There is no exact etymology of the word Camargue, subject to many hypotheses. This word could come from a Celto-Ligurian (Provençal) Ca-mar dialect meaning “field covered with water”. Another possibility, based on archival documents, would give it a Latin origin, which would correspond to the domain of Senator Camars, a great landowner whose family dominated the city of Arles in the first century.
The Camargue is a 150,000 ha swampy area formed by the Rhone Delta and the Mediterranean Sea. It is the second largest delta of the Mediterranean and, like all deltas, forms a triangle whose ends are Le Grau du Roi, Arles and Fos sur Mer.
The Camargue is divided into 3 parts:
- The little Camargue, west of the little Rhône
- The island of Camargue (or large Camargue), between the two arms of the Rhône
- Le Plan Bourg, east of the Grand Rhône
Under the influence of the fresh water of the Rhône and the salt water of the Mediterranean Sea, the sun and the wind, the Camargue has formed two distinct landscape zones. To the north, the Camargue fluvio-lacustre consists mainly of freshwater marshes that have enabled the development of agriculture, while to the south, the Camargue laguno-marine, under the influence of salt, has fostered the birth of its own unique ecosystem adapted to the salinity of its marshes and saltwater bodies. In the centre, the Vaccarès Pond covers nearly 6,300 ha and ensures the transition between these two worlds. The diversity of its fauna and flora, both wild and attractive, makes the Camargue one of the largest wetland reserves in Europe. Various protection measures have multiplied to promote the protection of this exceptional natural heritage. In 1928 the botanical and zoological reserve was created and in 1970 the pond of Vaccarès and its surroundings are classified as Regional Natural Park of Camargue. Many other sites such as the Scamandre reserve or the Espiguette plain are also protected by various statutes.