality over 6-year plans.

The Grands Goulets are permanently closed to all traffic, including pedestrians, because of the permanent risk of landslides. Access to Barraques-en-Vercors has been done since 2008 via a new tunnel built from 2006 to 2007.

Coolers and snowfields
Due to its altitude (2,341 meters at the highest point), the Vercors does not have any glaciers to speak of. On the other hand, there are a certain number of glaciers, typical of limestone reliefs, such as the cave of the Glacière, near Corrençon: located at a modest altitude (around 1,200 meters), it takes the form of an opening. gaping rock facing the sky. In winter, the snow accumulates, and summer, it is maintained by a constant temperature close to 0 ° C. Open to the public until the 1990s, it has since been closed for security reasons, notably because of landslides. During WWII, it served as a natural refrigerator for the resistance fighters. Today, the ice thickness is decreasing. It also has a time-stocked bars of Grenoble in ice.

The névés are mainly found to the east of the Vercors massif. Depending on the year, they can be found until June, July, or even early August on the Grand Veymont in particular.

Fauna and flora
One of the main causes of biodiversity decline, especially in the context of climate change, is the fragmentation of natural spaces which make natural habitats and species particularly vulnerable. The Vercors, a true “lung of biodiversity”, bears a great responsibility in the preservation of its functional and rich environments, in particular with regard to the surrounding agglomerations. The Vercors harbors a wide variety of ecosystems, conditions favorable to the development and maintenance of a beautiful biodiversity: “high” mountain fauna (snow vole, mountain venturon, etc.) and cliffs (tichodrome echelette, Alpine ibex, vulture fawn…); species of southern affinities (cicada, red partridge…) and species ” glacial relics ” (hare, black grouse, ptarmigan alpine chevêchette Europe…).

There are 80 protected plant species in the Vercors, from the Sabot de Vénus in forest environments to the Alpine Campanula in the scree, including the Primrose bear’s ear in the cliffs or the Southern Tulip, one of the symbols of the park, in subalpine lawns. The climatic difference between the northern and southern parts of the massif is very strongly felt in the vegetation. In the north, the majority of the surface is forested, while in the south, the soils are drier and species typical of the Mediterranean climate.

The hilltop and supramediterranean level extends from 200 meters above sea level to 800 or even 1000 meters above sea level. It is strongly influenced by the human presence. The pubescent oak is the typical space. It is associated with boxwood, beech and hazel in the well-drained limestone soils of Vercors Drômois or Royans. Also found in these lands the Bois St. Lucia, the Laburnum sessile leaves, the Laburnum aubour the drawn Brome, the dogwood, the Cow-wheat woods, theLarge-flowered calament, as well as clinopod species. Otherwise, downy oak is associated with Scots pine, more resistant to cold, present in the ubacs of Diois and southern Trièves. There is also the maple leaves opulus, the Hellebore foul on Sumac smoke tree, the ash broom, the broom broom, the dogwood, the blue Catananche, the aphyllanthes the drawn Brome, the Thorny bugrane, the sub-shrub flax, theCade in the Royans, the Juniper Phenicia, the Holm oak in the Gervanne, hazel, the sea buckthorn, box, the lavender, as well as species of serviceberry, of honeysuckle and privet.

The mountain stage is present from 800 to 1,100 meters above sea level up to 1,500 to 1,700 meters. It includes three distinct series. The beech forest includes spruce, aconite, columbine, Solomon’s seal, sweet woodruff, fireweed and raspberry. The mesophilic series of the beech, besides this species, shelters species of boxwood, cephalanther, honeysuckle, the Maple leaved of Obier, the Lily martagon and the holly. The mesophilic Scots pine series is suitable for drier areas. The beech maintains itself there alongside the Alpine bear grape, lavender, callune and lingonberry.

