“300 million-year old rocks reveal their secrets in Haute Provence”
Celebrating Earth Heritage
Located in south-eastern France, between the Alps and Provence, the Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark is the largest geological open-air museum in France. The reserve includes 18 geological sites more than 300 million years old, which contain numerous fossil-rich materials and fascinating rock formations. More than 1,550 ammonites are preserved on a 350,000 square metre limestone wall. Fossilized footprints of birds can be found, as well as fossilized plants. The Verdon river gorge offers the opportunity to discover the beautiful landscape of Haute- Provence. It is the most spectacular of the French canyons, 21 km long with 700-metre-high cliffs. The geological reserve is open to students who can discover and learn about geological heritage, as well as the necessity and the meaning of protecting it.
The Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark is a place showing 300 million years of the Earth’s history. The entire territory is occupied by sedimentary rocks ranging in age from the Stephanian (300 million years ago) to present. Major unconformities are recorded between Middle Stephanian - Lower Triassic (300-250 million years ago) deposits and between the late Jurassic - late Eocene successions (145-35 million years ago). The Mesozoic rocks exhibit the history of the Tethyan rifting and the sediments give evidence of a great variety of facies ranging from barrier reef carbonates to basin marls. Two separate tectonic events were associated with the closure of ocean basins and the formation of the Provencal Mountain Chain and the Alpine Chain respectively. The Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark offers a great quantity of geological unique hotspots (ammonite slab, bird footprints. landscapes.) and has created the first site museum in Europe build to protect a paleontological specimen (1980, Ichthyosaurus, La Robine). In its territory the geological heritage is strictly protected by a National Geological reserve.
Sustaining local Communities
The Geopark is equidistant from Nice, Marseille and Grenoble (150 km), and organized around the town of Digne-les-Bains, capital of the Alpes de Haute Provence Department. It concerns 60 municipalities.
Several museums in Digne-les-Bains, Sisteron and Castellane are open all year round and act as places where science meets art. These museums offer guided tours and special publications for all visitors. The Réserve Géologique de Haute-Provence is also an association of local enterprises that work together for a systematic development of tourism in areas which have so far been ignored by the public.
The Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark from is greatly involved in education on its different territorial heritages (geology, nature, culture, intangible) and receive thousands of scholars each year. The UNESCO Global Geopark during these last 15 years has also developed a strong policy connecting contemporary art with landscape and geology. Today more than 130 artworks are present in its territory and special guides are trained both in geology and in contemporary art and offer their service for a new category of visitors. The Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark is greatly involved in economic development by supporting the creation of new local products and with its quality branding for local economic partners (restaurants, lodging, local products, museums, etc.).