The Ardèche river has carved over millennials a natural arch which is today the landmark of the Ardèche Canyon.
Scenery around the Pont d’Arc site
Once a passage to cross the river, the site is nowadays a tourist Mecca for natural heritage lovers. The caves along the cliff of “Cirque d’Estre” were home and shelter to prehistoric hunters and gatherers: easy access, open to the south and overlooking fertile land cultivated by men since the Neolithic Age. Nothing really changed, and
the contemporary landscape of our Aurignacian ancestors looked very much like today.
On the cliff, you can see the prehistoric entrance of the Chauvet cave, which was overlooking the valley on a pathway walked by humans and animals. The spot was easy to find thanks to its proximity to the arch. It’s a very special feeling, standing today at that entrance and thinking about the men walking into the cave at least 30 000 years ago. Though the original cave is closed to public in order to protect its magnificent treasures of parietal art, visitors can admire the unique cave drawings in a highly acclaimed replica of the original cave : Grotte Chauvet 2 – Ardèche.
Pont d’Arc, gateway to a majestic canyon
The Ardèche River broke through a narrow escarpment between its meander and created this 60 m high natural bridge, entrance to the Ardèche Canyon, about 30 km long, ending in Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche.
A nature reserve
The Pont d’Arc and the Ardèche Canyon are one of France’s most famous natural heritage sites. Tourists, hikers, canoeists, paddlers and nature lovers admire this stunning landscape with numerous caves, evergreen oak trees and “Garrigue” scrubland.
The managing agency of the national nature reserve, created in1980, strives to preserve the biodiversity and guarantee long term preservation of the area and its exceptional habitat.
Shipping route and recreational waterway
The Romans regularly shipped goods on the river,considered to be non-navigable, down to the Rhône. At the time of the “Romantics”, rises the desire to discover the Ardèche Canyon for leisure. The first visitors and their guides ventured on traditional fishing boats into so far unknown landscapes.In 1912, a Parisian crew embarked on the first canoe descent through the canyon.
The first canoe rental company opened in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc in 1958. From the 1960s onwards the descent becomes a highly attractive meeting place for white water sports enthusiasts and amateur paddlers alike.