The Verdon regional natural park covers 188,000 hectares in the departments of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Var. Since the Romans, the Verdon has been a territory of passage, a cross between the Provençaux and the Alpins. It thus maintains strong relations with the cities of Draguignan to the south, Digne-les-Bains to the north, Manosque and Aix-en-Provence. On several scales, local, regional, national and even international, the Parc du Verdon is leading actions. The Parks have been working as a network for years on several subjects such as sustainable tourism, energy and agriculture. Several tools have been put in place.
The Verdon Regional Nature Park takes its name from a courageous river which has carved a spectacular passage through the rocky masses of the Pre-Alps. Taking example from the river, man has, since prehistoric times, shaped the landscapes of a difficult land that has never been a land of plenty. This immense, inventive and constantly renewed work of nature and men, as well as the marriage of Alpine and Mediterranean influences, extremely prolific for flora and fauna, today make the remarkable and recognized richness of a territory.
Open book on geology, fauna, flora and human history, the territory of the Park offers a wide variety of landscapes and environments. With a third of the French flora, the flora richness is unique. The Canepetière Bustard, the Griffon Vulture, the Ocellated Lizard (the largest in Europe) and 22 out of 32 bat species listed in France are an example of the animal diversity present. The Verdon river, with its 165 km and a storage capacity of 434 million m3, together with the Durance, constitutes the water tower of Provence. It supplies the large cities of the region with quality drinking water.
The Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region has 7 regional natural parks (Alpilles, Baronnies provençales, Camargue, Luberon, Préalpes d’Azur, Queyras, Verdon) and 2 parks in prefiguration (Mont-Ventoux, Sainte-Baume). You can thus go from one side of the region to the other, passing through interior Provence without ever leaving a Park area. This geographical continuity, unique in France, which extends over nearly a third of the regional territory, testifies to the richness of the natural and cultural heritages of the region and the desire to preserve them.
The area of the nature park lies in the Provencal Pre-Alps, in a transition zone between Provence and the foothills of the Western Alps. It comprises a diverse, richly indented landscape in the catchment area of the Verdon river, which rises from around 500 meters in the west to an altitude of around 1800 meters in the east and north. The Verdon Regional Natural Park has seven different tourist landscapes:
The Valensole plateau extends over 800 km with an average of 500 meters. It has been occupied since the Romans (Riez), it is considered the “granary of the region” because the plateau concentrates an important crop of cereals but also lavandin and the harvest of truffles. Main town: Valensole.
Huge sea of pebbles accumulated over several hundred meters thick, the Valensole plateau is the kingdom of durum wheat and lavandin (a hybrid of two types of lavender). Lavender blue and gold at the start of summer, red and gray in the heart of winter, its colors follow the seasons. The geometric alignment of the plantations, the boundary of the fields highlighted with almond trees, the cubes formed by small woods, the villages sheltered from the Mistral in the valleys, draw a sort of French garden that stretches as far as the eye can see. This landscape, one of the most striking in Provence, owes its beauty to the work of man.
Gallo-Roman civilization has left traces everywhere: temple, basilica, baptistery in Riez; thermal baths in Gréoux-les-Bains. Agriculture, crafts, especially art, present since antiquity, still represent the bulk of activities on the plateau.
Lakes and mountains
The lake of Holy Cross was laid in 1974. Encompassing 2,200 hectares, it engulfed the plain and the village of Salles. Nowadays, this lake has become an important tourist place. Mourre de Chanier (1930 m). Long rocky bars separate small perched terroirs. The valleys, crowned with vast pastoral mountains, are planted with small villages in which life clings with ingenuity and where the force of the sun reminds us that the Mediterranean is just a stone’s throw away. It is the kingdom of the stars, one of the last places where, far from light pollution, the sky still shows the stars.