The alpine level extends from 1,500-1,800 meters to 2,000-2,200 meters, mainly around the Hauts-Plateaux and south of the Vercors. It is a moor where the Dwarf Juniper, the Black Nigritella, the Elder Orchid, the Alpine Aster, the Alpine Bear Grape, the saxifrage, the Houseleek of the roofs and the knapweeds are strewn with Hooked Pines, unique formation by its size in Europe, or spruce trees. The alpine stage is found very rarely, almost exclusively above 2000 meters. The Bérardie woolly, The edelweiss, the stool with round leaves, the Dryad with eight petals, the Moss Campion and Androsace alpina will grow slowly imposed by the harsh climate.

Agriculture is an important factor in the vegetation of the massif. Lines of communication have been opened in the woods; valley bottoms, with the exception of wetlands, are occupied by fields surrounded from the first slopes by forests. In the XIX century, the plans reforestation are undertaken, including seeing the introduction of the Austrian Pine in the Diois. The migration of the olive tree to the southernmost slopes of the Vercors is envisaged. The afforestation rate varies between 40% and nearly 70% depending on the regions of the massif, with an average of 60%, knowing that approximately half of the forest area belongs to the public domain; these rates are higher than the national average. The regional natural park is home to 125,000 hectares of forests.

Fauna does not escape the distribution of species. The massif shelters both mammals from the hilltop level (deer, roe deer, common hare, wild boar) and mountain and alpine levels (mouflon, chamois, Alpine ibex, marmot, mountain hare) which represent in all 75 species. Thus, the Vercors massif is one of the rare places in France where the six species of large ungulates are present in the wild, even if the mouflon, in the 1950s, was the subject of reintroductions, as well as the ibex, in 1989, 1990 and 2002, the roe deer and the stag, while the wild boar is regularly the object of clandestine releases in order to be hunted.

The bats are represented by the Greater Horseshoe Bat, the Lesser Horseshoe Bat, the European free-tailed bat, the murine Grand, the eared red, the eared Alps, the common pipistrelle, the Savi’s pipistrelle and Serotine Nilsson. The woods are home to the reddish Vole, the Mulot alpine, the gray Loir, the Common Dormouse, the Loir dormouse, the red squirrel, the European Badgerand the Pine Marten. The open areas are home to the Garden Shrew, the Wood Vole, the Stone Weasel and the European Rabbit. We also find the fox, the weasel, the stoat, the polecat and the snow vole. The return of the Loup d’Italie to the Vercors via the Mercantour is supposed to be in the mid -1990s and confirmed in 1998; it could be the same for theEurasian Lynx. The Brown Bear, on the other hand, disappeared in the 1940s and was never reintroduced, although a study concluded that the Vercors would be the best site in the French Alps.

More than 140 species of birds have been recorded. The most common are the Blackbird, the Chaffinch, the Carrion Crow, the Robin, the Great Tit, the Blackcap, the Chiffchaff, the Wren, the Cuckoo and Skylark. These are species mainly found in forested and semi-forested, like the Black Woodpecker, the Green Woodpecker, the Great Spotted Woodpecker, theSong Thrush, the Willow Tit, the Blue Tit, the Marsh Tit, the Firecrest, the crested Wren, the Serin, the Goldfinch, the Greenfinch, the Nightingale, the Hoopoe, the Bec cross of fir trees, the speckled nutcracker, the tawny owl, the barn owl and the owl of Athena.

The Golden Eagle and theGriffon vulture, notably following their reintroduction into the Glandasse above Die from the 1990s, live in the cliffs. The latter was followed by the Common Raven, the Monk Vulture, the Egyptian Vulture and the Bearded Vulture. The Peregrine Falcon and the Eagle Owl also share this habitat. The Black Grouse, another symbol of park, but also the Rock Ptarmigan, theAlpine Accenteur and the Northern Chaffinch are species that like the alpine lawns of the Hauts-Plateaux. The Dipper, the European Kingfisher and the Little Egret live near rivers, just like the Gray Heron whose presence since the 1980s along the Bourne and Vernaison constitutes an altitude record for species.

The rare representatives in amphibians are the Common Toad, the Common Frog, the Agile Frog, the Midwife Acoucheur, the Spotted Salamander, the Alpine Newt and the Palmate Newt. Among the reptiles, the viviparous lizard has an ovoviviparous mode of reproduction which allows it to live on the Hauts-Plateaux, while the wall lizard, the green lizard and the ocellated lizard are fond of the slopes more exposed to the sun; theFragile Orvet is also present. The Asp viper and the Green and Yellow Snake are the most common snake species, while the Grass Snake and the Grass Snake inhabit the streams.

