The Camargue is located south of Arles, between the Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the River Rhône delta. The eastern arm is called the Grand Rhône; the western one is the Petit Rhône. Administratively, it lies within the département of Bouches-du-Rhône, the appropriately named “Mouths of the Rhône”. A further expanse of marshy plain, the Petite Camargue (little Camargue) just to the west of the Petit Rhône, is in the département of Gard.
With an area of over 930 km² (360 sq. miles), the Camargue is western Europe’s largest river delta (technically an island, as it is surrounded by water). It is a vast plain comprising large brine lagoons or étangs, cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered marshes which are in turn surrounded by a large cultivated area.
Approximately a third of the Camargue is either lakes or marshland. The central area around the shoreline of the Étang de Vaccarès has been protected as a regional park since 1927, in recognition of its great importance as a haven for wild birds, and was incorporated into the Parc Régional de Camargue in 2008.
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Fauna and Flora
The Camargue is home to more than 400 species of birds, the brine ponds providing one of the few European habitats for the greater flamingo. The marshes are also a prime habitat for many species of insects, notably (and notoriously) some of the most
ferocious mosquitos to be found anywhere in France. It is also famous for The Camargue Bull and the Camargue Horse.
The flora of the Camargue is specially adapted to cope with the saline conditions. Sea lavender and glasswort flourish along with tamarisks and reeds.
Towns in La Camargue
There are few towns of any size in the Camargue. Its “capital” is Arles, located at the extreme north of the delta where the Rhône forks into its two principal branches.
The only other towns of note are Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, about 45 km to the southwest, which is the site of the annual Roma pilgrimage for the veneration of Saint Sarah, and the medieval fortress-town of Aigues-Mortes on the far western edge, in the Petite Camargue.
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