On the road to the Alps, the Verdon has carved out a valley where agricultural and artisanal activities and villages are concentrated, as well as two reservoirs: Castillon and Chaudanne. The city of Castellane, steeped in centuries of history, is built at the foot of its famous rock. It housed many tanneries and today another treasure, the fossils of the Geological Reserve of Haute-Provence. Further north, Saint-André les Alpes, the center of a once important cloth-making activity, is one of the stages of the Pignes train which brings Nice closer to Digne.
Haut-Var is the western Var region of the park. It is extended by vast plains and forest hills. Haut-Var lives mainly from viticulture, olive growing and truffles. Main town: Aups.
The alpine zone of the park: the Préalpes de Digne, on the right bank of the Verdon, dominate the Valensole plateau and the Verdon gorges, with the Mourre de Chanier at 1,930 m followed by Mont Chiran (1,905 m) and Montdenier (1,750 m). The Prealps of Castellane are on the left bank of the Verdon with the mountain of Lachens at 1,715 m and the Grand Margès at 1,577 m. This mountainous region lives mainly on pastoralism. Main town: Castellane.
The Gorges du Verdon located between Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and Castellane delimit the two departments of the regional park over 50 km. They are the deepest gorges in Europe up to 700 m deep. It is the most important tourist point in the region, attracting over a million tourists per year.
The lower Verdon gorges are located between Lake Sainte-Croix and the Durance. They are less steep than the grand canyon and are made up of artificial lakes (lakes of Montpezat, Quinson and Esparron), to supply the region with water, in particular Aix-en-Provence. Since prehistoric times, man has settled in the caves of the lower gorges. The Prehistory Museum in Quinson collects the results of archaeological excavations in the region. Main town: Gréoux-les-Bains.
Less impressive and hostile than those of the grand canyon, the lower gorges were a place of life very early on. Prehistoric men settled there in a multitude of caves and secret gardens. The now domesticated and calm water cuts through the plateau of a narrow luminous trench punctuated by a string of small lakes with welcoming and peaceful coves.
Holm oaks and Kermes oaks occupy the scrub. They have long been the raw material of a quality industry, that of charcoal. Dominating or bordering the river which shelters almost all the species of fish which inhabit the fresh waters of the south of France, the villages offer their castles, their springing fountains, their shaded alleys. The Quinson Prehistory Museum, the largest in Europe, is the link between the first humans and those of tomorrow.
The Artuby and the Plan de Canjuers are in the Var part of the park, on the left bank of the Verdon. The Artuby is a tributary river that winds its way through hills over 1000 m above sea level, reaching Mont Lachens.
The Artuby basin extends from Castellane to the military camp of Canjuers, from the Verdon to its tributary Artuby, passing through another tributary, the Jabron. Made up of valleys partitioned off by often high rocky reliefs, it gives pride of place to the forest, which feeds most of the activities. The forest provides renewable energy, wood, and by-products such as perfume plants. Breeding, especially sheep, finds routes and resources there. This means that pastoralism, carried by a living profession, marks the territory with its imprint. From the summer pastures to the bottom of the valleys, transhumance punctuates the seasons with its balance. Hunting and gathering mushrooms complete the human presence in a forest area which covers 60% of the territory.
The villages, often perched, bring together the population. The architectural heritage, linked to daily life, offers a large number of chapels, fountains, bridges, mills, etc. These witnesses of a rich social life give a cultural dimension to the many hiking trails.
The Lake of Ste Croix
The Verdon has its large lake: a turquoise sheet of 2,200 hectares, with calm waters, placed there like a large mirror of the sky, on one side, and of a submerged agricultural valley, on the other. The Sainte-Croix dam was built in 1974. It led to the disappearance of the village of Salles-du Verdon, rebuilt above the water and separating the neighboring villages, formerly linked by four bridges. Among them, sleep under the water the Roman bridge erected to the south of Sainte-Croix on the axis of the Roman road Fréjus-Riez, and to the north the medieval bridge of Aiguines.
