The Camargue is a natural region located south of Arles, France, between the Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the Rhône River delta. The eastern arm is called the Grand Rhône; the western one is the Petit Rhône. With an area of over 930 km2 (360 sq mi), the Camargue is western Europe’s largest river delta. It is a vast plain comprising large brine lagoons or étangs, cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered marshes. These 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. In 2008, it was incorporated into the larger Parc naturel régional de Camargue. The Camargue is home to more than 400 species of birds. Its brine ponds provide 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. I learned about it the hard way. Camargue horses (Camarguais) roam the extensive marshlands, along with Camargue cattle.
Salt has been harvested in the Camargue since Roman times but it became an industry in the 19th century when Pechiney built a factory here. Sea water is pumped from March to September and flows across different salt flats before arriving in the salt pans. By then it is saturated in salt, and the water is evaporated by the sun and the wind so that the salt can crystallize. It will then be harvested between late August and early October before being used on winter roads or for industrial products.
Few areas of France are as distinctive as the Camargue; and apart from dramatic mountain areas, few are as interesting.