The insects are represented by many butterflies, including the apollo, the semi-apollo and the alexanor in the scree and slopes of the mountains, the Chamoisé des glaciers and the Piéride du vélar on the Hauts-Plateaux, the Citron de Provence and the Aurore de Provence rather in the Diois which also lodges the Isabelle; the Rosalie des Alpes is a protected species of beetle; the black yellow-tailed scorpion is present in the Diois at the northern limit of its territory in France, while thePlebeian Cicada gradually migrates northward to Royans and the Hauts-Plateaux; the typograph bostry and the pinivorous processionary caterpillar are pest species.

Among the fish are the brown trout and, in the Bourne, the common Chabot which are whitewater species, as well as the loach, chub, blage and barbel in rivers with less current.

Human activities

The Vercors Regional Nature Park supports the economic development of these sectors and is committed with its stakeholders to strive for excellence in environmental and energy matters. Agriculture plays a major role in the local economy and the maintenance of landscapes. The multiple climatic influences from which the Vercors benefits allow very diversified productions: aromatic and medicinal plants, milk production, salmonids, honey, lamb and beef… For its part, the forest is an essential element of the landscapes of the Vercors. it covers 70%.

The agricultural activity in the Vercors occupies an area of 40,000 hectares, up to 1300 meters above sea level, 85% of meadows, for a total of 500 farms. 36% of the sector’s turnover is distributed in dairy production and 23% in meat production (one in two farms owns cattle, including 3,000 head in the Quatre Montagnes and Vercors Drômois); nuts and wine represent 14% of turnover for an agricultural area of only 3%. In addition, it is estimated that between June and October 16,000 sheep and 300 cattle are transhumant, although trucks have generally replaced walking.

The local sheep breeds, mostly carried out from nearby Haute Provence (less than a week on foot), once bred for their wool, now provide almost exclusively meat. However, there are significant disparities between regions: agriculture employs five to six times more workers in the Drôme Vercors and Gervanne than in the Quatre Montagnes. Almost half of the farms have the certification of one or more AOC products, a quarter of them make direct sales and 10% are engaged in theorganic farming. The Vercors Regional Nature Park devotes the main item of its budget to support for agriculture.

The Villard is a versatile bovine breed, adapted to the robustness of the mountain, good producer of milk and appreciated for its meat qualities. Widespread on the board in the middle of the XIX century, it nearly disappeared after World War II because of withdrawals by the German army, the mechanization and the introduction of specialized breeds. From the end of the 1970s, it was the subject of a safeguard plan. Thanks to its fatty milk, it is now associated with the production of blue from Vercors-Sassenage. The workforce is maintained; the number of breeding females exceeds 200 for about fifty males. The lamb is raised for its meat, mainly in the Diois, but also in the Vercors Drômois and Royans. It is traditionally consumed in the southern Vercors, where it once supplanted beef. Lambing takes place around the fall and slaughter from the end of year celebrations until spring. The pre-Alpine lamb has a controlled designation of origin.

The horse of the Vercors would be known since Antiquity. This breed is between 1.40 and 1.55 meters tall and weighs between 400 and 500 kilograms. Rustic, solid and docile, it is a horse very well adapted to mountainous terrain, as well as to different climates. In 1760, a monk of the Abbey of Léoncel, Dom Perrier, who dreams of setting up a stud farm, wrote: “Experiences made, horses born in the country are lively, robust, skilful, loose, dry and clean legs, sure feet., the saddle hard, like their constitution which holds the air always cold or fresh and a pasture with dry and soft hay ”. Already in the XVII century, deeds of sale attest to the trade in these animals. Renowned workers and skilled, able to cross not the most difficult, the number multiplies between the end of the XIX century and beginning of the XX century, with the development of crops. However, at the same time, breeders were tempted to acquire large horses and large cows, as in the valley; a series of harsh winters cause them to leave the mountains.