Protected by coastal law, the Sainte-Croix lake is above all a water tower which provides food for a large part of the inhabitants of Provence. In the center of a preserved and beautiful landscape, nautical activities are practiced there twelve months out of twelve and complement older activities such as Moustiers earthenware, the notoriety of which has not weakened since the 17th century, and the traditional and contemporary woodturning in Aiguines.
The Canjuers plan is an arid and desert plateau located between the lake of Sainte-Croix, the Verdon gorges and Artuby is today integrated into the military camp of Canjuers and therefore prohibited to the public. Main town: Comps-sur-Artuby.
The hills of Haut Var
Alternating forests and cultivated areas where quiet villages are encamped, the Haut Var extends as far as the eye can see its immense swirl of hills. Its economy, long agricultural, still derives its black gold from truffles and its oil from olive.
Here the Republic has a glorious history. Here, we took up arms to defend it, in 1851 against the coup d’etat of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and in 1940 against the occupier. The words “Liberty, equality, fraternity” are repainted each year in large letters on the walls of churches, a wall against which, in the calm shade of the plane trees, we still know how to crack the tennis ball. Today, resistance takes the form of a challenge for the future. The quality of life attracts people from the north and from the cities. We have to make room for them while keeping the villages their appearance of tight clumps, the plains their agricultural lands and the landscapes their beauty. It is on this beauty that the economy of tomorrow is based, that which can flourish in the long term: quality tourism.
The Gorges du Verdon
Mountain upside down, the Grand Canyon du Verdon has long been scary. Only intrepid boxwood gatherers roped up to venture into the green shadows that one discovers, between the two high rock faces, from the belvederes perched for some more than 700 m above the river.
Today, climbers have followed the gatherers and walkers take the routes, opened in 1905, by Isidore Blanc and Edouard-Alfred Martel, to approach the river domesticated by the dams. Up there, in the light, under the majestic slide of the reintroduced vultures, the 7 gorges villages are the guardians of this great listed mineral monument. It is from their observation posts, with the necessary distance, that the images are the most beautiful. It is between their walls that the secrets are shared, from one museum to another. It is with the guides that the most astonishing encounters are made with the mineral or the vegetable, with the history or the heritage.
The Verdon takes its source at an altitude of 2325 m, in the Trois Evêchés massif in the town of Allos. It flows into the Durance at the foot of the castle of Cadarache, in the town of Saint-Paul-lez-Durance. Throughout the 165 km that it travels, it collects the water that falls on the territory of the 69 municipalities that form its watershed.
A watershed is a portion of territory whose slopes lead all the drops of water that they receive towards a common outlet: river, lake, sea. A sink is a watershed: the edges of the sink form the dividing line between water, the water falling next to the sink does not go into the drain. Any territory is part of a watershed. 69 municipalities in 4 departments (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Var, Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône) are concerned by the Verdon watershed (for all or part of their territory) which covers 2,289 km2.
Verdon water is precious because it is a limited, fragile and six times useful resource: it is the drinking water of the inhabitants of the watershed but also of a large part of the inhabitants of the Provence-Alpes region. French Riviera; it serves nature and agriculture, energy and industry, recreation. The mission of the Verdon Regional Natural Park is to watch over it, in partnership with all those who live alongside or thanks to it.
If on the territory of the watershed of the Verdon, the villages traditionally use local sources, the large cities of the region came very early to seek water from the Verdon.
From 1875, the Canal du Verdon brought water to the heart of Aix-en-Provence, thanks to the old Quinson dam and the Aix-en-Provence canal, built in 1868. Subsequently, 5 new reservoirs were created between 1949 and 1975 (dams of Castillon, Chaudanne, Sainte-Croix, Quinson, Gréoux), and thanks to the network of canals and pipes of the Société du Canal de Provence (SCP), this water flows through the taps of many cities in the region such as Aix-en-Provence, Marseille or Toulon. A concession gives SCP a water right of 660 million m 3 per year. In the Verdon dam lakes, it has a reserve of 225 million m 3. This reserve corresponds approximately to the quantity of water that it withdraws per year currently.
