The region of the DmD 2012
There are five natural regions of the Ardèche:
- The mountains
They border the western frontier of the department with an average altitude of 1,100 metres. Basically they are of granitic composition split by the Velay Basalts of the Massif of Mézenc, and the Forez Mounts, centred upon volcanic cones of ash, lava plugs and numerous magma flows (Mézenc: 1,754 metres; Gerbier de Jonc: 1,551 m). Their inclination slopes gently towards the west, thus leading to a westerly flow of water towards the Atlantic. Here the Loire has its source. Within a distance of a few kilometres is the volcanic lake of Issarlès (92 ha, 5 km in circumference, 108 m in depth). The climate is extreme: snow for many months, very violent winds over autumn and winter (known locally as "la burle"), frequent fogs in the valleys, extreme falls of temperature between the seasons, with heavy rains (1,500 mm per year in average) strongly concentrated in September and October.
- The plateaus of the Haut-Vivarais and the Cévennes
The transition zone descending from the mountains (1,200 m) to the valley of the Rhône (300 to 400 m), is the plateau region. The medium altitude of the plateau is one of green forested crests separated by wild and uncrossable gorges. Hydrographic resources are dominated by these torrential streams and rainfall is characterised by the frequent importance of summer showers, with climate much less extreme than that of the mountains to the west.
- The Bas-Vivarais
The Ardèche river flows as far as the Rhône, following a course generally to the south east. This Karst region is formed of calcareous limestones, where the streams flow in steep-sided valleys separated by sharp crests. With a generally low altitude the Bas-Vivarais enjoys a warm, and dry, almost Mediterranean climate. Skies are wide and bright, temperatures more elevated (3 or 4 °C in January). The winds from the north-east are dominant, but those of the south (known as the "vent du midi") and of the west are full of humidity, bringing heavy precipitation for a few days at a time. The few rivers, the Lavezon, Escoutay, and Frayol, provide less of a hydrological resource than one sees in the crysaline granitic areas to the north. This is the country of the vine, of shrubland, of cereals and extensive fruit trees (this is the region of Aubenas and of Joyeuse).
- The plateau of the Coirons
This plateau with an altitude of 800 metres above sea level, is completely surrounded to the north by the valleys of the Ouvèze and the Payre, to the south by the valley of the Escoutay, to the west by the Col of the Escrinet and the valley of Vesseaux. It is built of basalt which extends in length 18 km in the direction of the Rhône, and at its widest is a maximum 11 km in width. The climate here is also fairly extreme: snow, without being thick, is frequent, variations of temperature accentuated by the fact of the strong cold winds that blow. The soil is rich and fertile. Farming is dominated by the growing of wheat, oats and potatoes, dominates, with the raising of goats and cattle. On the slopes one finds vines and fruit trees.
- The valley of the Rhône
The Rhône corridor is very straight on the right bank which runs almost at the foot of the Vivarais plateaus, leaving tiny plains where the rivers from the Vivarais descend to the Rhône. Here the strong wind of the north, (known as the mistral) dominates. Nevertheless, the temperatures are moderated by the influence of the "Midi" to the south. The small plains are very fertile and favourable to orchards (peaches and apricots) at first and on the slopes the vines dominate.
Maps of different types of agricultural products translate clearly into these five regions. "The true character of the Ardèche is" according to A. Siegfried, "of a slope turning towards the Mediterranean, open to the influences coming from the Midi. These influences climb the length of the valleys to the summit of the high plateau, which resists their passage, not letting them penetrate. The high and the low are thus opposed, such is the character of the Ardèche personality."
With its rivers and streams, Ardèche has become a favorite place for canoe and kayak enthusiasts from around the world. Ardèche contains a part of the Cévennes National Park. Also a eldorado to ride Motorcycle.It has a speciality of chestnut with the famous "châtaigne d'Ardèche'" (the 'A.O.C.' or 'Appellation of Controlled Origin' was recently applied for and granted in 2006.
(Text from Wikipedia)