The Barraquand family, originally from Ambel, understood in 1894 the need to have adapted animals, and ended up recreating a large herd. In order to find the best pastures in all seasons, they practice transhumance and mark local traditions. During the Second World War, the domain, home of the Resistance, was destroyed and the horses exterminated or requisitioned by the Germans. At the cost of laborious reconstruction, the descendants of the family reconstitute the breeding. The mechanization ends in 1954 to transhumance. The family, little by little in deficit, dissolved the breeding in 1963. Most of the animals around Léoncel descend from the horse of Vercors, and attempts to recognize the breed have been carried out since the end of the 20th century. The gray hen Vercors appeared at the beginning of XX century, coming from Italy. She is a rustic hen, good layer, appreciated for the quality of her flesh. Disappeared at the end of the XX century, it was recreated by genetic crosses and reimplanted in the Royans by volunteers.

The soils and climates, of great diversity from one end of the Parc du Vercors to the other, have shaped an agriculture rich in products and know-how. Several labels recognize the products of Vercors farms with in particular: five AOP: Clairette de Die, Vins de Châtillon en Diois, Noix de Grenoble, Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage, Picodon and two IGP: Saint Marcellin, Agneau de Sisteron. There are three emblematic heritage breeds in the Vercors: the Villard-de-Lans cow, the Vercors de Barraquand horse and the Gray Poule du Vercors. Adapted to their environment, they represent a unique and endangered biological heritage that the Vercors Park endeavors to make known and to promote by supporting in particular the commitment of passionate local actors in their action to save these species.

The forest is an essential element of the landscapes of the Vercors. With an area of 139,000 ha, distributed equally between private and public properties, they cover more than 70% of the territory. This forest is very diverse due to a significant gradient in altitude, the multitude of exposures and soils. The forest stands, under the influence of various climatic trends and human action, are variegated: mountain beech-fir stands, stands of downy oaks, black pine plantations…

The forestry seems to be a promising sector, including through the diversification of energy sources. It coexists relatively well with the constraints of environmental protection. It already generates 200 direct jobs. In addition, with 140,000 m of timber exploited in the park, potential production is estimated at least to double, provided that infrastructure is developed.

Several specialties are typical of the Vercors massif. The Blue of Vercors-Sassenage is a raw milk cheese with blue cheese, whose origins date back to the Middle Ages and whose existence is attested from the XVII century; it has a protected designation of origin (AOC) since 1998, having yet disappeared during the XX century,. Petit Léoncel is also a cow’s milk cheese produced in the village of the same name. The picodon, without being typical of the massif, is nevertheless produced even in Diois, Gervanne and Royans, from goat’s milk; it has been recognized as AOC since 1983. The Saint-Marcellin cheese with cow’s milk soft cheese native to the city of the same name, has a production area recognized by a protected geographical indication (PGI) which extends to the Four Mountains, the Vercors and Royans Drôme. L’Arranaise, Ripioupiou, Carré du Vercors or Le Trièves complete cheese productions.

The ravioli (PGI) are a specialty of Romans and known Royans since the Middle Ages, probably after loggers Piedmontese immigrants. Royans is also one of the cradles of walnuts, AOC since 1938; the fruits are eaten dried, in the form of walnut oil, or walnut wine when collected green. The Vercors is a favorable ground for harvesting mushrooms: morels, chanterelles, chanterelles (or locallycraterelles), trumpets of death, little gray, hairy coprins and, in its southern part, the truffle. Vercors beer is produced in Villard-de-Lans.

In addition, in the nearby surroundings or in a more diffuse area, you can enjoy the gratin dauphinois, a regional specialty made from potatoes in gratin, cardoons, whose ribs are eaten, also prepared in gratin, pogne, pastries Romans and the Holy genix specialty of Saint-Genix-sur-Guiers and the saint-Félicien, raw milk cheese of cow. The Clairette de Die, sparkling wine AOC since 1942, the Crémant AOC raw wine since 1993, the wine Châtillon-en-Diois, AOC since 1975, and Coteau de Die, dry white wine AOC since 1993, are produced in the Diois.