On the territory of the Verdon, the water supply is made from several types of resource: groundwater (source, borehole, alluvial water table), surface water (river, lake). These withdrawals are numerous but not very important in terms of the quantity of water withdrawn. Consumption increases on the other hand during peak tourist periods (winter in the upper Verdon, summer throughout the territory).
The Verdon region has an exceptional natural heritage because the river, its tributaries and the wetlands of the watershed provide breeding grounds and allow the development of many species of animals or plants, sometimes unique or endangered.
Afforestation bordering watercourses (riparian forest) are different depending on the area. This riparian forest stabilizes the banks and fights against erosion. By filtering the water, it acts as a natural purifier. It is home to a diverse flora and fauna. It contributes to the beauty of the landscapes. Wetlands are veritable reservoirs of biodiversity. Wet meadows, high-altitude marshes, ponds or small bodies of water, valley-bottom reed beds, lones; they play an important role of self-purification, of water storage in wet periods and of restitution to watercourses in dry periods.
The fish present in the water are numerous and bear witness to the ecological functioning of rivers. In the upstream part of the basin, the fresh and well oxygenated waters of the Verdon are favorable to the brown trout. We note the presence of bulls, southern barbel, sculpins, endangered species. Finally, the Verdon is home to the Apron du Rhône, a fish that no longer exists except in the Durance, Ardèche and Doubs basins.
Five dams line the course of the Verdon: Castillon, Chaudanne, Sainte-Croix, Quinson and Gréoux-les-Bains. These dams create reservoirs and allow the production of electricity thanks to the force of the water: we then speak of hydroelectric energy. The power plants of the 5 dams with which the Verdon was equipped from 1949 to 1975, allow Electricité de France to produce nearly 600 million kWh per year. This renewable energy covers the annual consumption of a city like Aix-en-Provence. This production helps to secure the region’s electricity supply in the event of a fault on the network.
The hydroelectric installations of the Verdon and the Durance represent 25% of the electricity consumed in the Provence-Alpes-Côtes d’Azur region, and 10% of the French hydroelectric production. They offer the advantage of being able to quickly provide significant energy. All the hydroelectric facilities of the Durance and the Verdon provide peak power equivalent to that of 2 nuclear reactors in less than 10 minutes. Hydropower is therefore ideal for coping with sudden changes in electricity needs. She is a security for the region.
The Durance / Verdon hydroelectric development was designed from the outset as a multi-purpose development: it is not only used to generate electricity, but also to supply water to towns, cultures and industries. Finally, it contributes to the development of regional tourism thanks to the lakes formed by the dams. If the hydroelectric developments have modified the environment and the landscapes of our valleys, their operation takes into account a shared and economical management of water resources.
Dams have profoundly disrupted the environment and aquatic environments. So that hydroelectric power continues to be a sustainable energy, the actors of the Verdon within the framework of the SAGE (Schéma d’Aménagement et de Gestion de l’Eau) and the River Contract, seek and implement possible improvements to preserve both the natural environments and the multiple uses of the river, including its hydroelectric potential.
Agricultural and Industrial
The water from the Verdon or its tributaries is used to irrigate the cultures of our territory, but also those of 6,000 farms in the region, and to supply certain industries thanks to water transfers from the Société du Canal de Provence. The different sectors of the Verdon watershed receive water from the sky unevenly. These climatic disparities determine the distribution of crops, and therefore landscapes, over a territory that is still largely agricultural. Agriculture occupies about 12% of the area of the Verdon territory. Pastures and “natural” lands occupy even more surface area, almost 39%. Overall, local irrigation concerns market gardening, field vegetable crops, seed crops, arboriculture. It is more present in the plains of the lower Verdon, the valleys and the Artuby sector. The territory is more than 47% covered with forest and contains only 2% of urbanized areas.