Through breathtaking panoramas, the Vercors can be tamed on foot, by bike, on horseback, roped, snowshoes or skis, hanging from a sail… and generously offered to nature lovers, thrill seekers and enthusiasts of heritage.

The main historical sites are the caves of Choranche, which are a very famous tourist site unique in Europe, known since about 1871, the cave of Luire, whose site combines geological and historical themes, that of Draye Blanche to La Chapelle-en-Vercors, rich in paleontological discoveries, the Abbey of Léoncel, founded in 1137, and the Abbey of Valcroissant, founded in 1188, protected among the historic monuments of the Drôme respectively in 1840 and in1971, the church of St. Bartholomew Lans-en-Vercors which dates from the bell tower of the XVI century and registered in 1929 among the historical monuments of the Isere, the church of machinery, the oldest massive dating back to the XI century, the Orthodox monastery of St. Anthony the Great in Saint-Laurent-en-Royans, the ruins of all castral of Gigors-et-Lozeron, the fortifications of Beaufort-sur-Gervanne, the castle and the Royans regional museum inRochechinard, or the museums of Prehistory and the Resistance as well as its memorial in Vassieux-en-Vercors.

Autrans has been organizing the international mountain film festival since 1984, in collaboration with the French Federation of Alpine and Mountain Clubs, as well as a solo voice festival since 2000. During the summer, the Quatre Montagnes and the Drôme Vercors host performances of Musiques en Vercors. Villard-de-Lans lives the art of laughter, since 1990 has been staging humor and creation. The festival of transhumance has taken place every year since 1991 in Die, around the summer solstice, just like the alpine festival in Gresse-en-Vercors and the shepherds fair in Chaud Clapier, respectively in the middle and at the end of August. In Lans-en-Vercors is the La Magie des Automates museum.

Sports activities
The variety of reliefs and landscapes of the Vercors make it a privileged space in terms of number and quality of natural sites suitable for leisure. These places are at the crossroads of several challenges: natural (places rich in habitats and species), economic (workplace for some inhabitants of the Vercors), uses of space (agricultural, forestry, hunting, leisure, etc.).

Winter sports
The Vercors is one of the kingdoms of cross-country skiing, taking advantage of its overall tabular profile: 250 kilometers of slopes on the domains of Autrans – Méaudre, 110 kilometers on the domain of Hauts-Plateaux (Corrençon – Bois- Barbu – Herbouilly) and a total of 160 kilometers in the northern area of southern Vercors, bringing together the areas of Font d’Urle Chaud Clapier, Col de Carri and Lente. Every year since 1979, in mid-January, the village of Autrans welcomes the White Foulée, a cross-country ski race in which nearly 5,000 professional and amateur athletes participate. In March, since 1968, the Grande traversée du Vercors (or GTV) between Vassieux and Villard-de-Lans has been reserved for seasoned skiers.

The snowshoe has been a means of circulation in vogue since the 1990s and was the subject of a race at the end of January, the Inook raid, between Méaudre, Autrans and Engins. The sled dogs appeared in the massif in 1937 and have developed since the 1950s with the organization of racesin Vassieux (Alpirush) and in Autrans — Méaudre (l’Aventure polaire). The Vercors is also one of the top French places for the practice of Nordic ski touring and ski mountaineering which takes the many steps of the eastern ridge of massif. This last discipline is also the subject since 2004, a race around the Grand Veymont, presenting over 1600 vertical meters. The snowkiting is the last activity to actually have developed in solid, especially on large pastures Font d’Urle and the Col des Limouches.