Captured in the Gréoux reservoir, 40% of the total volume withdrawn by the SCP is transported outside the territory for agricultural uses throughout the Provencal region. This water supplies 6,000 farms and irrigates 80,000 hectares. In a context of climate change, this water secures agricultural activities. Traditionally non-irrigated, durum wheat and lavandin cover the dry plateau of Valensole. Since 1989, part of the plateau has been irrigated by the Société du Canal de Provence network. Pastoral lands, the Prealps and the canton of Comps-sur-Artuby use water to water the animals, and to irrigate the vegetable crops of Artuby.
30% go to industry (around 40 million m 3): the constant quality of the Verdon water is an asset for heavy industry such as steel and petrochemicals in the Fos-sur-Mer basin or for many cutting-edge industries such as microelectronics in the Rousset basin. More than 600 companies are supplied.
Like any human activity, agriculture can have impacts on water resources. The use of fertilizers and treatment products can lead to the pollution of groundwater: this is the case on the Valensole plateau where the groundwater is contaminated by the residue of an old herbicide. Farmers are engaged in programs to improve practices. Harvests can also cause ecological damage if they are poorly managed: harvest management plans are put in place in sensitive sectors. In the agricultural or industrial worlds, water is now considered a resource to be respected. It is the subject of research and new practices intended to preserve its quality and quantity.
The succession of gorges and the appearance of dam lakes have strongly encouraged the development of tourism which brings economic activities and jobs. Water-related leisure activities are numerous and attractive: fishing, swimming, boating, white water sports. They are, for many of them, practicable all year round. The fame of the Verdon and its tourist frequentation owe a lot to the river and the lakes. The activities directly linked to the waterways are rafting, aquatic hiking, white water swimming, kayaking, canoeing, canyoning. 30 whitewater professionals employ around 90 people. Sports or family, fishing in the Verdon is world famous. On the lakes, sailing, windsurfing, pedal boating, rowing, swimming and fishing attract around one million visitors a year. These different practices are directly dependent on the activity of the dams (lake level, water releases for whitewater sports). All of the water-related activities have significant economic benefits when accommodation, catering and services are taken into account.
Vegetation and fauna
The Grand Canyon du Verdon in particular is a place of refuge where the living conditions (climate in particular) have allowed very specific species to settle and survive over time. These are for example endemic plants that grow in cliffs, birds attached to the cliffs or even specific bats that have found refuge in the gorges.
The increase in attendance is increasingly restricting areas of tranquility.
The Verdon Regional Natural Park carries out environmental awareness and education actions, for the rehabilitation of heritage, the study of fauna and flora, the protection of sensitive sites, the development of reception structures and information, the development of cultural and entertainment centers, the management of listed sites in the Gorges du Verdon…
The richness and variety of landscapes, fauna and flora explain the public’s enthusiasm for the different types of visit.
The territory of the park is home to 2,200 species, or one third of the types of flora in France. Some of these plants live only in the Verdon and nowhere else in the world (they are then qualified as endemic to the Verdon).
the Asplenium jahandiezii called Spleenwort Verdon Spleenwort of Jahandiez (The species is strictly localized in the Verdon Canyon and the Artuby, Castellane in Esparron-de-Verdon in the Var and Alpes-de- Haute-Provence),
the Juniper Phenicia, Lycia or Juniper Juniper red (Juniperus phoenicea L.)
the green oak, or the Oak (Quercus ilex),
the kermes oak, or garrigue oak (Quercus coccifera).
the Phyteuma villarsii, Rapunzel de Villars,
the Ephedra major, the Grand Ephedra or the Great Uvette.
Large birds of prey
the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos); the Circaetus Jean-le-Blanc (Circaetus gallicus); the chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax); the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus); the Common Raven (Corvus corax); the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus); the Owl Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) the Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), or formerly the griffin; the monk vulture (Aegypius monachus); the vulture vulture (Neophron percnopterus)…
In addition to species reintroduction operations, carried out more particularly since 1999, the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO Antenne Verdon), with the support of:
the LPO PACA,
services of the Verdon regional natural park,
ornithologists, from the National Forestry Office,
associations “Vautours des Baronnies” and “Vautours en Haute-Provence”
and the Foundation for the Conservation of the Monk Vulture,
180 species of birds
the Shrike (Lanius); the Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax); the loud edicnema (Burhinus oedicnemus); the Lulu Lark (Lullula arborea); the Red Pipit (Anthus campestris); the Common Harrier (Circus pygargus)…
The White-footed or White-footed Crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes).
The Apron Rhone (Zingel asper).
The Coon (Myocastor coypus); The Castor fiber.
The aquatic shrew (Neomys fodiens).
50 species of mammals, deer, felines; saurians
including 22 bat species out of the 32 listed in mainland France: the Rhinolophus hipposideros, called Lesser horseshoe bat, Little horseshoe bat or Small horseshoe; the Capaccini Murine (Myotis capaccinii), or Capaccini’s vespertilion; The ocellated lizard…
The brown rat; the vole; the mouse; the lérot; the woodchuck (Marmota); the squirrel, the hare; the wild rabbit…
The deer (Capreolus capreolus); The boar (Sus scrofa); The lynx; The wolf (Canidae); The badger; The common Genette; The mustelids (Mustelidae); The fox.
Historical and architectural heritage
From prehistoric man to the inhabitants of today, they are the ones who have given Verdon its character. From history to its heritage, here are some keys to entering this territory. The territory of Verdon is rich in cultural and artistic structures, ranging from associations to artists and craftspeople. Throughout the year they offer activities and events for locals and visitors. It is these cultural players who make the Verdon a very lively cultural territory.
In the villages and on the surrounding grounds or at the end of the most improbable sites, a whole set of small elements mark a landscape long shaped by several generations. Often discreet, this heritage nevertheless constitutes the local memory of the Verdon. We sometimes meet him without looking at him. Yet the fountains always offer us their fresh water and we are tempted to dip our hand in it. The paths and roads bear the names of the chapel or oratory which adjoins them, that of the oven, the well, the mills. The bell tower signals the presence of the village in the distance. The Verdon Regional Natural Park has highlighted this heritage by devoting an inventory, a discovery booklet, exhibitions, etc.
The territory of the Verdon, rich in a long agricultural and pastoral tradition, presents an important dry stone heritage, witness to the hard work of the ancients to domesticate this territory and extract the necessary resources. To cultivate the difficult slopes, the inhabitants patiently built retaining walls, locally called restanques. Varying with the fluctuations of the population, they gradually gained the lands farthest from the village. Maintained by generations, traces of it can still be seen on the outskirts of the villages, on land reclaimed by the wasteland. If the terraces are the most visible, here and there we can see cobbles covering the floors, cabins, bee walls…
The original character of these works is due to the technique used. In a dry-built wall, there is no mortar between the stones. It is the clever assembly of the stones between them which defines the solidity of the building. Dry stone structures have many advantages that are part of our current environmental concerns: On the one hand, stone is an ecological material, collected locally and infinitely recyclable, which explains the perfect integration of these constructions into the landscape. On the other hand, the absence of joints gives these walls an essential role in draining and regulating rainwater. Dry stone construction offers a response adapted to the constraints of the land, thus making it possible to fight against land erosion and becoming an ally against flooding.