Autrans: alpine skiing (Sure, Claret), springboard, Nordic skiing (Gève and village)
Méaudre: alpine skiing, Nordic skiing (Narces)
Lans-en-Vercors: alpine skiing, Nordic skiing (Lans valley, Allières), snow stadium
Villard-de-Lans: alpine skiing (Côte 2000), cross-country skiing (Bois-Barbu)
Corrençon-en-Vercors: alpine skiing (Clos de la Balme), Nordic skiing
Presles – Rencurel: Nordic skiing (Coulmes), alpine skiing (at the Col de Romeyère)
Gresse-en-Vercors: alpine skiing, Nordic skiing

Saint-Martin-en-Vercors: Nordic skiing (Herbouilly)
Léoncel: Nordic skiing (the Grand Échaillon)
La Chapelle-en-Vercors: Nordic skiing (Col de Carri)
Bouvante (Font d’Urle Chaud Clapier): alpine skiing, Nordic skiing (Lente)
Saint-Agnan-en-Vercors (Rousset pass): downhill skiing, Nordic skiing, sled dogs, biathlon
Vassieux-en-Vercors: Nordic skiing, sled dogs

In all, the Vercors offers 850 to 1,000 kilometers of cross-country ski trails, 90 to 130 downhill ski trails, around 80 ski lifts and 10 ski schools. In order to sustain their activity and deal with winters without snow, most of the mid-mountain resorts in Vercors have invested in the installation of snow cannons. These are not without environmental impact (water requirements, additives).

The officially marked hiking trails are a privileged means of discovery and rejuvenation for residents and visitors alike. Most of the time, they use public roads, in particular on old traffic lanes passing footsteps and passes, and weave a fine mesh over the territory.

The massif lends itself very well to the practice of hiking and sports in the heart of nature, with 2,850 kilometers of marked walking trails, 1,200 kilometers of mountain biking routes and 800 kilometers of equestrian trails. The Tour du Vercors offers walkers 350 kilometers of trails, to be covered by the day or over several days. It offers connections with the GR 9, GR 91, GR 93, GR 95, and Tours de Pays (Tour des Coulmes, Tour des Quatre Montagnes, Tour du Mont Aiguille), while the crossing of the Vercors (sixty kilometers over three to five days) allows you to discover the Hauts-Plateaux right through on a course similar to the cross-country ski race. Four marked sites exist by mountain bike: Villard-de-Lans – Corrençon, Autrans – Méaudre, Royans —Vercors and the Drôme — Diois valley; there are also the great crossings of massif; the Transvercors takes place every year in September between Vassieux-en-Vercors and Villard-de-Lans.

The geology of the Vercors offers many possibilities for climbing. The ascent of Mont Aiguille in 1492 by Captain Antoine de Ville, on the orders of Charles VIII following his trip to Embrun, symbolically marks the birth of mountaineering, although the techniques employed – to the using ladders and ropes – have become little used. But the sites of Archiane, Presles or the cliffs overlooking the Drac valley make it possible to take routes of varying difficulty. The development of this practice began in the 1960swith the opening of new routes to currently offer 150 recognized sites. The difficulty of the routes is not to be neglected, as proved by the death of Lionel Terray and his rope companion Marc Martinetti in 1965 on the eastern face of the Gerbier ridges. More recently, sites have been set up for the practice of via ferrata.

Caving and canyoning
The geology of the massif allows speleologists to satisfy their passion thanks to numerous natural cavities (caves, scialets, etc.), about 3,000 in number, among which the best known are: the Berger gulf, the Sassenage vats, the network Hole blowing the Favot cave, the cave Luire, the cave of Choranche, the cave Gournier and cave Bournillon. The Berger chasm played an important role in the history of caving: discovered by Jo Berger, it was from 1954 to 1966 the “ deepest chasm ” in the world and the first to exceed 1,000 meters in 1956, with exactly 1,141 meters of depth attested in 1968, fifteen years after its discovery, then 1,271 meters in 1988. Its exsurgence, the Sassenage tanks, is open to the public.

Apart from some of the gorges mentioned above and with varying levels of difficulty, it is possible to practice canyoning in Rio Sourd, south of the park, in Diois, but the greatest density of routes is found on the northern and eastern foothills.. Among these descents, the Écouges canyon is one of the largest descents in Europe and that of the Furon canyon in the town of Sassenage is the most traveled. The Moulin Marquis waterfall near Choranche offers a break of more than 350 meters. On the northern flanks, many descents are found between Grenoble and Valence: Étroit des Colombiers canyon, Lavures canyon, Versoud canyon, Écouges canyon, Neyron canyon, Ruzand canyon and Carmes canyon.