The nature of the Verdon delights you with its diversity and richness. The culture of the Verdon will take you on a journey with varied and inexhaustible themes: geology, prehistory, antiquity, earthenware, popular arts and traditions…
The museums of Castellane
Installed in the Maison Nature & Patrimoines located in the heart of Castellane, the Sirènes et Fossiles museum and the Moyen Verdon museum provide an overview and understanding of the history of the Moyen Verdon valley. Go back 40 million years with the Sirens and Fossils Museum, when the sea covered the region of Castellane. In the lagoons, peaceful marine mammals evolved: the sirenians (family of manatees). Perhaps at the origin of the myth of the sirens, their story is told to you with the help of life-size animal models, video films and reconstitution of landscapes. Discover the heritage and local traditions with the Moyen Verdon, Arts et Traditions Populaires museum. Listening to the country and to people, this museum offers temporary exhibitions that are renewed every two years. Everyday objects, photographs, the words of the people here illustrate the chosen themes.
House of the Verdon Gorges in La Palud-Sur-Verdon
On the 1st floor of the 18th century Château, in a surprising eco-museum, follow the emerald river and discover the different aspects of the Verdon and its Grand Canyon; from the summits to the heart of the gorges you will learn everything about the fauna, flora, geology, hydrology, human history, arts and crafts, explorations, the beginnings of tourism… A fun trip for the whole family, you will have access to the various presentation panels, video wall, historical film, windows and original staging; very useful as a starting point to really get to know this unique territory in the world…
Earthenware Museum in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
Presentation of the materials and techniques of earthenware, ranging from 16th century ceramics to the production of Moustiers earthenware from the 17th to the 21st century, ie today’s artisanal productions. The permanent collection is complemented by a temporary exhibition of contemporary creation.
Museum of Prehistory of the Verdon Gorges in Quinson
The museum tour of one of the largest prehistoric museums in Europe retraces a million years of human adventure in Haute-Provence. Its route is punctuated by the permanent exhibition of original archaeological objects, explanatory panels, videos, interactive consoles and dioramas: spectacular reconstructions
Museum of Tourneurs-Sur-Bois in Aiguines
Housed in a modern building in the center of the village, the museum of woodturners allows you to travel back in time. We discover the art of woodturning, from yesterday to today, with, among other things, the reconstruction of a turner’s workshop from the
beginning of the 20th century and the various tools used, the manufactured objects, the famous balls. studded boxwood, an essential heritage of Provençal culture. This museum also presents the quality of the work done by today’s artisans.
Main activity of the Verdon until the 1970s, agriculture today remains the bearer of an identity that should be preserved. Among the agricultural resources of the territory, we find beekeeping as well as truffle culture. It should also be noted the presence of traditional cultures of olive trees and vines. It is the sheep pastures that take up the most space. Sheep breeders thus have pasture in the pre-Alpine massifs.
As elsewhere, the inhabitants of Verdon have developed know-how closely linked to the resources present in the territory. Carried out within the family, these artisanal practices were varied: working with wood or stone, tanning, weaving, basketwork, processing of harvested or agricultural products…
This know-how has sometimes been enriched by influences from other cultures through the many exchanges on which the Verdon has nourished itself over time. Alongside this traditional know-how, the Verdon has recently seen the development of an important movement of artisans and artists who bring a new touch to its wealth.
The black truffle is the result of the marriage between underground filaments of Tuber melanosporum and the rootlets of certain trees characteristic of Provence and Verdon such as white oaks or holm oaks, but it can also be found under hazelnuts or lime trees. From this relationship are born mycorrhizae, half fungus, half root. These fungi help plants to draw nutrients from the soil; in return, plants provide mushrooms with sugars that they are unable to make on their own from the sun’s energy. The terroirs best suited to truffles in the Verdon are the Valensole plateau and the Haut Var. But you can also meet it in the foothills of Montdenier or Artuby.
At the end of the 19th century, French black truffle production was around 1,600 tonnes, 50 years ago it was around 100 tonnes. Since the beginning of the 21st century, production has fluctuated around 50 tonnes with a slight increasing trend in recent years. This sharp drop in production is explained, among other things, by societal factors such as rural exodus, the decline in pastoralism, changes in land use and the fragmentation of rural landscapes. Climate change is also mentioned and it is certain that the dryness of the soil has a negative impact on the production of truffles.
The Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region is the leading producing region in France. The Verdon contributes to this success with more than 1,400 ha of truffle fields in production and 7 tonnes of truffle, ie 13% of national production. 600 producers are also involved in the local markets of Aups, Riez or Montagnac-les-Truffes. The truffle culture is however threatened by its own insufficient renewal but also by the competition of foreign truffle or synthetic flavors. Professional and amateur unions are mobilizing today alongside the Park to create an identity “Provence of the truffle” and offer a greater openness to “truffo-tourism”. This ambition will be based on the network of truffle houses in the south-east.
Bee and honeys
The visible and sweet part of the work of bees is the honey that they allow us to taste. But by collecting nectar and pollen in the flowers it visits, the bee performs a work of much more considerable importance: it pollinates plants, that is to say, it allows their fertilization, and therefore their reproduction. It thus contributes not only to the preservation of biodiversity, but also to a key stage in the cycle of many agricultural productions, namely the formation of seeds.
The honeys of the Verdon are the expression of the flora of the territory rich in more than 2000 different species, which allows them to offer a wide variety of flavors between mountain honeys and garrigue honeys. The Parc du Verdon distinguishes these honeys and producers committed to biodiversity thanks to the Valeurs Parc naturel régional brand.
Breeding and pastoralism are part of the traditional know-how of Verdon. Their practices have shaped our landscape and nourish our heritage. They are part of the identity and the memory of the country. The territory of the Park, between Provence and the Pre-Alps, benefits from a great diversity of terroirs ranging from 300 to 2,000 meters above sea level. The presence of a breeder makes it possible to use these soils while maintaining economic activity and jobs. Pastoralism helps preserve the well-being of animals and the environment.
Running the herd in the open reduces health problems. In addition, grazing limits the invasion of land that cannot be mechanized by broom, boxwood and then pines. It also keeps the undergrowth clean and airy, while improving soil fertility between two crops. Pastoralism, by keeping environments open, is therefore an ally against fires and helps preserve biodiversity and landscapes.
The fame of the Grand Canyon du Verdon and the creation of artificial lakes in the 1970s led to an essentially agricultural activity towards seasonal tourism (more than 1.5 million visitors per year). Jostled, natural and agricultural spaces are more than ever to be preserved because they are the basis of the identity of the landscapes and allow them to remain alive and attractive, while preserving the quality of life in the country. The territory of the Park is therefore beautiful because it is maintained by men. It will remain attractive to its inhabitants, for a day or a lifetime, if they participate in maintaining its balance. Alongside the Park, municipalities, associations, businesses and citizens are committed to more sustainable development.
The transformation of the local economy towards a dominant tourist activity, directs the action of the Park to recompose the balance of the territory. In this movement, tourism must be a lever making it possible to promote local resources and know-how by promoting the networking of professionals and by building an offer that respects the environment and living environments. To achieve these objectives, the Parc du Verdon, like the other parks in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, has joined the European network of protected areas by adhering to the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism. As a continuation of this membership, the 5 parks of the region launched in 2012, a support process for volunteer professionals allowing their progression towards the values of sustainable tourism.
Many activities are offered to visitors and athletes in the Verdon. Hence the difficulty of bringing together the protection of fauna and flora and economic development, based mainly on tourism.
This need for balance, which is faced by all attractive high places explains the mobilization of all public and private actors and institutional and associative defenders of the park, both in terms of environmental protection and to protect against health risks. pollution generated by a poorly controlled increase in attendance.
The Verdon has 933 climbing routes, including the 300-meter vertical escalès cliff, the highest gorge in Europe. Climbers, vultures and the landscape therefore constitute an inseparable spectacle for tourists…