Environmental protection
The Vercors regional natural park encompasses since the October 16, 1970the entire massif as well as the surrounding natural areas. In 2009, it covered a total of 206,208 hectares including 139,000 hectares of forests, or 48 communes in Isère and 38 in Drôme, for a total population of 46,000 inhabitants. The territory concerned by the Vercors massif represents 186,500 hectares and 11 communes of Isère bringing together 9,000 inhabitants are covered by the park without being part of the massif.

On that date, the park was established as a mixed Syndicate whose purpose is to contribute to actions for the protection and development of its territory and is headquartered in Lans-en-Vercors. It is administered by a Union Committee made up of delegates elected in colleges who draw up the internal regulations of the Mixed Union and vote on the budget. It exercises all the regulatory functions in force on the functioning of unions and defines the powers that it delegates to the Union Bureau. This implements the general policy of the park in terms of the protection and enhancement of sites and monuments, the creation of quality facilities, the promotion of the rural economy and the development of tourist and cultural activities. It elects the president who convenes the meetings of the Union Committee and the Union Bureau..

The three objectives that led to its creation are the protection and enhancement of wealth, the maintenance of economic activity and the development of harmony between people and the environment, to which have been added since 1996 the reception and public information and, lastly, experimentation and research. Among the main achievements of the park are the reintroduction of the Alpine ibex and the griffon vulture, the classification as a Natura 2000 site, the marking of hiking trails and the redevelopment of the Prehistory and Resistance museums of Vassieux.

The Hauts-Plateaux du Vercors nature reserve, also straddling the two departments, covers an area of 16,600 hectares, including 6,000 hectares of forests (the largest terrestrial nature reserve in France) and protects the plateaus located at 1,050 meters altitude at the top of Grand Veymont, in the southern part of the massif, as well as Mont Aiguille, from Villard-de-Lans and Corrençon-en-Vercors to Châtillon-en-Diois. It was created on February 27, 1985and the regulations prohibit any attack on the flora, fauna and mineral wealth, any work, any motorized traffic, any advertising, any industrial or commercial activity, any introduction of dogs (except authorized sheepdogs), any fire and camp. Long-distance hiking trails are set up, marked out by simple shelters, and allow 70,000 visitors a year to discover the Hauts-Plateaux.

The Vercors, land of nature, history, and living expressions, benefits from a rich network of cultural associations, popular education, environmental education, and even dedicated to ecological transitions. It contributes to projects for the restoration and enhancement of local heritage; carries out environmental education actions; organizes or participates in events; drives action research programs and manages two museums: the Memorial to the Resistance and the Museum of Prehistory.

Sharing knowledge of the territory to better preserve it is a central mission of the Vercors Regional Nature Park. Environmental and regional education actions facilitate the emergence of responsible behavior. Built in close collaboration with institutional partners and schools, the educational projects, offered each year, lead young people to observe and question their cultural and natural environment and to identify the keys to understanding their relationships with humans. These projects encourage them to exercise their critical thinking and to become the eco-citizens of tomorrow.

Artistic and cultural creation offers new and sensitive perspectives on the project of the territory, its challenges and its heritage by inventing a space for exchanges and identification that brings together around common values and aspirations. In synergy with institutional and associative players, the Vercors Regional Nature Park develops creative initiatives that contribute to sharing, particularly in terms of knowledge, and encourages its emergence through the support of cultural players. It supports the development of participatory and civic cultural practices through a multiplicity of approaches.

Reporting on a precious but fragile territory is one of the central missions of the Vercors Regional Natural Park. The vocation of preserving natural spaces only makes sense if it is understood and shared by as many people as possible. This is why the Parc du Vercors seeks to transmit respect for living things to all audiences through all kinds of meeting times, from field trips to the training day… Educating for the environment: educational tools and resources The Vercors Regional Nature Park encourages people to experience, know and understand natural environments, but also the functioning of its institution, its missions and the challenges for the Vercors. It produces and provides educational material for the projects of teachers, environmental educators or leaders: games, discovery sheets, notebooks, exhibitions and cases.